USA 1994 - California & Colorado

October 14th - 29th

California here they come! Treorchy Male Choir’s first tour of the West Coast of the USA was arranged by San Francisco engineer Ed Fraser and his wife Marge. The couple, who were firm followers of Welsh male choirs, decided to arrange a two-week's tour for the Treorchy men incorporating California and Colorado. A total of 64 choristers undertook the tour with Musical Director John Jenkins and Accompanist Marion Williams.

Highway 85 openingHighway 85 openingThe Choir left Treorchy during the early hours of Friday morning to reach Gatwick Airport by 11.30am in time for the smooth Continental flight to Denver. The next stage of the flight to San Francisco International Airport was anything but smooth, and choristers were more than relieved to “touch down” and enjoy a warm welcome from the Frasers, their good friends Dick and Diane Aldrich and bus tour drivers Jim Anderson and Jamie Jacobson.

On arrival at Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church, choristers met with their hosts for the night and retired to their homes for a well-deserved rest after the longest of travellng days.

On Saturday morning choristers met at the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church for a rehearsal before travelling to the celebratory opening of Highway 85. The community had waited years for this stretch of highway and a gala festival had been arranged for the opening with a display of vintage cars, stalls, pop bands, big bands, barbershop singers and over 20,000 spectators. It was here that the Treorchy Male Choir gave its first performance on Californian soil by literally “performing in the fast lane” of the Highway to the delight of many hundreds of people who gathered to listen. The evening was spent in Angelino’s Place, a venue filled with plenty of fun, dance and sing-along atmosphere.

Alcatraz IslandAlcatraz IslandOn Sunday the choristers again met at the church in Sunnyvale to perform in two of the services in the church. After being served with lunch they were transported into the magical city of San Francisco, enjoying views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz. The Choir arrived at the top of Nob Hill for the concert venue of Grace Cathedral, a phenomenal building with the most outstanding acoustics.

After a short rehearsal many of the choristers ventured to the top of the Fairmount Hotel for drinks in the Crown Room, enjoying extensive views across this beautiful city. Then it was back to the cathedral for an invigorating performance before a capacity audience who were so captivated by the concert that they rewarded the Choir with a standing ovation. A celebratory party was held at the Empress of China Roof Garden Restaurant in Chinatown before the choristers returned to the care of their hosts.

A day of sightseeing in San Francisco was enjoyed on the Monday, with trips over to Alzatraz and city tours on one of the famous trolley cars. The evening was spent in the Bay View Boat Club thanks to an invitation by the California Welsh Society.

Yosemite National ParkYosemite National ParkOn Tuesday the Choir crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed to Nevada City, passing San Quentin prison in the distance. They arrived at the Empire Mine by early afternoon to enjoy traditional Cornish pasties next to the former gold mine which had been sunk by Cornish miners. On arriving at Nevada City they enjoyed a couple of hours in the Old Mine Saloon and met at the Sierra Presbyterian Church for the evening concert.

It was a delight to be reunited there by Evan Lewis James, the descendant of the composers of the Welsh National Anthem and a man who had been a great benefactor of the Choir for the past nine years, for which he was made an Honorary Member. Accompanied by his wife Dorothy, Evan met with all of the choristers and joined the capacity audience for another thrilling concert which resulted in a standing ovation.

On the following morning the choristers were reunited at the Sierra Church and travelled to the town of Columbia, a former gold mine town and now a museum to the “wild west” age. It was a fascinating experience for the choristers to enjoy this gold-rush town with its original saloons, restaurants, shops and jail. Leaving this time-warped town the Choir continued on its journey to the breathtaking majesty of Yosemite National Park. One of nature’s outstanding contributions to the world, the mountains of granite rise ever skyward with spectacular waterfalls cascading thousands of feet to the valley floor. Comprising 1,700 square miles of Sierra Nevada splendour, Yosemite was home to the Choir for the next few days and was indeed the most magical of places to explore.

Yosemite National ParkYosemite National ParkOn Friday they bade farewell to the Park for the journey through Mariposa Grove which contains about 500 mature giant sequoia trees spread over 25 acres, creating yet another example of mother nature at her best. By late afternoon they arrived at the First Congregational Church in Fresno for another tremendous concert resulting in a standing ovation from the capacity crowd.

The next day was free for the choristers to continue this exploration of the Park with visits to the top of Glazier Point which afforded them a magnificent panoramic view of the breathtaking scenery.

Choristers were thrilled by the magnitude of this magical place and settled into the Mountain Room Bar for the evening to share their memories of Yosemite.

The Choir returned to Sunnyvale on Saturday, travelling through some amazing scenery of vast fields of cotton and grapes before enjoying lunch in the Anderson Pea-Soup Restaurant. Choristers arrived at Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church to prepare for the evening concert which was another magical event. The Conductor had also written new words for soloists Dean Powell and Malcolm Burnell to sing to the “Policemen’s Song”, called “A Tribute to San Francisco Ed.” It certainly created quite a response and “brought the house down” in many respects. Ed Fraser was thanked for his impeccable organising by being awarded Honorary Membership of the Treorchy Male Choir. In return the Choir received a signed declaration from the Mayor of the City of Cupertino with a “key to the city” to celebrate this successful tour.

Leaving Sunnyvale on Sunday the Choir travelled to the beautiful town of Carmel, where actor Clint Eastwood was Mayor, and choristers enjoyed a couple of hours in his pub, “The Hog’s Breath” before roaming across the white-sandy beaches.

Salinas CollegeSalinas CollegeIn the evening they performed at Hartnell College in Salinas and it was an uplifting experience when they heard how Oscar-winning film star, Joan Fontaine, was in the audience. The Choir’s Publicity Officer, Dean Powell, had invited Ms Fontaine to join them on this special occasion and “Softly As I Leave You” was dedicated to her.

The Hollywood legend, who made her first film in the late 1930s and received an Oscar for her starring role in the Hitchcock thriller “Rebecca”, was an absolute joy and joined the Choir for their post-concert part in the nearby Penny Farthing pub. As it was also her birthday party, they entertained the star with several songs and she certainly enjoyed her time with the Treorchy singers.

A free day allowed choristers time to spend with their hosts on the Monday before meeting once more in Sunnyvale on Tuesday morning to make their fond, heartfelt farewells to the many friends made so far on the tour.

US Airforce Academy, ColoradoUS Airforce Academy, ColoradoThen it was over to the Airport or a smooth flight to Denver, Colorado. The Choir arrived at Grace Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs by 4.30pm and prepared for the evening concert. The capacity audience also included Fran and George Wheat, organisers of the 1991 Mid West Tour and the standing ovation thrilled one and all.

The performance of “The Lord’s Prayer” was dedicated to Mal Johnson’s wife Jean, who had
been taken seriously ill at home and resulted in Mal having to fly home to Wales. Sadly he would not reach his wife in time and Jean passed away during the night.

On Wednesday choristers gathered in sombre silence, thinking of Mal and his family in such tragic circumstances. Knowing that the “show must go on”, they travelled to the Garden of the Gods Park to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. At noon they arrived at the United States Air Force Academy, the largest base training establishment in the USA which caters for thousands of young cadets. One of the main features of the base is the Cadet Chapel and the Choir performed several items inside before a tour photograph was taken on the steps outside.

Dean Powell and Robert Griffiths with actress Joan FontaineDean Powell and Robert Griffiths with actress Joan FontaineLater the Choir travelled to the Trinity Methodist Church in Denver for a superb final concert of the tour before a capacity audience of 1,200 people. This was undoubtedly another “highlight” as far as the tour was concerned and a resounding applause and standing ovation was enjoyed by choristers and audience alike.

On Thursday the choristers enjoyed an organised trip to Central City, another gold-rush town complete with its 19th century saloons and casinos. Choristers also visited Black Hawk Casino and were welcomed by a City Official. For the remainder of the evening
the Choir spent the time with their hosts. On the following day choristers visited the grave and museum of William “Buffalo Bill” Cody before bidding their final farewell at Denver International Airport for the return journey to Wales.

Concert List

Oct 15 Highway 85, Cupertino

Oct 16 Presbyterian Church, Sunnyvale

Oct 16 Presbyterian Church, Sunnyvale

Oct 17 Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

Oct 18 Sierra Church, Nevada City

Oct 21 1st Congregational Church, Fresno

Oct 22 Presbyterian Church, Sunnyvale

Oct 23 Hartnell College, Salinas

Oct 25 Grace Episcopal Church, Colorado Springs

Oct 26 Airforce Academy, Colorado Springs

Oct 26 Trinity Church, Denver