Alun Howells' Fifty Years of Song!
Alun was appointed a Vice-President of the Choir at its Annual Gala Concert on May 1st 2010 in recognition of his 50years service as a chorister in the bass section
Alun joined the Choir in September 1960. He undertook his voice test in the vestry of Tabernacle Chapel, Morriston and was subsequently accepted a member of the Choir.
‘Although having been in the Choir for less than a month I was allowed to “stage” in the Miners Eisteddfod, Porthcawl, Wales, where we were successful and it remains one of my most treasured memories that I had been allowed in competition under Ivor E. Sims who sadly passed away some six months later,’ recalls Alun.
'In 1961 the choir recorded Schubert's "Song of the Spirits over the Waters". It was accompanied by a section of the BBC Welsh Orchestra at the Mond in Clydach in October. There was a cricket hiding behind one of the radiators and its chirping was audible on the tape, rendering it useless. Following the discovery, and silencing of the cricket a second recording was completed.'
'It had been the intention to record sections of Cherubini's Mass for Male Choir as accompaniment or "B" side , but because of the time spent in isolating the cricket, the Cherubini was not recorded, but posponed until a later day. Unfortunately however, Ivor Sims who was not a well man, passed away before this could be accomplished and the recording was never released as a record. '
'Fortunately, the tape came into the hands of Jack Richards of Alltwen who knew John Edwards the Qualiton producer, and I have a cassette copy of the recording.'
Alun’s family all had an interest or involvement in choral music in Brynamman. He had sung in choirs in his local chapel, at school and in the college choir at Swansea University, but they were all mixed choirs and Alun was particularly interested in male voice choirs.
‘Morriston was the obvious choir to join because of its proximity to Swansea and not too far from Brynamman. Another factor was the Columbia record featuring the Choir singing Y Delyn Aur and Myfanwy.' Here is the recording of Myfanwy from Ivor Sims' LP Land Of My Fathers 1958. You'll hear a dog barking in the distance between the two verses!
'During that time in Swansea I used to travel to Morriston in the number 77 bus. What a difference today when everybody comes to rehearsals in cars!’
Being part of a choir for fifty years brings thrills, experiences and very precious memories. One of Alun’s biggest thrills was actually passing his voice test and becoming a member of the Morriston Orpheus.
‘I was extremely nervous when I took the test, as in those days tests were carried out in front of the whole committee/ There have been many concerts and performances which have given me a thrill, in particular the concert at a full to overflowing St. James’ Church in Montreal in 1973.’
Alun has enjoyed all his tours with the Choir, starting with his first to Cork in 1965 to the most recent, again to Ireland, this time to Ennis and Kilkenny in 2009. As the Choir’s Transport Officer, Alun plays a large part in organising the Choir’s tours and has been a committee member for many years.
‘There is however something special in certain tours, the first to mainland Europe in Mannheim in 1967, the first to North America in 1973 - [photo: an impromptu concert on the steps of New York City Hall 1973 with Lyn Harry conducting.]
and the first down under to Australia in 1995
In Alun’s time as a member of the Choir, he has not only seen the Choir changing but also some of the places that the Choir visited on a number of occasions.
‘The four visits to Berlin were interesting in that we were able to the differences in that great city between our first visit in 1977 and our last in 1990, when the wall came down.I still have pieces of that wall today.'
The Choir today is almost unrecognisable from the Choir when Alun joined in 1960.
‘Then it comprised mainly (probably 90%) manual workers living in or near Morriston, whose first language was Welsh. Rehearsals were timed to maximise attendances for shift workers and chapel goers. Now the Choir draws its members from a wide range of occupations and they are probably on average older than as the case in 1960. They also come from a wide geographical area and are mainly first-language English speakers. The nature of society has changed but what has remained,' concludes Alun,’ is our love of and ability to create music which is the raison d’être of our being.’
2008. Alun in the control room of the world's largest scientific experiment - the Large Hadron Collider in CERN on the border of France and Switzerland. The Choir gave an informal concert for Dr Lyn Evans, project director. Dr. Evans is a Vice-President of the Choir.