Bid for Glory 1940s
“Our object is not to gain a prize or defeat a rival, but to pace one another on the road to excellence.”
Sir Walford Davies
Choral competitions became a regular feature of the National Eisteddfod of Wales as far back as the mid 1860s although there were no Rhondda entrants simply because the valley had not developed a choral tradition. It was following the rapid industrialisation of the Rhondda that choirs emerged from the coal-mining communities and gradually gained a reputation as admiral opponents in the competitive arena.
The original Treorky Male Choir, which was established in a local eisteddfod at the local Red Cow Hotel in 1883, certainly played a major role in securing the Rhondda’s position as a choral force to be reckoned with at local, Semi-National and National Eisteddfod level. By the summer of 1889 the Conductor William Thomas entered his choir into the "National". The Royal National Eisteddfod of that year was held in Brecon where the test pieces were “The Young Musician” (Kucken) and “Y Seren Hwyrol” (Price). The Chief Adjudicator was Professor I. Atkins, a contemporary of the composer Edward Elgar. Following an outstanding performance he announced, “This was the best performance I have ever heard by a male voice choir”, and awarded them the first prize of £25.
It was the first time for the Blue Riband to come to Treorchy and Thomas, along with his faithful choristers, received a hero’s welcome in the streets of the town. Following many years of dedicated training, they had become national winners on their first attempt. It was the accumulation of their efforts that resulted in this outstanding result for which they all felt justifiably proud.
Further success followed and for the next six years the Choir and their rivals, the Rhondda Glee Society, fought for each glorious competition prize. The zenith of this “cythraul y canu” was reached at the famous National Eisteddfod in Pontypridd in 1893 when Treorky lost to Tom Stephen’s Rhondda Glee by a fraction of a mark, allowing "the enemy" to enjoy a much-celebrated visit to the Chicago World Fair.