Wynford's 50 year milestone with the Orpheus 1959 -2009
A MILESTONE IN MUSIC MAKING
Wynford's fifty years of loyal service are recognised in the prestigious appointment as a Vice-President of the Morriston Orpheus Choir
Wynford John, of Penllergaer Swansea, became a Vice-President of the Morriston Orpheus Choir at the Annual Gala Concert, April 11th 2009 at The Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.
“Wynford John who has given an unprecedented 50 years service as a chorister of the Morriston Orpheus Choir and who is also a Life Member of the Choir, was unanimously accepted as a Vice-President by the Choir membership at its recent Annual General Meeting” said Clive Williams, spokesman for the Choir.
Receiving his presentation for 50 years service from Choir President Mr. Ron Marno.
“The Choir is delighted to award its highest honour to Wynford and we wish him all the best for his next chapter of service with the Morriston Orpheus Choir”.
Wynford John joined the Morriston Orpheus Choir at 19 years old in April 1959. He was one of the youngest Welsh-speaking choristers, when Ivor Sims the founder was the Musical Director. Wynford had served as a young chorister in his local St David’s Penllergaer Church, Swansea. Whilst in choir practising an anthem he got fed up and thought I’ve got to go to the Morriston Orpheus Choir. Its reputation was very high because of the recordings it used to do especially on the BBC Radio “Welsh Rarebit” programme.
As a visitor, Wynford sat at the back of the original rehearsal room and “Tom Elias came up to me and asked if I was interested in joining and I said I didn’t mind and I was told I would have to wait for Mr Sims”.
IVOR SIMS Years
“I had my voice test in front of 28 Committee men and Ivor Sims placed me with the second tenors”. The Choir did a recording in the ICI Club in Waunarwyldd and went back to the Working Men’s Club in Morriston and Wynford had a second voice test as Ivor Sims had been told “I was a first tenor and from then on I sang first tenor”.
”My biggest thrill was winning the 1960 Welsh National Eisteddfod in Cardiff - competing against five other choirs. Towards the competition date we held three practices a week. This was a very challenging, technical and time consuming experience, but well worth the effort. Returning to Morriston was an emotional experience as the town was crowded and by popular demand we sang in the square and stopped the traffic - although there was hardly any traffic those days!
Woodfield Street, Morriston in the late 1950s showing the tall spire of Tabernacle Chapel, the place of many memorable concerts by the Orpheus.
Being a member of the Morriston Orpheus was a big commitment as far as Wynford was concerned. “I was in business in Cross garage, Penllergaer, trading with my father but still made the effort to attend practice and concerts whenever we had to go." It took Wynford three months of practice and learning before his first concert.
Wynford considers that Ivor Sims was a very hard taskmaster in the standards he set and especially in rehearsals where he was very strict. “Everyone was very attentive all the time and he was scrupulously honest: he wouldn’t tell you anything that wasn’t right. He set very high standards; he was the one who created the original Orpheus tone that has been there for years. I remember a recording in the Mond Nickel works in Clydach when we had to stop recording “Songs and Spirits over the water” because of the sound of a cricket. Ivor Sims was a stickler for perfection”. Wynford remembers the funeral for Ivor Sims as a very moving experience with many people paying their respects.
Wynford’s second Musical Director was Eurfryn John. “Ivor Sims was a difficult act to follow - Eurfryn was the organist with Ivor Sims - so there was a sense of continuity and our accompanist was Jennie Sims - a lovely person. I was delighted that the Orpheus made a special effort to celebrate Jennies 90th birthday with a special concert earlier this year in Capel y Cwm”.
Wynford's first LP with the Morriston Orpheus Choir 1960, with Jennie Sims, organist and Eurfryn John, conductor.
“My first overseas tour was to Cork in 1965, this was a terrible crossing as nearly all of us were ill. During that crossing, I sat downstairs with Gerwyn Hopkins our Secretary and he did his best to look after me, but to no avail as he became ill himself! The things we did to fly the flag for the Orpheus. The boat should not have left its mooring in Fishguard”.
1973 On the steps of New York City Hall with Lyn Harry conducting.
Then Lyn Harry became Orpheus Musical Director. “He was a big, larger than life character” said Wynford. “He had a real stage presence about him, a real showman. He could talk to audiences and have them eating out of his hands. On one occasion on a tour to Canada we were singing near Niagara Falls and he called for a voice test of all the choristers in his hotel room. On entering the room he said you can go, don’t waste my time”.
It was in Canada that Lyn Harry left the Morriston Orpheus Choir and was replaced by Leslie Ryan. “We were going to do a recording of “It’s a Grand Night for Singing” - an excellent recording – and Leslie Ryan took up the baton. Due to the hard work of Leslie Ryan the recording turned out to be a truly magnificent production in the short time that we had to rehearse this. I’m delighted that this recording is now going to be released again as a CD in 2009”.
Wynford was involved in the Tattoos with the Army in Berlin which he considered a marvellous experience with all the bandsmen - over 700 all playing at the same time and well appreciated by the open air German audience. “On the last evening of the last concert we had to climb a ladder and my friend Robbie Harrison was behind me and we both commented thank goodness this is the last time we have to climb this ladder”!
Wynford felt Alwyn Humphreys appointment in 1979 heralded a real focus on overseas travel. “I really enjoyed my time under his baton, he brought the Morriston Orpheus Choir right up to its present high standard, and he had flair as a TV presenter for effective engagement with audiences. This period saw my first tour of Australia, New Zealand, Poland, Seville and Taiwan”.
Thomson Hall Toronto Canada 1991
When asked about Joy Amman Davies, Wynford responded, “What do you call a female Messiah? She is a gem, things are beginning to look very promising and the Orpheus is right up to the top rungs of the ladder”. Wynford remembered another highlight was when Joy married Alwyn at Tabernacle Chapel, Morriston. “We seem to be a wonderful close knit family of choristers again”.
Other highlights of Wynford’s fifty years service include the Choir’s link with Sir Michael Parker and the invitation to the Bandanza in Germany
and the celebration for the wedding for the Prince of Wales in 1981. This included singing at Speakers House for George Thomas, the Speaker of the House of Commons. There was a session of the Commons in progress so the Speaker asked for the doors to be opened so “the MP’s could hear and be educated in the Welsh sound.
Sydney Opera House was a wonderful highlight the first time and also the wonderful warm-hearted reception we had in Carnegie Hall, New York, after the awful disaster of 9 /11.
Wynford is deeply grateful for the positive backing from Alma a wonderful wife who was the Matron at their Ael y Bryn, Llanllienwen Road, Morriston Nursing home for 12 years who very often had to hold the fort while he was away and did a magnificent job looking after Alun, an IT Consultant in Caerphilly and Catrin, a barrister in Cardiff.
On his first overseas tour to New York and Canada an old man came on to Wynford with tears in his eyes and said “take me home”. Wynford finds time to enjoy carpentry and takes great delight in making little oak coffee tables out of local oak and made a cabinet for the family television.
In reflecting on the differences between 1959 and now, Wynford felt Welsh male voice choirs attracted a lot of younger members, there was not much competing television. Now it is difficult to get youngsters in because they get married and have commitments to the family – “I seem to make an effort which they don’t do now” added Wynford. “Without being in the Choir, I would never have seen half of the world that I have seen, thanks to the Orpheus. It’s been a great 50 years and I would do it all over again. The future is looking very rosy with the sound of the latest CD recording Nella Fantasia it seems as though that’s going to be a real winner."
Nella Fantasia was arranged for, and dedicated to, the Orpheus by Joy Amman Davies, 'With love and thanks for 16 wonderful years as accompanist.' This is the title track of the new CD.
"The sound of Abide with me on the new CD is out of this world. This gives me hope and confidence just looking forward to doing my second milestone of another 50 years."