On the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1985, the Morriston Orpheus Choir (Côr Meibion Orpheus Treforys) invited the television journalist John Morgan to contribute to a Souvenir Brochure. Under its conductor Ivor E. Sims the Choir had established its reputation by winning ﬁrst place at National Eisteddfodau in 1946, 1947, 1948 and 1949:
Such excitement, and such cheering on those late nights in August in the Forties as we welcomed the heroes at the Cross, back from the victories at the Eisteddfod. With my grandparents and one brother I’d set off down Martin Street and along Woodﬁeld Street with what must have been most of the population of the town. It’s true there had been some dissension at 9 Plas-y-Coed where so many of us lived in so small a house. My grandfather William Sayce was ﬁrm for the Orpheus. But would his son, my Uncle Stan, my mother’s brother, transfer to the United? My mother, having been a life-long friend of Ivor Sims, believed only in the Orpheus. Even as a child I would follow the discussions with a curiosity that was to become an obsession. Strangely, it did not occur to me as at all peculiar that the two best choirs in Wales – which was itself the best country for choirs – should exist in the very same small community in which we lived, that our own household even should debate which choir we should support. Such easy familiarity with the best is a handy lesson for a child. Brieﬂy I was tempted by the United, partly because they always kept on coming second to the Orpheus at the National. This may have been a natural sympathy for the underdog. I went to United rehearsals in the Horeb school room. My grandfather died in 1945 and men from both choirs sang at his grave in Llangyfelach, an experience as moving as any I can recall. I realized, though, that the Orpheus really was the choir to be near, even though they were the most successful. They were the most powerful and made the loveliest of tenor sounds. Ivor Sims would always insist the choir was ahead of the note, and would permit no self-indulgence. He allowed me to take part in the famous recording of Y Delyn Aur at Siloh in, I think, 1947, even though I had brieﬂy been disloyal and was not truly ﬁt to be a member of that memorable choir. But I had cheered the Orpheus with thousands of others on Morriston Cross on those famous nights; and cheer still. Happy Birthday.
(John Morgan, Morriston Orpheus Golden Jubilee Brochure, 1985)
1964 ushered in what seemed to be a golden era for many traditional Welsh activities. The mood was set in Swansea during an August week that was in the main gloriously sunny: a very successful National Eisteddfod was held in Singleton Park whilst a mile away the Glamorgan cricket team were beating the Australians. Eisteddfod compère, broadcaster Alun Williams, did his best to link the two events, combining his introductions in the eisteddfod pavilion with the latest cricket score. The Western Mail caught the mood:
Swansea Ready With A Big Welcome
Concert Opens Town’s Second Eisteddfod
Swansea’s second National Eisteddfod in 38 years opened with a male voice concert last night as Welshmen from all parts of the world poured into the town by road, rail and air.
Red dragons and three-feather motifs ﬂashed a welcome to the visitors along the ﬂag-festooned approaches to Singleton Park.
The Australian and Glamorgan cricket teams were welcomed by the concert compere, Mr Alun Williams, who told more than 7,000 people, ‘I am going to speak English tonight because I want to welcome the teams. The all-Welsh rule does not come into force strictly speaking until tomorrow.’
(Western Mail, 3 August 1964)
Ymlaen Morgannwg – this was your ﬁnest cricketing hour! The Australians have been beaten by the Welsh county at long last after 43 years of tremendous and unsuccessful endeavour. Never has a victory been more deserved; never has such an exciting and hard-fought match been played before in Wales; and never have 11 cricketing heroes been more deserving of their triumph.
The fantastic scenes that highlighted the end of this match at four p.m. yesterday at the historic St Helen’s ground, when the last Australian wicket fell to give Glamorgan victory by 36 runs, will never be forgotten by the 7,000 fortunate and excited spectators.
As Hawke’s wicket fell the overjoyed Glamorgan players grabbed the stumps and attempted to beat the invading crowd that surged across the ground in a race to the pavilion, but the jubilant spectators were not to be denied their moment of approbation, and swiftly they cut off the players’ retreat.
The Welsh cricketing heroes were mobbed, and police ofﬁcers had to rescue and guide them through to the foot of the pavilion steps. Once there Wheatley, the triumphant leader, waited and allowed his spinning heroes, Pressdee and Shepherd, to lead the victory march up the steps of honour.
What a moment of triumph for Wales; for Glamorgan; and for its ‘adopted son’ Wheatley and the two men of Gower, Pressdee and Shepherd.
(J.B.G. Thomas, Western Mail, 5 August 1964)
The Magniﬁcent Eleven Do It By 36 Wonderful Runs
A few minutes before four o’clock yesterday the small boys waiting on the boundary swarmed across the St Helen’s cricket ground at Swansea. Glamorgan had defeated the Australians for the ﬁrst time in their history – by 36 runs – and had become the ﬁrst side to beat the visitors in their 1964 tour. The crowd gathered round the pavilion and solemnly sang the national anthem in thanks for a great victory.
(John Moorehead, Western Mail, 5 August 1964)
Land of Song and Instruments
With the Eisteddfod pavilion deserted of all but electricians ripping out the Press room telephones, and the ‘battleﬁeld’ outside a mudbath scattered with the remains of sandwiches, it is the adjudicators who can best sum up the past week.
Hundreds of men, women and children have nervously climbed to the pavilion stage. For some it’s meant the sweet taste of success – for others a nightmarish moment when they broke down, or forgot their words.
The sun blazed, the rain came down, thousands poured through the gates, and inside the great green pavilion the cheery adjudicators sporting their ribboned badges have been miniature gods.
The choirs of Wales are still the greatest, but the Principality is slowly becoming a land of instruments as well as song.
Mr Elfed Morgan, former music director of Carmarthen, said, ‘There has been a tremendous increase on the instrumental side. Our object is to balance out vocal and instrumental music in Wales.’
And Mr Kenneth Bowen said, ‘The potential in Wales is quite incredible and the standard is high.’
Mr Peter Gelhorn, director and conductor of the BBC chorus and former Glyndebourne conductor, told me, ‘I have been very impressed with the professional approach of the choirs.’
But there was criticism from Mr Ieuan Rees-Davies, professor at Trinity College of Music, London, and conductor Meredith Davies, on the interpretation of soloists.
‘The singers concentrate so much on producing lovely sounds that they often forget about the words and the meaning of the music,’ said Mr Rees-Davies.
And Mr Meredith Davies added, ‘I was surprised not to hear more uninhibited expression.’
The Eisteddfod ground at Singleton Park has been a world in itself. A crazy yet exciting affair for the non-Welsh speakers, an emotional, sentimental home-coming for the exiles, and a week of weeks for the rest.
(Western Mail, 10 August 1964)
The American Bill Haley (1925–1981) was the real pioneer of rock’n’roll and of the new fan phenomenon. His 1957 British tour brought him to Cardiff:
Rock’n’rollers Queue Around the Clock
Requests from about 60,000 fans have ﬂooded into Cardiff this week for seats at Bill Haley’s two-and-a-half hour show of concentrated rock’n’roll.
Thousands of people, mostly teenagers, formed a queue more than a quarter-of-a-mile long yesterday morning outside the Capitol Theatre where the two performances of the show are to be held on February 21st. Some had stayed up all night.
Mr D. Ernest, manager of a music and record shop in Churchill Way, saw the queue and put on rock’n’roll records. The effect was magical. The queue burst into movement and before you could say ‘Rock Around the Clock’ people were rolling.
Postmen carried seven heavy bags of mail into the theatre yesterday. There were letters from Leamington, North Devon, Hereford, West Wales, Cardigan and thousands from Bristol and Cardiff clamouring for tickets. ’Phone lines buzzed with requests.
Mr W.A.C. Hall, the theatre manager, said, ‘I have been in the business for more than 20 years, but I have never seen anything like this.’ Last night Mr Hall said that there were only a few top price tickets left for the ﬁrst performance.
(Western Mail, 19 January 1957)
Tom Jones, born in Pontypridd in 1940, has been one of the most famous and successful pop singers in the world since the 1960s. From a conventional rock’n’roll background he developed into a singer of standards and like Shirley Bassey (born in Cardiff in 1937) was constantly in demand in the world’s most glamorous nightspots, not least in Las Vegas. His early career is recalled by a former colleague, Chris Slade:
There’s Nothing Big-Time About our Tom
I looked at the name Tom Jones at no. 2 in the New Musical Express Chart this week and I suddenly remembered my dad coming home from a club in Pontypridd one night about six years ago. ‘Son’, he said, ‘I saw a young singer tonight who could knock that Tommy Steele into a cocked hat. Name of Tommy Woodward he was. And you should have heard him playing his guitar – marvellous!’
This Tommy Woodward had just joined my dad’s concert party. Dad did tap dancing but the concert party also had an operatic tenor and a comedian. Tommy was for the young folks. I remember thinking, ‘This singer might be OK but I’ll bet he’s not as good as Tommy Steele.’ Anyway I got to hear a lot about this Tommy Woodward after that. He lived in Laura Street in Treforest, not far from us, and I used to knock about with some lads who lived next door to him. After a while he joined a local group, the Senators, and changed his name to Tommy Scott. Quite a celebrity he was becoming. In fact all over South Wales I would say that Tommy Scott and the Senators became the biggest local attraction there was. Everybody used to shout, ‘When you goin’ to London, lads? When you going to show them Beatles a thing or two?’
Tom Jones – I mean Tommy Scott! – had been with the Senators a little while when I joined as a drummer. I used to work in a shoe shop in Treforest and after I heard the vacancy was going they auditioned me in a local pub called the Thorn Hotel. We had some marvellous times, Tom and I and the rest of the group. He’s a great guy with a marvellously earthy sense of humour – in fact Tom’s sense of humour helped us through some of the hard times before Unusual made the charts.
I remember when we ﬁrst came back to London to record, for Joe Meek it was. We were excited out of our minds about that. We really thought we’d made it. We travelled down in the van and we spent a day recording (Joe had been introduced to us by some managers we had then, Myron and Byron. Don’t ask me their full names – they never told us!) Two months just went by after that, but no record was released. Tom was dead choked and he was not the only one. After that we more or less just did gigs in South Wales and got to think we’d probably never be famous.
When we came back to London our new manager, Gordon Mills, used to give us £1 a day each to live on. I don’t know what we would have done without Gordon – he gave Tom and us our break and he more or less looked after us for about a year before It’s not Unusual. Nearly £2000 Gordon paid out ...
Tom is still the same he ever was – the only thing that’s changed is the Rolls and the cigar. But what’s wrong with those especially when you can afford them? He certainly has not become ﬂash or big-time since getting hit records ... One thing that just hasn’t changed is his determination to sing the kind of songs he really feels. In the old days he used to have his sideburns and wear tight leathers, but he didn’t want to sing just the pop songs like the other local groups!
(Chris Slade talking to Alan Smith, New Musical Express, 19 August 1967)
The keyboard player John Cale was born in Wales in 1940. He came to fame with the New York avant-garde rock band The Velvet Underground. In recent years he has given several concerts in Wales:
Echoes of the Underground
‘What’s it all about then, John, your song A Child’s Christmas in Wales? One of your more enigmatic numbers?’
Twenty years or more after buying John Cale’s classic Paris 1919 album here at last was a chance to ﬁnd out – from the man himself.
John Cale, born March 9, 1942, in Garnant, South Wales, a musical prodigy and a founder of seminal rock band, The Velvet Underground, is back in Britain for a short tour, giving the Western Mail an exclusive face-to-face interview.
Cale, the quiet young Welshman who went to America on a classical music scholarship and became a big noise in the ’60s music scene, rubbing shoulders and nerve endings with Lou Reed and the late Andy Warhol, is looking good for his 50 years.
Tall, dark and dressed from head to toe in black, Cale is an intense man who savours carefully every question and nuance of conversation as we chat in his temporary ‘home’ in London’s elegant Portobello Hotel.
After leaving Amman Valley Grammar School, Cale studied musicology at Goldsmith’s College before a Leonard Bernstein scholarship took him to America.
There he performed with such inﬂuential avant-garde composers as John Cage and La Monte Young before teaming up with Lou Reed to form The Velvet Underground.
Now a resident of New York’s Greenwich Village, Cale remains a creative genius. With Reed he helped create a new sound that unsettled the rock establishment of the ’60s, before he quit to develop a solo career that has taken him on a worldwide tour of different musical genres.
He has been – and remains – a dark, introspective and enigmatic balladeer a rock’n’roll ﬁrebrand, and a composer of everything from ﬁlm scores to full-length ballets. Music remains his driving force . . .
Cale has been dubbed the ‘godfather of punk’ because of the role The Velvet Underground played in the development of popular music.
He relaxes as he recalls the excitement of arriving in America after a boyhood in South Wales ... A Welsh speaker, Cale is proud of his Welsh connections, visiting when he gets the chance his relatives in Pembrokeshire.
(John Cale talking to David Vickerman, Western Mail, 20 November 1992)
By the mid-1980s a new era was opening for ﬁlm makers in Wales, one in which television companies worked together with independent producers and directors. The English-language ﬁlms of Karl Francis were the most widely distributed but the period was dominated by Welsh-language directors such as Endaf Emlyn whose Hedd Wynn was nominated for a Hollywood Academy Award in 1994. Ironically it was an American director, who later went on to make the very successful Coming up Roses, who ﬁrst proved that the world was ready for Welsh-language cinema:
Welsh Voices: An American in the Valleys
The director Stephen Bayly pays the rent on his sleek Covent Garden ofﬁce with television commercials: he aims to do six a year (Vick’s, the decongestant people, were recent clients). His heart, however, or at least a large part of it, is in the ﬁnancially more constrained world of Welsh ﬁlm-making, and he is modestly proud that his Aderyn Papur (... And Pigs Might Fly), which was shown at last year’s London Film Festival, having picked up a raft of international awards, was the ﬁrst subtitled Welsh-language feature shown on English television (Channel 4, 28 February). The BBC, he hopes, will shortly bestir itself and put out a subtitled version of his wartime drama series for S4C, Joni Jones. Bayly, an American long resident in Britain, and the Welsh producer Linda James founded the London-based production and distribution company Red Rooster Films two years ago. Their ﬁrst feature, Aderyn Papur (literally ‘Paper Bird’), found two mysterious Japanese arriving in a North Walian village and raising the hopes of a boy, whose dad is jobless and whose mother, as a result, has decamped to Liverpool, that work might, magically, be about to materialize. The Japanese, incidentally, who have no English, are utterly ﬂummoxed by the Welsh and their language.
The company’s second Welsh movie, The Works, which is now editing, again deals with work and the spectre of unemployment. It stars Dafydd Hywel, Brinley Jenkins and Iola Gregory (who has appeared in all three of Bayly’s Welsh ventures); and, in the lead, Glenn Sherwood as a credulous youth embarking on his ﬁrst job. Scripted in English by Kerry Crabbe and translated by Wilbert Lloyd Roberts (a veteran of the Welsh theatre), the story centres on a widget factory where computerisation threatens. It was shot double version chieﬂy in a gutted factory building in Aberdare, South Wales, at the end of last year.
The art director Hildegard Bechtler smartly transformed corners of the cavernous premises, but the overwhelming impression of the location, on a London visitor, was of chill desolation: an odd place to set a comedy.
‘The real factory, Heliwell’s, closed eight years ago,’ Bayly said. ‘It made exhaust pipes and was apparently doing well. But the owners decided to rationalize. The work was moved to another factory closer to the company’s English headquarters and the machinery was sold to South Africa. No new employer has come to Aberdare since then. There were disconcerting echoes of this in our own story. When we arrived, and word got about, queues of applicants formed for jobs we couldn’t provide ...’
Stephen Bayly takes a strong campaigning interest in Welsh ﬁlm-making. He has been learning Welsh for several years (languages come fairly easily and, seated in front of a Steenbeck, he ﬂuently translates some Welsh dialogue from The Works); and he has made representation to his alma mater, the National Film and Television School, about the training of Welsh technicians. He himself took The Works to S4C and Linda James extracted a ‘top whack’ budget of £220,000 from the Welsh channel (‘Film on Four’, if interested, might have paid more than £½ m) and then persuaded Channel 4, which had not previously co-ﬁnanced a drama feature with its sister S4C, to top this up with £100,000 for the English-language version.
There are, Bayly said, unaccustomed pitfalls awaiting the ﬁlm- maker in Wales. ‘One problem we had, shooting The Works double version, was welding a uniform English accent. Another was actually ﬁnding Welsh actors. There aren’t many, and they’re always in work. There are 43 speaking parts in The Works and I believe we employed every South Walian actor over the age of 40. One of the best jobs in the world is to be a Welsh actor.’
(John Pym, Sight and Sound, vol. 54, no. 2, Spring 1985)