Switzerland

September 5-13 1963

On Thursday September 5th, 1963, a night of drizzling rain, hundreds assembled at Stag Square in Treorchy. Three Brewers coaches lined up outside the bank and guarded by Vice Chairman Ned Knapgate, awaited the arrival of the excitable choristers who rushed last minute to find their seats. Member Frankie Smith made the unfortunate decision to invite choristers to deposit some of their luggage at his home prior to departure, but with 50 cases lined throughout the halls and rooms, he realised his mistake.

Switzerland 1963Switzerland 1963At 12.40am the buses were off, following an official “send-off” by the Mayor and Mayoress of Rhondda Borough Council Cllr John Gwyn and his wife. The Choir was soon on its way to its first overseas tour in their short history.

Following breakfast at London Airport, choristers were mesmerised at the sight of the planes taking off and landing before they reached their own craft, the DC 6. The 97-seater was packed entirely with 95 choristers along with the Conductor John Haydn Davies and Accompanist Tom Jones. Soon they tucked into their two lamb chops and potatoes, finally reaching Kloten International Airport in Zurich to be met by officials of the National Coal Board, who had sponsored the entire trip.

Enjoying the local hospitality!Enjoying the local hospitality!The driving force behind the enterprise was Geoff Kirk, the Chief Public Relations Officer for the NCB, with the support of Will Whitehead, President of the South Wales Region of the NUM. Stanley Jackson of the NCB and Jack Reading of CISWO accompanied the Choir for the entire trip.

It was this sponsorship that resulted in the reason for renaming the Choir, the Treorchy Miners Choir for the duration of the visit. Zurich was celebrating National British Week, and Treorchy was the Welsh contribution to the celebrations at the British Industries Fair. Therefore the Choir undertook the challenge not only as ambassadors of Wales, but of the entire mining industry in the United Kingdom.

Following their arrival at their hotel, Touristenlarger Limmathaus at Limmatstrasse, they spent Friday as a leisure day to explore Zurich and sample many of the delights of the city, not least of which one or two of the local hostelries who welcomed their Welsh visitors warmly. Riding the bright blue buses throughout the centre of the city, choristers took to their new surroundings with absolute joy, thrilled with the excitement of exploring foreign lands.

On the Saturday the Choir again ventured back into the city on the tram cars to sightsee the local university and the architecturally beautiful city centre. By evening they investigated more of the small cafes and public houses, including Shnaeg where the Swiss welcome astonished each and every Rhondda singer.

Mayor's Parade, ZurichMayor's Parade, ZurichAt 6pm they gave an outdoor concert at Assersihlanlage Park in Zurich and despite the drizzling weather, saw hundreds of people enjoy the Welsh entertainment on offer.

Sunday morning was filled with a sense of chaos as choristers dressed in NCB overalls, boots and helmets at the Military Barracks on Kasernen Street before preparing for the Lord
Mayor’s procession through the main street of Zurich. This was an absolute spectacle to behold as 85,000 people lined the roads, cheering as the Choir marched and sang. From that crowd came a single voice of “I’ve heard better singing at the Stag Square!” It was none other than a Treorchy man who had emigrated to Switzerland some years before! During the evening a concert was held at the English Church in Zurich where many more exiles crowded the pews to hear the Choir sing.

On Monday it was off to Schaffhausen, the ancient town near the world-famous Rhine Falls, providing an unforgettable sight to behold. The evening concert was a memorable one and the hospitality afforded the men was second to none.

On the following day the choristers travelled fifteen miles out of Zurich to the town of Baden. The town is one of the oldest spa and health resorts in the country as the eighteen hot springs, said to have healing effects, provided a fascinating visit for the men.

ZurichZurichAfter an extensive tour of the town, including a meal provided by the Town Council at the Kursaal Restaurant, the Choir gave an open air concert in Kurplatz before a thrilled crowd of spectators.

Soon enough it was Wednesday and the Choir went to Wintershure, one of the most important industrial towns in Switzerland and choristers

were able to visit the Sulzer Works. The incredible hospitality continued with a banquet in the town centre, followed by a concert at Kirchgemeindhaus, which was partly televised for a Swiss network.

On Thursday, the Choir headed to Lucerne by 8am. The world-famous lake-side town, with the Kursaal Casino and the Pilatus, 7,000 feet above sea-level, proved a magnificent location for the team of singers.

They spent their time visiting the famous Lion Memorial, hewn out of the rock face, the Richard Wagner Museum, Mill Bridge and Musegg Towers.

Then they headed up the Funicular Railway to the top of Mount Pilatus where a steak and chips meal was enjoyed. As always the Treorchy men couldn't resist a song and before long an impromptu performance of "Cyfri’r Geifr" took place!. The journey back via cable car was reasonably nerve-wracking for many of the Welshmen.

Switzerland 1963Switzerland 1963The journey to Limmarhaus was followed by the Choir’s main concert of the tour at the famous Kongresshalle in Zurich with the Military Band of the Cameronian Highlanders and the Harmonie Mannechoir of Zurich. A standing ovation from the 3,500 people, complete with stamping of feet, provided a memorable end to a wonderful tour.

Press Reports: “They Sang Like Angels”
“A hundred mine-workers were guests in our town last Wednesday evening. In dark blue overalls, with brown steel helmets and in heavy rubber boots with steel tips they came into our festively beflagged Town Hall and mounted the stage where our town orchestra performs.

 

"The place would through their art be transformed. We have never heard such powerful, gripping and ravishing choral singing. The mine-workers sang like angels.

 

“The concert in Winterthur opened with “Brothers Sing On” (Grieg), followed by a group of sacred songs.

 

"Schubert’s setting of “Holy is the Lord” was sung in German. Whilst a large television crowd joined us in seeing and hearing the choir sang a turbulent war march, the theme of Easter was presented in a group drawn from Scotland, American and Wales.

 

“A special ovation was given the well-deserving singers for their performance partly in English and partly in German of the well known “Muss I Denn”. The series of folk songs which included the Scottish dance tune, “The Dashing White Sergeant” was especially received.

 

"The "23rd Psalm" was sung both in English and Welsh. As a mark of sympathy with the orphaned children of Humlikon, the conductor invited the audience to stand during the singing of the Psalm. Every year the Treorchy Choir helps many deserving charitable organisations. On this occasion a collection was made for the survivors of the air disaster,

 

“The Welsh National Anthem was of course sung in Welsh. We Swiss were thrilled by their noble presentations of ours, “Tritst im Morgenrot daher”.

Concert List

Sept 7 Assersihlange Park, Zurich

Sept 8 Lord Mayor’s Parade, Zurich

Sept 8 English Church, Zurich

Sept 9 Main Square, Schaffhausen

Sept 10 The Kurplatz, Baden

Sept 11 Kirchgemeindehaus, Winterthur

Sept 12 Kongresshalle, Zurich