October 19 – November 2 1985
Treorchy Male Choir’s second tour of Canada saw eighty choristers perform a stunning series of concerts from Barrie and Gravenhurst to Pembroke and Montreal which culminated in an unforgettable appearance at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall. Organised by Choir admirer Harold Woodey, the tour was led of course by Conductor John Cynan Jones, Accompanist Jennifer Jones, Deputy Conductor John Beddoe and soprano soloist Mair Roberts.
On leaving Treorchy late on Saturday October 19th, the Choir was afforded a civic farewell when the Mayor of Rhondda Borough Council Cllr Glyn James officially wished them “bon voyage”. At 7am the Choir boarded the KLM DC 9 at Heathrow Airport, touched down at Schnipol Airport for a five-hour wait and then began the Atlantic crossing to Montreal and then on to Toronto. From the airport they travelled fifty miles to the Banqueting Hall in Stroud to meet their hosts and after a long and tiring 26 hour day of travel, reached their beds for the night.
A sightseeing visit to Simcoe Museum was enjoyed on the Sunday morning, followed by plenty of spare time to relax before the evening concert in the Collegiate Hall before an audience of 1,200 people.
The first half ended with “Crossing the Plain” and during the interval John Cynan was approached by Gwilym Lloyd, the nephew of the composer T. Maldwyn Price who resided in the area! A standing ovation brought the concert to a conclusion, followed by Chairman Robert Griffiths’s presentation of a plaque to Father John of St Paul’s Church, Barrie.
On the following morning the Choir travelled to Gravenhurst, another familiar setting for those who had undertaken the 1980 tour of Canada. They enjoyed a quiet afternoon to relax and walk around the town before reporting to the Opera House for the evening concert. One of the highlights of the evening was the surprised look on the face of Mair Roberts when the Conductor announced it was her 18th wedding anniversary and he had 18 red roses to present her from her husband back home!
On Tuesday the Choir bid a fond farewell to Gravenhurst to travel to Haileybury, with a stop in Huntsville and lunch in North Bay. On reaching the School of Mines, the Choir dispersed to stay with their hosts, only to reconvene there on the following afternoon. During the day many enjoyed the visit to Cobalt silver mine before meeting at the United Church Hall for dinner. The concert at the School of Mines Hall was sold out with 650 spectators and from the opening bars of music it was obvious this would be another memorable night.
The next journey on the programme of events was to Deep River where they were greeted with “Welcome to Treorchy” banners on the front of the local squash club. A meal was enjoyed before meeting the hosts and spending time at their respective homes for the remainder of the evening. Next morning the Choir met for a tour of Chalk River Nuclear
Choristers were reluctant to leave Deep River on Saturday October 26th because the welcome they were afforded was so warm and generous. It was on the short run to Pembroke that a message reached the Secretary Islwyn Morgan to say he had become a grandfather for the first time. The evening concert in Pembroke Festival Hall for another packed house of 500 people proved a very successful performance indeed, once again culminated in a standing ovation.
The next journey on the itinerary was to Kingston, with a short stop in Eganville where choristers enjoyed some liquid refreshment in Rooney’s Bar - and were also given two crates of beer to take on the bus for the duration of the trip! With no concert that evening it was gratefully received! With an overnight stay in Kingston, they were met by the Mayor of the Town at the Civic Hall on the following morning and exchanged plaques and messages of goodwill. After the Choir gave a rendition of “Myfanwy” they enjoyed some spare time to visit the sights of the town before reaching St George’s Cathedral for a rehearsal. The evening concert was another success, as 1,000 people crowded in to this magnificent building for another first-class performance.
On Tuesday morning the Choir left Kingston and headed for Montreal before a quick detour to a local hospital. On the previous evening one of the choir’s bus drivers had fainted and was taken to hospital for observation. They marched into the hospital, up to the tenth floor and much to the surprise of the medical staff and patients, sang “Myfanwy” at his bedside before continuing their journey! Following lunch at Morrisburg, they reached the impressive city of Montreal and met their hosts at the St James United Church.
With a free day in Montreal, it was time to explore the many sights and sounds of the city, including the Notre Dame Church and the vantage points on the hills overlooking the skyscrapers. The evening concert at the St James United Church took place before 1,800 excitable spectators. The singing of “Llef” was dedicated to the memory of the first female police officer to be killed in the line of duty in Canada and her funeral was that day. Following the concert the Treorchy men met Montreal Male Choir and a song was sung for their founder conductor while presentations were made between both organisations.
Early on Thursday morning the Choir gathered in the chilled weather to board the coaches and head for Toronto with a brief stop in Brockville and the beautiful St Lawrence Seaway. Impressed by this beautiful city, the choristers had a free evening to explore the sights before meeting their hosts for the evening. On the following morning some of the choristers continued to explore Toronto, while others enjoyed a sightseeing tour of Niagara Falls.
The evening concert at the Roy Thomson Hall in the heart of Toronto is still regarded as one of the finest performances ever given by the Treorchy Male Choir. With its splendid acoustics, the hall proved a magnificent setting for the Rhondda singers.
Not a single ticket was left as 2,812 people crowded the auditorium, a luxury not afforded to any of the professional organisations that had appeared there to date. The concert was even broadcast to those people who couldn’t find seats, but instead waited in the foyer.
As the Choir made the entrance, the applause began and didn’t end until every single member was on stage. This “Last Night of the Proms”
On the following day the choristers reached the airport in plenty of time for the 6pm take off. On arrival at Schipol Airport, seven choristers went missing and the plane left for Heathrow without them but fortunately the“magnificent seven” reached home safely later that day.
“The Choir gave an impressive stab at catering to all tastes and John Cynan Jones managed to be genially entertaining in his introductions to the various pieces. The first group of four choruses presented no problems and provided an excellent base for examining the quality of this choir.
“The big, round, well-shaded sound that characterised all the performances was first displayed in the Soldier’s Chorus from Gounod’s Faust. But there was little to match the emotional expressiveness of Va Pensiero from Nabucco.
“The four traditional Welsh folk songs saw the Choir at its best with a splendid “All Through The Night” with some especially moving pianissimos and at a lustier level, “Men of Harlech”. In “Nidaros” the Choir demonstrated its considerable versatility. The audience’s reaction doubtless came up to the conductor’s expectations.”
John Kraglundm, Toronto Globe and Mail
“Only the Welsh can sing like this. There’s a special spirit to the way the voices swell and swoop with soulful agony. There’s that special hiraeth that was obviously felt by many in the audience at Roy Thomson Hall. The hall was packed, largely with expatriate Welsh people who responded so enthusiastically to the music of their countrymen.
“The most moving contribution of the Choir was the impassioned set of Welsh hymn tunes, ending with “Tydi a Roddaist”. The choir revels in dynamic changes and its very quiet singing is extraordinarily beautiful. In fact in another set, the four pop songs that ended the concert, saw unrestrained applause in joyful
“There was something for everyone to enjoy. Whether or not you were Welsh, you could respond to the spirit of the singing. Let’s keep a welcome for this Welsh Choir in Roy Thomson Hall.”
Oct 20 Collegiate Hall, Barrie
Oct 21 Opera House, Gravenhurst
Oct 23 School of Mines, Haileybury
Oct 25 McKenzie School, Deep River
Oct 26 Festival Hall, Pembroke
Oct 28 St George Cathedral, Kingston
Oct 30 St James United Church, Montreal
Nov 1 Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto