What Are They?

Treorchy Male Choir has one of the most advanced collections of archives ever recorded by an amateur musical organisation in the world. Carefully amassed and catalogued over a sixty five year period, the archives contain a massive selection of more than 10,000 items of memorabilia relating to the world-famous organisation.

The ArchivesThe ArchivesToday the Treorchy Male Choir Archives are kept in their rehearsal room under the careful supervision of the Choir’s Honorary Archivist who updates sections of the collections on a weekly basis. It is such care and dedication since the Choir was reformed in October 1946 that has allowed it to grow into such a formidable selection of items.

The Archives grew due to the dedication of Norman Martin, a member of the Second Tenor section who joined the Choir in the early part of 1947. Then in its infancy, the Choir was less than a year old when he first sang in the ranks and gradually he began to collect items relating to the organisation, including concert programmes, posters and newspaper reports. It was from this fledgling collection of items that the Archives expanded.

Armed with his camera, Norman then began capturing images of his fellow choristers at various concert engagements and tours. He collected each edition of the Choir magazine, Excelsior, along with concert posters, commercial recordings, trophies, publications and Choir clothing. From 1962 Norman was appointed Registrar of the Choir and from then began publishing annual reports of attendances, an annual Brief History and an annual Rehearsal Report which methodically recorded every single event in the Choir’s history, from announcements in the rehearsal room to miles travelled to an engagement. Naturally this incredible resource of Choir history was used to the advantage of the organisation time and time again and Norman’s expertise as the proverbial “font of all knowledge” remains invaluable. He was officially presented with the title of Honorary Archivist and remained in the post until 2002 when he decided the time had come to retire as both Registrar and Archivist.

For the last decade of his time as Archivist, Norman worked frequently with the Choir’s Publicity Officer, Dean Powell who was elected to the post in 1993. With Norman’s support, Dean published a larger annual magazine along with specialist anniversary brochures and a photographic history book of the Choir which was released in 2000. Dean also helped expand the Choir archives by undertaking a three-year research project into the history of the organisation prior to 1946, amassing a large collection of memorabilia from the original Choir which was formed in 1883 up until 1943.

Therefore it seemed only appropriate that on Norman’s retirement, the Treorchy Male Choir Archives were transferred to the careful protection of Dean who was also given the title of Honorary Archivist. For the next three years Dean modernised the collection with an improved cataloguing system and also digitised the photographic section. To date the greater majority of Archives, including all of its sheet music, commercial recordings and broadcasts, are also secured electronically and copies of many of the items are kept in the Reference Section of Treorchy Library, the Glamorgan Archives and the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth. The Archives is more than just a collection of memorabilia, it is now a priceless educational resource which allows users an insight into the cultural history of the Rhondda.

The Archives RoomThe Archives RoomThe collection now includes over 1,800 concert programmes, 600 concert posters, 1,000 individual pieces of music, 8,000 photographs, 2,500 newspaper reports, all commercial recordings on 78rpm, 45rpm and 33rpm albums, cassette tape or CD format. It also includes 50 television broadcasts, live concert recordings, tour video footage and reports on each of the choir’s conductors, accompanists and soloists. Each of the Choir tours has individual reports and photograph collections along with special events such as the naming ceremony of the Enchantment of the Seas luxury cruiseliner, the Royal Variety Performance and the Royal Command Concert at Powys Castle.

There is also the complete collection of over 60 editions of Excelsior, all of the Choir’s visitor guestbooks, minute books, Eisteddfod certificates, dinner & dance menus and every obituary pamphlet for choristers who passed away. A large number of trophies are also housed in the collection as the current trophy cabinet kept at the rehearsal room is inadequate in size to display every presentation gift.

A collection of data listing all former choristers is also kept, along with folders maintained on the Junior Musician Competition, brief history, rehearsal reports, discography, committees, administrative staff, honorary members, life members and even correspondence from celebrities for the anniversary celebrations and Christmas cards dating back to the 1940s!

Some of the most valuable items include the actual programme from the Choir’s concert for Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle in 1895, and the medallion worn by each of the choristers who sang in that same concert. The present Choir’s first concert programme from Ramah Chapel in July 1947 is also a delight along with all of the Eisteddfod adjudication reports and the American flag flown above the US Senate to mark the Choir’s tour of the Mid West in 1991.

With over 130 years of history captured in the original documents and files, the Treorchy Male Choir Archives are an impressive collection of memorabilia amassed and protected with care, attention and dedication.