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Most Recorded Choir in the World

Treorchy Male Choir’s recording history is an outstanding achievement for any musical organisation. The Choir has recorded almost sixty records and CDs since its first commercial recording took place in February 1956. Arguably, its list of almost 500 recorded tracks makes the Treorchy Male Choir the most recorded male voice choir in the world.

Those early days were an exciting period for this newly formed Choir, enjoying international recognition within a few short years of existence. Although they remained in demand for concert performances and had a number of national competition victories to their name, the need to broadcast their music to an even wider audience was greater than ever.

In actual fact the Choir’s sound was recorded even earlier than 1956. Five years earlier in June 1951 choristers appeared in a Rhondda Music Week concert from the Pentre Colliery site and baritone soloist Sam Griffiths was given the opportunity to record two songs. With choristers supporting him he recorded “Little Liza Jane”. A similar situation occurred in August 1952 when they won the National Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth and this was also made into a private recording, as were several other subsequent eisteddfod performances.

During the 1950s the Choir collaborated on a successful series of radio broadcasts for the BBC Overseas Service and the response to their performances was overwhelming. Towards the end of 1955 they were introduced to John Edwards, the Managing Director of the newly established Qualiton Record Company based in Pontardawe.

Following lengthy discussions it was decided to record their first 78rpm record on the Qualiton label on February 23rd, 1956 at Bethlehem Chapel, Treorchy. The two songs recorded were “Sospan Fach” and “Men of Harlech”.

This was the first of six 78rpm records made for Qualiton between 1956 and 1957 and included the tracks “Nant y Mynydd”, “Y Lon I Lan Ar Lei”, “Lord Is My Shepherd”, “Shepherd’s Lullaby”, “Hyfrydol”, “Llef”, “Myfanwy” and “Soldier’s Chorus”. John Haydn Davies conducted each of them, with Tom Jones at the piano.

Most Recorded Choir in the World: Text

With the exception of a recording made of their famous transatlantic link between the Pavilion, Porthcawl and a studio in New York where Paul Robeson welcomed them in song, the Choir continued to record with Qualiton.

Those early recordings were an incredible feat when considering they were recorded in a chapel. This meant that whenever a large vehicle, such as a lorry, came past the building, the recording was stopped and had to be started again from the beginning! A famous male voice choir also from Wales has a 1950s recording of “Myfanwy” where listeners can hear a dog barking in the background! Such was the simplicity of that early recording equipment!

In 1958 John Edwards wanted to celebrate his company making its 100th record. The Choir and the Cory Band combined at the Salvation Army Citadel, Pentre to record “God Bless The Prince Of Wales” and “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”, which concluded at 5.40pm. Mr Edwards then dashed to the studio to cut and process the record through the night, with copies available in the Cardiff shops by the following morning. Completed within 16 hours 20minutes it was recognised as the shortest recording-selling time of any record in the world up to this period.

A series of seven 45rpm recordings followed during which time Qualiton decided to record the Choir’s first long-player 33rpm, called “Carolau Nadolig”. Recorded at Noddfa Chapel, Treorchy it featured a selection of carols in both English and Welsh and sold several thousand copies during the first month. In 1959 a “live” album was even made at Llandaff Cathedral which captured not only the sound of the Choir but the superb acoustics of the magnificent building.

Treorchy Male Choir Recording 1957.jpg
Most Recorded Choir in the World: Text

By April 1960 Qualiton and Treorchy returned to Noddfa to record another long-player, called “Nidaros”, which was later re-released on the Daffodil label as “Great Welsh Choirs.” In 1963 Treorchy Male Choir had the very exciting offer of recording a 14-track long-player for the Herald Sacred label. It took three days to record at Noddfa and featured a religious repertoire of music, released under the title of “The Valley Sings.”

Such was its popularity that a second album, “The Valley Sings Again” was released in 1965. When Treorchy made the feature film “Choirs of the World” for Lutz Wellnitz Productions in June 1969, an album of the eight songs used was also released as a 33rpm record.

The Choir had established an enviable reputation as a major “record seller” in male choir terms and it was hardly surprising that by 1968 an international label such as EMI Records (then titled HMV) noticed their popularity.

On Sunday April 7th the Associate Conductor, John Cynan Jones, led them to the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea for the first of a multitude of albums, this one entitled “Pride of Wales". The twelve-track album marked the first of an astonishing sixteen solo albums with EMI Records.

Most Recorded Choir in the World: Text

From 1968 through to the mid 1990s the Choir recorded new albums with EMI on a regular basis, establishing itself as a major force in the recording world. A vast repertoire of music, of all genres, was recorded on such albums as “Songs You Love”, “Speed Your Journey”, “Cwm Rhondda”, “The Crusaders”, “Greatest Hits”, “A Valley Called The Rhondda”, “Climb Every Mountain”, “Calon Lan”, “David of the White Rock”, “Magic Sounds”, “My Way” and “Showstoppers.”

It was an ideal opportunity to allow John Cynan to introduce traditional Welsh, classical and more modern music to the repertoire and with special commissions to arrange these contemporary works, the Choir was introduced to musician Mike Sammes. For twenty years Mike arranged a plethora of modern works for the Treorchy Male Choir repertoire, which remain firm favourites with audiences throughout the world. A team of technicians and producers in Brian Culverhouse and Bob Barratt was also formed and in later years Bob organised a series of concerts for the Choir in the Fairfield Hall, Croydon where Mike Sammes would inevitably be sat in the audience.

However, the Choir was not exclusive to EMI in its recording career either and collaborated with Welsh singer Bryn Yemm and Bay Records to release “How Great Thou Art” in May 1982. When Bob Barratt formed his own record company called “Grasmere” the Choir recorded “On Great Lone Hills”, on his label. This album has been re-released many times under several different titles.

In September 1985 the Choir travelled to the CTS Studios in Wembley, London, to record a 45rpm single with artist Patti Boulaye. Sadly a rival label released the same song and unfortunately Treorchy’s version was never sold in the shops.

It was through EMI records that the Choir first met producer Gordon Lorenz and they recorded three religious albums with him on the Word UK label. “Favourite Hymns”, “Songs of Revival” and “Together” with Sir Harry Secombe were all recorded in Brangwyn Hall, a favourite venue for the recordings due to the excellent acoustics and use of the magnificent organ. Word UK also released a 45rpm recording of the Choir’s performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

In 1991 the Choir collaborated on its first joint album with the Morriston Orpheus and Pontarddulais Male Choirs, accompanied by the Band of the Welsh Guards. Each of the individual conductors – Alwyn Humphreys, Noel Davies and John Cynan raised the baton at the massed male voice choir. The multi-track CD called “Christmas From The Land Of Song”, was an outstanding success, earning the Choir a Silver Disc award for 60,000 copies sold.

Most Recorded Choir in the World: Text

Within the year and the Choir once again combined with Morriston and
the Band of the Welsh Guards to record the Welsh favourite, “We’ll Keep a Welcome”. However, Treorchy, now under the direction of John Jenkins, was preparing itself for a groundbreaking new EMI album to be recorded in June 1993 in the studio where The Beatles made their succession of hits. Abbey Road beckoned for Treorchy when they joined forces with members of 10cc and soloist Carl Wayne, formerly of The Move whose song “Flowers in the Rain” was the first item performed on Radio 1. The album was called “Treorchy Sing Queen” and included twelve songs made famous by Freddie Mercury and his legendary group. No other album had quite so much interest and media exposure as the Choir’s radical attempt to record rock songs was considered another major “first”.

Following two more albums, including a “live in concert” to celebrate the Choir’s fiftieth anniversary, Treorchy was introduced to Bandleader Records to release “In Harmony”. A reunion with Bob Barratt and Grasmere saw them release “Sweet Silver Song,” an eighteen-track album of music from across the choral repertoire. In 2001 Treorchy entered the recording studio at the newly established Pop Factory in Porth to join forces with jazz singer Kenny Ball and record a series of football anthems arranged by Hugh Ledigo. “A Definitive Tribute to Wembley” was released by Robinwood Productions later that year to coincide with the redevelopment of the historic sporting arena. The sporting theme continued when the Choir joined forces with Caerphilly Children’s Choir to release the Bob Marley song “Stir It Up” with all proceeds donated to the British Rugby Charity “Woodenspoon”.

An exciting project took place between the Choir and Vernon Hopkins, a former member of Tom Jones’s 1960s band “The Senators” to record his composition “The Millennium Hymn”. The thrilling item was released some years later under the title of "The Liberation Hymn" and all royalties were donated to the Help For Heroes Campaign for wounded soldiers.

As the new millennium progressed, the Choir was given a unique opportunity to appear with international classical star Katherine Jenkins on her album “Serenade”. Her CD, which also featured rock singer Bryan Adams and opera dive Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, was released in 2006 and the Choir performed “Green Green Grass of Home” with the Welsh beauty.

In the following year composer Adrian Munsey, arranger Paul Bateman and lyricist Jeff Chegwin were introduced to the Choir and together they released a CD single entitled “Faraway Place”. By Christmas 2007 bookmakers Ladbrokes tipped the single as a Christmas Number One hit with 33-1 odds. The song was also released on Aled Jones’s “Good Morning Wales” album and Adrian Munsey’s own album, “Requiem” which went on sale in December 2008.

Throughout the years many different collections of songs have been re-
released on CD. The Choir’s recording of “All In the April Evening” from the 1950s is regularly re-released by Decca Records on their series of albums “Your Favourite Tunes”. Also the Choir has performed as part of a massed choir to release a number of albums, including a “Cymanfa Ganu” recording in Treorchy in 1956, both “World Choir” albums in 1992 and 1993 and the “London Welsh Festival of Choirs At The Royal Albert Hall” in 2008. In latter years EMI has released several compilation albums of Treorchy recordings, including “The Diamond Collection” and in 2009, “Songs You Have Loved.”

Most Recorded Choir in the World: Text

In 2010 the Choir released a "Live In Australia" album, recorded by ABC Productions during the concerts at Monash, Victoria; Sydney Opera House and the Melbourne Victoria Arts Centre during the tour down under in 2009. However, one of their most ground breaking albums came a year later when they recorded "Timeless" on Infinity Records for producer Adrian Munsey. The multi-track CD features all of the Choir's current repertoire, many recorded to orchestral accompaniment. The album received huge critical acclaim and has set the standard of male voice choir recordings for others to follow. It was followed in 2013 by the Mothering Sunday release of a single with 1970s pop star Gilbert O'Sullivan called "Me Mum" and a few months later EMI released the third compilation album, entitled "The Welsh Collection".

The Treorchy Male Choir continues to plan for its next commercial album in an effort to capture and preserve this magical sound for admirers to enjoy the world over and for future generations to appreciate.

Most Recorded Choir in the World: Text
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