Australia

October 10 – November 2 1986

The Treorchy Male Choir’s first tour of Australia in the late autumn of 1986 was an overseas trip of legendary proportions. A touring party of 100 people undertook this magnificent visit, organised by James Hardie Industries as a gift to the people of the country as a celebration of South Australia’s 150th anniversary. The all-expenses paid tour, where choristers were treated in a manner befitting the best VIPs, was simply astounding. The opportunity to perform in the country’s greatest concert halls, including the world-famous Sydney Opera House (the first Welsh Choir to do so) was simply unforgettable.

St Martin's SquareSt Martin's SquareThe adventure began at Stag Square on the afternoon of Friday October 10th as journalists, photographers, friends, families and fans crowded the main street to wish the Choir a “bon voyage” as they began their journey down under! On reaching Heathrow Airport, the 97 choristers, led by John Cynan Jones, pianist Jennifer Jones and soprano soloist Mair Roberts, boarded the Quantas 747 “City of Canberra” for the first leg of the journey to Bahrain for an hour’s break. The next stop came at Singapore, for another short visit of the airport before the final journey to Sydney, Australia where they were greeted by representatives of the James Hardie Industries Ltd.

The buses transported this large group of singers to the Koala Inn on Oxford Street where they were met by tour guides Linde Macpherson and Douglas Firstbrook and enjoyed a free day to explore the magnificent city in all its glory. Walks along the quayside to the Harbour Bridge and ferry rides to Manly were followed by a visit to the magnificent Opera House, the venue for the first concert of the tour. It was an overwhelming and humbling sight to behold, especially when choristers came to fully realise what was expected of them to give a memorable performance in such surroundings.

Enjoying their private cruise shipEnjoying their private cruise shipA party aboard their own private yacht, the “Matilda”, across Sydney Harbour on the following day proved an unforgettable event. The hospitality was breathtaking with ample supply of food and liquid refreshment – particularly the “Bucks Fizz” which flowed like rain water on a drizzly Treorchy day. Welcomed on board by John Reid, Chairman of the James Hardie Industries and accompanied by fellow organisers Brian Anstee and James Kelso, a spontaneous sing-song commenced for the duration of the voyage.

On Tuesday October 14th, the choristers, suitably recovered from their experiences of the previous day and night, prepared for a day of engagements which began with a performance in the outdoor amphitheatre in Martin Place, Sydney. Seated around the tiered circumference of the oval-shaped amphitheatre were around 1,000 people who rewarded the engagement with a standing ovation. The choristers were transported to the Opera House with its splendid sail like roof overlooking the harbour and framed by the famous bridge.

This was the pinnacle of the forty-year history of the Treorchy Male Choir. Choristers past and present could be undeniably proud of this magnificent achievement as the singers first stepped onto the stage of one of the world’s greatest concert halls. Letters of congratulations were read from John Haydn Davies, Cliff Taylor, Pendyrus, Morriston and Pontarddulais Male Choirs and the Parc and Dare Band.

At 8pm the choristers waited patiently in the wings as an air of nervousness and fear of the unknown engulfed them, but when the first man walked on stage and the applause from the capacity audience of 2,700 people erupted, all nerves were dispelled. This was indeed an outstanding evening and from the very first notes of “Cwm Rhondda”, Treorchy secured itself a place in the hearts of every Australian present – whether in the concert hall, or as one of the many outside in the foyer listening to the music through a sound system as no more tickets were available.

Sydney Opera HouseSydney Opera HouseJennifer Jones performed brilliantly on both the piano and the £20,000 harp loaned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Mair Roberts rose to the challenge of singing in this incredible setting while John Cynan remained confident, proud and in total control of the 97 men before him. The Choir's performance was absolutely magnificent.

The concert was quite simply unforgettable and a thrilling standing ovation ensued as each man walked off stage. This was indeed a moment to remember.

On the warm sunny morning that followed the Choir performed in a local television studio for the afternoon news programme before heading to Newcastle with a lunch break in Peatsridge.

On reaching this large coal-mining community the choristers settled into their hotels before travelling to the Civic Theatre where they were met by the PRO of James Hardie Industries, Norman Hudson. The oldest theatre in the country played host to the Choir who once again was on top form. The auditorium was overcrowded, with many paying to stand at the back of the theatre, but fortunately they were not disappointed and rewarded the Treorchy men with a standing ovation.

During the following day choristers enjoyed a walk along the beach and promenade before undertaking the return journey to Sydney, arriving once again in the Koala Inn and enjoying the rest of the day to further explore the city.

Sydney Opera HouseSydney Opera HouseAt 6pm on the following evening the choristers returned to the Sydney Opera House for their second concert in this splendid venue for another capacity audience. Waiting in eager anticipation a “last night of the Proms” atmosphere prevailed throughout the entire performance which was also broadcast on the national network.

A farewell to Sydney on Saturday October 18th as the Choir reached the next destination of their tour in Adelaide. After flying from Sydney Airport, they reached Adelaide a few hours later and arrived at the Festival Hall by 2pm where radio interviews were given with the music staff. On the following day they travelled “up country” to Whyalla through Gawler, Tarlee, Auburn and Port Augusta. Welcomed by the Welsh Society, the choristers settled into their rooms before travelling to the Middleback Theatre with a seating capacity of 500 – every one of which was filled. Another tremendous performance with a standing ovation and calls for encores culminated in a rousing performance of the National Anthems, much to everyone’s absolute delight.

The next destination on this journey was a three hour trip to Port Pirie, the busy harbour town on the eastern side of the Spencer Gulf. A Civic Reception was held by Mayor William Jones and the evening concert before another capacity audience at the Keith Mitchell Hall. It was a memorable evening for the three founder members of the Choir, Cliburn Willis, Haydn Erasmus and Danny Williams who were asked to stand and take a bow on the Choir’s 40th anniversary.

Ken, Reg, Roy, Bryn, Peter, Arwel and PhilKen, Reg, Roy, Bryn, Peter, Arwel and PhilOn Tuesday October 21st the journey to Renmark began in the most glorious of weather. Travelling through Spalding and Burra Burra, the Choir reached the Renmark Hotel for another Civic Reception before the evening concert at the Chaffey Theatre. Due to a shortage of time, no rehearsal took place, but it had no effect on the concert which was another outstanding success and was followed by a champagne reception.

A small tour took place on the following day with short breaks in Pinnaroo and Bordertown and a journey through a wild-life sanctuary before settling into their accommodation for a free evening to enjoy the local surroundings of Mount Gambier. After another day of living the luxurious life, the Choir travelled to the Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, which had been opened by the Prince of Wales in 1981. This fine auditorium, with one of the longest stages in the country, proved a superb location for the evening concert which was also filmed for television viewing. One couple in the concert hall had actually travelled 400 miles just to hear the Choir perform. Another hugely successful concert ensued, ensuring that James Hardie Industries’ hopes of a tour of the highest standard, which was something new for the Australian public and was capable of wide appeal, had most certainly come true.

Blue LakeBlue LakeA few aching heads were held in the hands of weary choristers on the following morning as they left the hotel for a tour of the lake district, complete with emus, kangaroos and a magnificent view of the Blue Lake. A free evening was enjoyed in the Mount Gambier Football Club (The Tigers), with plenty of ale consumed and the occasional song performed.

On Saturday October 25th the buses journeyed back to Adelaide via Millicent, Kingston and Meningie. After settling into their hotel they were able to enjoy an evening at the Grand Prix Carnival Night, with streets filled with music, theatre shows and all-night bars! The following day was “Grand Prix” day and the Choir enjoyed a barbeque on Mount Pleasant, which included an exciting aerobatic display by the RAAF. Hosted by Robert Andrews, chairman of the Metropolitan Male Choir, the barbeque was a marvellous occasion where the tables literally “groaned” with food. On returning to Adelaide, another free evening was enjoyed by the Treorchy men.

Monday was another free day to enjoy the sights of Adelaide, while some of the officials and music staff appeared on several television and radio programmes throughout the afternoon. The concert was held in a packed-out Festival Hall and was broadcast on the local radio network. A pleasant surprise took place in the second half of the concert when the Chairman, Robert Griffiths, announced that it was John Cynan Jones’s 500th concert as Conductor of the Treorchy Male Choir and he was presented with a commemorative shield to rapturous applause. Following the concert the conductor was also surprised to receive an enormous 500th concert celebratory cake, enough to feed the entire Choir and guests!

Chairman Robert Griffiths making a presentation to the Conductor John Cynan JonesChairman Robert Griffiths making a presentation to the Conductor John Cynan JonesWith a free day on the Tuesday, it was time to visit more of the sights and sounds of Adelaide. The second concert in the Festival Hall was again to a capacity audience and was held simply because the demand for tickets after the first concert was absolutely overwhelming.

It was time to bid Adelaide a fond farewell on the following day as the Choir travelled to the local airport to fly to Melbourne, which was an hour away. On reaching the Victoria Arts Centre a television broadcast was made and they were welcomed to the city by members of the Melbourne Male Choir. After relaxing in the hotels it was time to return to the Arts Centre for the evening concert. Once rehearsals were finished a surprise took place for Doug Firstbrook, as he was presented with Honorary Membership of the Treorchy Male Choir. The evening concert, before 2,600 people was another outstanding success with a standing ovation once more to conclude the performance. With a free day to explore Melbourne, it was soon time to return to the centre for the grand finale concert of the tour. Once again it was before a packed auditorium that the proud men of Treorchy thrilled each and every spectator, leaving the stage assured they had indeed succeeded on this “impossible dream” of a tour.

The Farewell DinnerThe Farewell DinnerIt was with a saddened heart the Choir reached the final day of their tour and that evening held their Farewell Dinner at the Elizabeth Tower Hotel. It was indeed a night of appreciation, celebration and relaxation. James Hardie Industries and Treorchy Male Choir officials were individually congratulated on the tremendous amount of work that had been carried out in preparation for the tour and for the execution of such an outstanding visit since their arrival.

Australia 1986 was a tour the Treorchy Male Choir – or the Australian public - would never forget.

Press Reports

“Big chordal fortissimos, with lots of gristle and sinew in them…softly resonating pianissimos, like a cloud passing slowly over a mountain. These were some of the experiences expected from and provided by the Treorchy Male Choir, a superbly trained and disciplined choir of nearly 100 voices. It is always moving to witness the work of a resolute and dedicated amateur choir: the whole so much greater than could be expected from its individual members. I also found it thrilling.” Roger Covell, Sydney Opera House.

Blue LakeBlue Lake“A packed house buzzed and hummed with expectation last night. There was discipline in their stance, their stillness, their palpable attention. Also noted throughout the concert, was a remarkable definition given to chordings. Each note of each chord was clear and ringing as part of a balanced, blended whole. This is rare alchemy.

“Heaps of tone was apparent. When extremely soft, almost whispered passages are matched with a at times creamy tone, then you have the ideal Welsh male voice sound. Whatever one expected of a first class choir was liberally supplied. Word painting, drama, collective sensitivity, all were displayed. And, of course, conviction. This conviction transcended the merely sentimental to become the very essence of Welshness.” T.H.Naisby, Civic Theatre, Newcastle

“This large choir builds from superb artistic discipline. Rhythm, diction, intonation and dynamics are faultlessly controlled. They bring out some stunning technical effects and allies them to strongly expressive singing. The quality of 100 men singing together in resplendent harmony was so exceptionally fine.” Warren Bourne, Adelaide Festival Theatre.

“The 97-voice ensemble from the valleys of the Rhondda has taken the country by storm, forcing the organisers to hastily squeeze extra concerts into an already full schedule in order to meet the demand.” Keith Mitchell Theatre, Port Pirie

 

Concert List

Oct 14 Martin Place, Sydney

Oct 14 Sydney Opera House

Oct 15 Sydney TV Studio

Oct 15 Civic Theatre, Newcastle

Oct 17 Sydney Opera House

Oct 19 Middelback Thatre, Whyalla

Oct 20 Keith Michel Theatre, Port Pirie

Oct 21 Chaffey Theatre, Renmark

Oct 23 Sir Robert Helpmann Theatre, Mount Gambier

Oct 27 Festival Theatre, Adelaide

Oct 28 Festival Theatre, Adelaire

Oct 29 Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne

Oct 29 Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne

Oct 20 Victoria Arts Centre, Melbourne