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October 18 - November 1 1980
The Choir’s first tour over the Atlantic Ocean took place in October 1980 when they accepted the invitation by Mrs Ann Speedie and the Ontario Federation of Concert Associations to perform eleven concerts throughout Ontario and Quebec, Canada. The two-week visit included performances in Toronto, Gravenhurst, Kapuskasing, Ottawa and Niagara Falls. A total of ninety choristers undertook the tour with John Cynan Jones as Conductor, Jennifer Jones as Accompanist and Choir Soloists Sam Griffiths (baritone), Wyn Davies (tenor) and Harry Price (bass).
Canada 1980: Text
The Tour began with an overnight stay in Pirbright Barracks, courtesy of the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guards, where a late-night party ensued in the Sergeant’s Mess before the trip to Gatwick Airport on the following morning. The Ward Air D.C. 10 aircraft left Gatwick at 12noon on Saturday October 18th.
A pleasant flight with a splendid menu (enough for one committee man to propose that the next Annual Dinner is held on a plane!) saw the choristers burst into song somewhere over the Atlantic, before arriving in Toronto International Airport almost eight hours later. An advertisement of “Drink Canada Dry” couldn’t be more appropriate, as all of the beer was soon consumed on the plane!
Travelling in two yellow school buses across a freeway of sixteen lanes which left the choristers shocked at the sheer volume of traffic, they arrived at St Jude’s Church, Wexford, to be met with the hosts for the evening. The choristers were reunited on the following morning for a tour of Toronto, including a visit to the magnificent CN Tower, the tallest freestanding structure in the world. The first concert of the tour was held that night at Cedarbrae Collegiate Hall and was a tremendous success with a standing ovation from the capacity crowd of over a thousand people.
Canada 1980: Text
Travelling fifty miles to Barrie on Monday October 20th, choristers walked the streets of the quaint little town, before gathering at the Georgian Hall to meet their hosts and then prepare for the evening concert. For the first time that night the choristers wore a black tie with a blue shirt and dress suit and also Islwyn Morgan joined the music staff – by turning the pages for Jennifer while she played for the soloists! Again the Choir was rewarded for a fine performance with a standing ovation.
The concert programme for the duration of the tour included a host of well-known Welsh items including “Gwahoddiad”, “Llef”, “Tydi a Roddaist”, “Cyfri’r Geifr”, “We’ll Keep A Welcome”, “Dafydd Y Garreg Wen”, “Laudamus”, “Mae D’Eisiau Di Bob Awr”, “Morte Christe and “Fantasia on Famous Welsh Airs.” Operatic favourites were “Speed Your Journey”, “Crusader’s Chorus”, “Bandits Chorus” and “Soldier’s Chorus” with spirituals such as “Just a Closer Walk”, “Little Innocent Lamb” and “Where Shall I Be”. Other arrangements included “Finnish Forest”, “Maria Wanders Through The Thorn”, “Hava Nagila” and "There Were Many Babies Born”. The more modern items included “Blowin In The Wind”, “A Valley Called The Rhondda”, “Jimmy Brown” and “Impossible Dream” as the finale before the anthems of “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” and “O Canada”.
Canada 1980: Text
On Tuesday the Choir toured the Indian village of Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, learning about the native American history of the area and avoiding too much of a temptation to sing “Crossing the Plains” on the way.
Arriving at the Opera House in Orillia, the Choir performed “Calon Lan” for a television crew and prepared for the evening concert which included the first performance of Bryan Davies’s arrangement of “I Believe” with Sam Griffiths as the soloist.
On the following afternoon lunch was served at the Orillia Church Hall where the Choir sang “Men of Harlech” and wished Islwyn Morgan a very happy birthday and Harry Price a happy silver wedding anniversary! The Mayor of Orillia presented John Cynan with a wooden scroll and Treorchy reciprocated by presenting a Choir shield. The Choir travelled to Gravenhurst at 3pm to settle into their surroundings at the Opera House where they gave another thrilling evening performance, resulting once more in a standing ovation from the packed auditorium of spectators.
On Thursday October 23rd the Choir waved a fond farewell to Gravenhurst as they travelled to Haileybury almost three hours away. Following tea in the church hall and a few drinks in the Canadian Legion Club, the choristers assembled for another first-class concert at the School of Mines, a location that certainly interested many of the choristers who still worked in the industry.
Canada 1980: Text
The next town on the touring agenda was a further two hours away called Kapuskasing. A visit to a liquor store saw the eyes light up of the owner as 90 thirsty Welshmen bought up most of his stock!
At the venue they met their overnight hosts and once suited, they were ready for the evening concert at the Centre de Loisers, during which a doctor was called out of the auditorium to deliver a baby. He returned to his seat by the second half of the concert having left the happy mother with her nine pound bundle of joy!
Saturday October 25th was one of the few days on the tour where there was no evening performance. A two hour journey to Elliot Lake, with a break in Timmins and the haunting town of Carier and the opportunity to view the sparsely populated region of northern Ontario. On reaching Elliot Lake Secondary School they spent the day sightseeing the region before meeting their hosts for the night. The choristers were reunited at 7pm on the following evening when they returned to the School for another concert which again resulted in a standing ovation.
At 9am on the next day the two buses left Elliot Lake for Pembroke, with a short stop in a Sudbury liquor store to replenish the stock! Another stop was made at North Bay before arriving in Pembroke at 5pm for another night’s stay with hosts and no concert to perform, although the conductor and accompanist were taken to a local TV studio to appear on the Ed Dickson Show. The following morning choristers toured a local matchmaking factory and wood mill. By late afternoon the Choir arrived at the Senior Public School’s Festival Hall where John Cynan Jones was presented with a large wooden beaver for the Treorchy trophy cabinet before the start of another very successful evening concert.
Canada 1980: Text
On Wednesday October 29th the Choir embarked on a two hour journey from Pembroke to Ottawa where choristers were able to explore the capital city. They reunited at the City Hall Chambers for a Mayoral reception where they sang “Ar Hyd Y Nos”.
The evening concert at Le Salle School Hall was organised by the Ottawa Welsh Society and was partly filmed by the Canadian Broadcast Company. Another splendid performance was followed by a reception at St Vincent de Paul Church Hall with their Welsh exile hosts, making for a memorable visit to the city.
Meeting at the School on the following morning, the Choir undertook a lengthy journey to Brockville where they were greeted at the Civic Auditorium by their hosts. The penultimate concert of the tour proved an outstanding success as they left the stage to a rousing standing ovation from the capacity audience. Reuniting on the following morning at the auditorium, the Choir travelled along St Lawrence river on their journey to Niagara Falls. They arrived at the Collegiate Vocational Institute just after 4pm for a rehearsal before making the short trip to the St Michael’s Hotel, their accommodation for the night.
Canada 1980: Text
FallsThe final concert of the tour was another success and afterwards cars drove past the coaches and blew their horns as a mark of appreciation. One of the highlights of the tour came with a visit to the Falls at night to witness the incredible view of a floodlit Niagara. The evening concluded with a memorable party at the home of Mrs Speedie. The final day included a tour of Niagara before the journey to Toronto Airport and the overnight flight back to the UK (where the beer on board was drunk before leaving Canada!). The presence of the Choir on the flight was announced by the captain and the choristers responded with a rousing rendition of “I Bob Un”, much to the delight and surprise of their fellow passengers.
“A session with the Treorchy Male Choir is as close to musical heaven as one cares to come. The command that the Conductor has over his Choir is almost awe-inspiring, while the accompanist never misses a note. This was a Choir which left everyone with something to remember them – there was the capacity to whisper and to thunder with equal facility and precision. There was, above all, the capacity to make melodies truly melodic. Now that’s a great choir.” John Palmer, Orillia Packet
“Although the pen may be mightier than the sword, it cannot convey the sound with which the audience were treated. Remarkably the Choir is made up of amateurs, but only in the economic sense. A tip of the hat to our Treorchy friends whose memories will linger for many years.” Terry Vint, Gravenhurst News
“The Treorchy Male Choir have achieved results of the highest standard. This Choir has mastered the art of pianissimo singing. In “Were You There” the Choir rocked the foundations of the auditorium with their word painting on “tremble” and then took us to a peaceful calm as they whispered the remainder. The Choir possesses fine diction and excellent expressive qualities. Thank you for a night of great musical entertainment.” Allen Wayte, Brockville Recorder & Times
“The Choir’s performance was ethereal. Superlatives fail in describing the quality of performance. The best descriptive superlative would be “ethereal”. Ninety male voices sang at times as softly as a whisper. Success of the performance, in no small measure, go to the conductor and accompanist who smoothly orchestrated the choir through its wide repertoire of songs.” Gabrielle Herrison, Niagara Falls Review
Oct 19 Cedarbrae College Hall, Toronto
Oct 20 Georgian Hall, Barrie
Oct 21 The Opera House, Orillia
Oct 22 The Opera House, Gravenhurst
Oct 23 School of Mines, Haileybury
Oct 24 Centre De Loisers, Kapuskasing
Oct 26 Secondary School, Elliot Lake
Oct 28 Senior Public School, Pembroke
Oct 29 Le Salle School Hall, Ottawa
Oct 30 Civic Auditorium, Brockville
Oct 31 Collegiate Hall, Niagara Falls
Canada 1980: Text
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