Dinner & Dance

“If music be the food of love, play on”

From the earliest years of the reformed Treorchy Male Choir, the organisation has always enjoyed a busy social life off-stage. During the past six decades the Choir has been involved in more social events than can possibly be catalogued, but one of the traditional occasions has always been the Dinner and Dance evenings. Held at various locations throughout South Wales and boasting first-class Guest Speakers, the Dinner and Dance events have been an ideal opportunity for the choristers and their wives to meet other “choir couples” on a social basis.

During the 1940s support was given to the fledgling choir by managers of the nearby Polikoff clothing factory where a number of the choristers worked. Polikoffs became the venue for subsequent fundraising “go as you please” evenings of entertainment (attracting more than four hundred guests a time!), several annual dinners and numerous concerts and broadcasts during the early years. It was a time when enthusiastic young choristers bonded in the most magnificent way, with “all hands on deck” to raise funds for their organisation. Memories remain vivid for some choristers who attended some of the dances held at the British Legion Hall in Pentre from 1947 onwards when Ron Lewis would drive around collecting sandwiches, cakes and pies made by chorister’s wives and mothers to be sold during the dance at a buffet overseen by Trevor Protheroe.

Dinner & Dance, 1950Dinner & Dance, 1950The first of these “Supper and Social Evenings” were held in Polikoff’s Assembly Rooms, on Saturday November 5th 1949. For three shillings Assembly Rooms, on Saturday November 5th 1949. For three shillings each, cold meat and potatoes was the first course of the night with catering by Higgins of Treorchy Café. A total of 340 people attended the event where presentations of travelling toilet cases were made to the Conductor and Accompanist as mementos of the first National Eisteddfod in Dolgellau. Choir Chairman George Neighbour chaired the occasion and the guests were Choir President Cllr Iorwerth R Thomas, Chairman of Rhondda Borough Council Cllr L Bateman and Rev Hendy Davies gave the Grace. The speakers also included Fred Pullin of the NCB, followed by the Conductor John Davies himself, followed by some lively entertainment with first bass chorister Herbert Evans as compere.

A year later and Mansel Thomas, the BBC Head of Welsh Music, made a guest appearance as one of the speakers while a performance was given by the Choir, followed by duets from the BBC’s John Morgan and Helena Hughes-Brown. Also present as a guest was none other than Alun Williams, the broadcaster and presenter of the “All Together” programmes in which the Choir would feature so regularly. This feast of entertainment continued with Haydn Thatcher as Master of Ceremonies who introduced Joe Dunn to perform.

Polikoff’s Assembly Rooms in Ynyswen was the location for the third annual dinner in November 1951 when “Our George”, George Thomas MP and later Speaker of the House of Commons, responded to Choir President. It was the first time George, later known as Viscount Tonypandy, would be present at the Choir engagement and he returned many years later as Guest Speaker. The Chief Guest was in fact Alun Oldfield Davies, the Director of BBC Wales, while MC for the after-dinner entertainment was Haydn Erasmus.

By 1954 the Choir, now National Eisteddfod winners, went further afield for their annual dinners and instead chose the Park Hotel in Cardiff. The menu was also of a different nature, including “Clear Celestine or Cream Aurore” as an hors d’oeuvre followed by a turkey dinner and concluded with Napolitaine ice cream and wafers no less!

Dinner Invite 1954Dinner Invite 1954The dinner on December 4th welcomed back Alun Oldfield Davies once more along with Gwilym Ambrose, the Principal of Caerleon College where the Conductor had once attended. It also saw the appearance of the usual guests in the Choir President and Fred Pullin of the NCB who was so supportive of the Choir during its early years.

Sir Ben Bowen Thomas, Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Department, was the Chief Guest at the 1957 annual dinner, again held in the Park Hotel with D.Jones-Davies, the Education Officer of the Rhondda Borough Council to respond. It was also a sign of the times when the Choir moved on from the usual “go-as-you-please” events to hire Alan Johnson and his Orchestra to provide the evening’s entertainment before the midnight departure.

Ken Williams and the Modernaires provided music for the next dinner on November 28th 1959 in the same venue. This time the speakers were from the Choir itself, with the President Iorwerth Thomas followed by Chairman George Neighbour and finally to the conductor, John Haydn Davies, where he stated the Choir “blazed in glory” throughout the year and looked forward to 1960 with equal enthusiasm.

For the following year the dinner changed venues to the Connaught Banqueting Rooms in Cardiff where Mayor of the Rhondda Alderman Arthur Davies and Alun Oldfield Davies both spoke publicly. It was also a year in which the Choir welcomed their dear friends from the Glasgow Police Male Voice Choir and the Paisley Police Male Choir as its Conductor, Farquhar MacDonald, and the Chief Constable James McAulkay gave impassioned speeches to the hundreds of guests.

Dinner & Dance 1961Dinner & Dance 1961The relationship with the NUM had always been a strong one given the nature of the working lives of most of the choristers, but it was also becoming obvious that plans were afoot for the Choir to undertake its first overseas tour.

The trip to Switzerland in 1963 was part of the British Industries Fair and the Choir travelled to Geneva following the support of the mining industry. In the 1961 dinner William Whitehead, the President of the NUM (South Wales Area), was guest speaker and to propose the toast on the evening was The Dean of Llandaff, the Very Reverent Eryl Thomas.

The Choir went “west” for the Dinner and Dance on November 21st 1964 when they hired the Spanish Ballroom and Bavarian Lounge in Trecco Bay, Porthcawl.

It was the year in which the Choir had famously won the Swansea National Eisteddfod despite the ill health of John Haydn Davies. By this time Edward Knapgate was the Chairman of the Choir and he led the proceedings which included speeches by Iorwerth R. Thomas MP, William Whitehead of the NUM, Gerald Blackmore of the NCB, Mayor of the Rhondda Cllr Ronald Matthews, Principal Gwilym Ambrose of Caerleon Training College, Alun Oldfield Davies, the Controller of BBC Wales and finally the Chief Guest, K.V.M Wood, President of RAFA Treorchy Branch.

21st Birthday Celebration21st Birthday CelebrationIn 1967 the Choir returned to Porthcawl for their dinner, this time held at the Banquetting Hall in Trecco Bay. To celebrate the 21st Anniversary of the Treorchy Male Choir it was decided to invite only two Chief Guests, and what better selection than John Haydn Davies and his faithful friend Tom Jones. The Mayor of the Rhondda Cllr W. Hughes and his deputy, Cllr S. Jones, were also invited, along with the Choir’s elocutionist and Honorary Member Herbert Jones. It was a fitting occasion as the decision was made to present Life Membership certificates to four of the most prominent men in the history of the reformed Choir, being John Davies, Tom Jones, Secretary W.J. “Donna” Griffiths and Treasurer Gwynne Williams. Also lady guests received a special 21st birthday souvenir from the choristers themselves. Sadly, John Haydn himself was too ill to attend and his wife Olwen was asked to read a speech on his behalf which concluded:

“F.L. Lucas has a paragraph in his book on “Style” which makes an appropriate ending – It is unlikely that many of us will be famous or even remembered. But not less important than the brilliant few are the unknown many whose patient efforts keep the world from going backward, who guard and maintain the ancient values, even if they do not conquer new, whose inconspicuous triumph is to pass on what they inherited from their fathers, unimpaired and undiminished, to their sons enough for almost all of us. If we can hand on the torch and not let it down, content to win the affection, if it may be, of a few who know us, and to be forgotten when they in turn have vanished. The destiny of mankind is not wholly governed by its stars.”

In April 1969 a Presentation Dinner was held in the Tonypandy Library to honour John Haydn Davies MBE on his retirement as Conductor of the Choir. Presentations were made to him and his wife Olwen by the new Choir President, Clifford Taylor. It was also pleasing to see that the Mayor of the Rhondda that year was none other than the Choir’s regular elocutionist, Herbert Jones. The evening also welcomed the latest edition to the Treorchy family, as the Choir concluded the evening by singing the National Anthem under its new conductor, John Cynan Jones.

Dinner & Dance, 1971 Dinner & Dance, 1971 A special annual dinner was held in the Penrhys Community Centre in November 1971 to celebrate the Choir’s Silver Anniversary. To mark twenty-five successful years their dear friend Alun Williams of the BBC was invited as Chief Guest followed by Mayor of Rhondda Alderman Brynnar Jones and Alec Jones, MP for Rhondda West. Musical entertainment had moved on again from the usual orchestras to a band called “The Comets”. It was a further four years before another Dinner and Dance was held, although the occasion was the very grand Angel Hotel in Cardiff. Alec Jones MP responded to the Choir President in welcoming the guests that evening and the Chief Speaker was the Director of Education for Mid Glamorgan County Council, John Brace, with a move of thanks provided by John Cynan Jones. The Conductor Emeritus, John Haydn Davies, was of course present and he said Grace before the roast beef dinner was served. Once again guests from other musical organisations were present, particularly Noel Davies, the Conductor of Cor Meibion Pontarddulais who had become such a good friend to the Treorchy men over the years.

The Angel Hotel was chosen as the venue for the next Choir Dinner held on April 3rd 1976, this time welcoming the Professor of Music at the University of Wales Bangor, William Mathias. In December 1977 George Thomas, Viscount Tonypandy made a welcomed return to the event as Guest, Speaker, and for the first time Glyn Jones, the Secretary of the Welsh National Association of Male Choirs, was present. The dinner was held that year in the Connaught Rooms, Cardiff, with the John Oliver Sound providing the evening’s entertainment. The veritable “who’s who” of influential Welshmen continued to grace the Choir’s Dinner in May 1979 when they returned to the Angel Hotel and welcomed The Lord Parry, Chairman of the Welsh Tourist Board, as the George Thomas, The Viscount Tonypandy 

Chief Guest. By this time Rhondda MP Alec Jones was the Under Secretary of State for Wales and he also spoke at the enjoyable event. In March 1980, less than a year before his death, W.J. “Donna” Griffiths was congratulated on his 28 years as Choir Secretary with a dinner in his honour at the Angel Hotel. It was a splendid evening with speeches by the Conductor Emeritus, Conductor, President and of course Donna himself who thanked everyone for his support on his retirement in such a pivotal role in the Choir’s management.

Sir Geraint Evans and John Haydn DaviesSir Geraint Evans and John Haydn DaviesThe Dinner and Dance held in March 1981 took place once more at Penrhys Community Centre. Once more Alec Jones MP was invited to speak, followed by Rhondda Mayor Henry Royston.

It was a special evening for John Tucker, who had organised so many fundraising concerts over the years in Walsall Town Hall. As a mark of respect, Honorary Membership was conferred upon him by the Vice Chairman of the Choir, Cli Willis.

They returned to the same venue for the dinner in November 1982 and with the exception of the Deputy Mayor of Rhondda, Eric Evans this time the speakers were from within the organisation itself, making for another memorable night.

A new venue was chosen for the Dinner in December 1983 as this time it was held in the Rhondda Sport Centre, Ystrad. Choir Chairman Alun Hughes led the proceedings which included words from the Mayor of Rhondda Cllr Kate Rees and the special guest was W.B.Cleaver, Deputy Director of the South Wales Division of the NCB. John Cynan Jones was presented with Life Membership of the Treorchy Male Choir at the Dinner and Dance in the Seabank Hotel, Porthcawl, on Saturday December 15th 1984.

The Hillside Club, 1992The Hillside Club, 1992It was a special year for the Choir to honour their Conductor in this way an the address by none other than Sir Geraint Evans CBE will be long remembered by those who attended.

In 1986 the Choir returned to the Seabank Hotel and in doing so welcomed a very old and dear friend for over thirty years. Alun Williams, the BBC broadcaster, was invited to attend as the Guest Speaker and followed the words of Rhondda Mayor A.J.Davies in reminiscing about almost four decades of friendship.

The Choir didn't hold a dinner for a further four years until it was decided to organise an event at the South Glamorgan County Hall, Cardiff, in December 1989. Alun Williams again returned as Guest Speaker, with welcome and thanks by Cli Willis and John Cynan Jones.

Just a few short years later and the Conductor retired from his post and therefore a presentation dinner was held in his honour in November 1992 at the Hillside Club, Tonyrefail. John Cynan reminisced about his long and happy career with the Choir following the entertaining speech by Gareth George, the South Wales Regional Director of Barclays Bank.

60th Anniversary Dinner & Dance60th Anniversary Dinner & DanceMany years would pass before another Dinner and Dance was held, and that was undertaken to celebrate the Choir’s 60th Anniversary. The Diamond Jubilee Dinner was held in the Millennium Suite of the Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, in October 2006. The Choir President, Brian Bates, said Grace and Conductor Emeritus John Cynan Jones and Conductor Meuryn Hughes proposed a toast the Choir.

The toast to the guests was performed by Vice President Clive Thomas, The High Sheriff of Glamorgan and Kate Thomas, the Lord Lieutenant, while the Guest Speaker that evening was Mel Thomas. Entertainment was provided by Big Band singer Jeff Hooper.

A multitude of events, a multitude of memories that stitch together to create the tapestry of memories of the Treorchy Male Choir.