An Early History of the Choirs and Choral Unions – Abertillery.
From the mid 19th century, Abertillery, like many other towns has had organised choirs, mostly junior parties in connection with religious activities within the church and other small societies. Later various senior male voice choirs appeared and since there has been many singing parties based in and around Abertillery town. Following is a timeline of the various senior choirs that has been recorded in the press with a brief history of their set up, members, participation in competitions and their successes.
The Abertillery United Choral Society.
On Saturday 8th May 1858 the Hereford Times newspaper reported that on the previous Tuesday, the 4th May 1858 the Abertillery United Choral Society held a benefit concert at the Blaenau Gwent Baptist Chapel with the Beaufort Philharmonic Society. They raised £15 during the event which was said to have been collected to defray the necessary outlay in connection with the independent chapel.The £15 raised in 1858 is equivalent to £1,620,00p in today’s money.
In June 1866 Abertillery held an Eisteddfod, some of the names of those from Abertillery associated with the event were as follows – Mr John Edwards (Eos Tillery); Mr Andrew Mills; Mr Richard Jones and Mr W. Gilbert Jones: Mr John Edwards 1821-1890 was a composer, a native of Abertillery living at Penybont, Cwmtillery. His obituary stated he was a good composer of music and many of his pieces had been published by Mr Pitman.
On Monday 6th July 1874 an Eisteddfod was held at Abertillery. A prize of £5. was given to the Ap Gwent Choir for their rendition of “Let The Hills Resound”, the first prize was awarded to the Cor-y-Duffryn Choir for the best rendering of “Hallelujah Chorus”. The Eisteddfod was reported in the Monmouthshire Merlin newspaper as being organised for charitable purposes though the meeting was a financial failure.
The Blaenau Gwent Glee Party.
At the opening ceremony of the first Powell’s Tillery Hall in Tillery Street, Abertillery in 1884, the Blaenau Gwent Glee Party performed at a special concert in the building.
On Monday 7th July 1884 a Chair Eisteddfod organised by the directors of the Town Hall was held in the Public Hall, Blaina. At the Male Voice competition of no less than twenty in number, it was stated that only one party from Abertillery had competed. The adjudicator awarded them a part of the prize, £3 instead of £4 no reason was given as to why?
The Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society.
On Wednesday 11th October 1893, the Cwmtillery Brass Band held a concert at the Colliers Hall, Cwmtillery under the conductor-ship of Mr D. Smith. The Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society first appeared and performed at the concert. Duets, solos and recitations were contributed by the following – Mrs Jones; Misses Corry Janes and A. P. Williams; Messrs Morgan Thomas; J. Collier; Stephen Jones; T. Rees and Master Woodward: Miss S. J. Stewart was the accompanist.
On Monday 6th November 1893 an Eisteddfod was held at Crumlin Viaduct Hall, Crumlin. The Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society competed in the male voice competition (as seen in the ad above) under the conductor-ship of Mr E. J. Williams. At this Eisteddfod the Lancaster Town Band, Blaina, under the leadership of Mr E. Sutton, the Abertillery Town Temperance Brass Band under the leadership of Mr E. Sutton, the Cwmtillery Brass Band under leadership of Mr D. Smith and the Tillery Colliery Brass Band under the leadership of Mr J. Griffiths all competed. The Lancaster Town Band, Blaina won the 1st prize and received £15.
On Tuesday 5th December 1893 the Welsh Ladies Choir performed at the New Public Hall, Abertillery under the conductor-ship of Madam Clara Novello Davies, with Miss Winifred Evans, accompanist.
On Monday 5th March 1894 a Brass Band contest was held at Abertillery. The following bands took part – Abertillery Temperance Band, Abertillery Town Band, the Tillery Band, Pontlottyn Rachabites and Morriston Volunteer Bands. In the evening a concert was held at the Public Hall, Abertillery, it was reported the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society attended, it was stated that if the show was a financial success the proceeds would be handed over to the Abertillery Tin Works Relief Fund.
The Abertillery Choral Society.
On Thursday 1st November 1894 a meeting was held at the National Schoolroom, Abertillery (as seen right) to discuss the formation of a choral union for the district, Mr William Stewart presided. Mr H. F. Nicholls of Newport delivered an address in favour of the proposal. Also present on the night were the following supporters of the society – Mr W. E. Williams (Chairman); Mr W. Rees; Mr Haylings; Mr G. Jones; Mr T. Preece; Mr H. Samuel; Mr H. Prosser and many others (un-named in the report): At this meeting Mr W. Stewart was appointed president, with Dr Williams and Mr W. Rees as vice-presidents. A committee was formed to carry out the preliminary arrangements.
In January 1895 it was reported that an Eisteddfod was to be held in Abertillery on the following April 1st, with the proceeds being devoted to several disabled miners. The report mentioned that the Eisteddfod could promote the choral union which had dropped out of sight!
The Abertillery Choral and Orchestral Union.
On Thursday 24th January 1895 at a meeting held at the National School, Abertillery under the chairmanship of Mr William Stewart, it was decided to form an Abertillery Choral and Orchestral Union. Mr Dan Davies (as seen left) of the Dowlais Choir was chosen to be the conductor of the choral work and Mr F. Richards of Newport as conductor of the orchestra.
On Friday 22nd February 1895 it was reported that Mr W. Rees was president of the society with Mr W. Watkins being appointed secretary. It was stated the 118 names had been received for possible membership with 25 names being enrolled.
On Tuesday 26th February 1895 Mr Dan Davies met the members of the Abertillery Choral Society at the National Schoolroom, Abertillery when the programme for the season was decided upon.
On Monday 11th March 1895 the first practice of the Abertillery Choral Union was held at the Carmel Chapel, Abertillery. Mr E. J. Williams took the sopranos and altos through some of the choruses of the “Creation” and on the Tuesday 12th, at the Congregational Chapel, Abertillery Mr Tom Stephens took the tenors and basses. On the following Thursday 14th the first general practice of the “Creation” took place at the Infants Board School under the conductor-ship of Mr Dan Davies.
In April 1895 Mr D. J. Winston of Newport, Kentucky, USA, wrote a letter to the South Wales Gazette in which he said it was about time Abertillery, with its magnificent vocal talent formed a choral union. He said there was no doubt Abertillery had sufficient musical talent and first class material to build up a society second to none in Wales, he went on to say, during his last visit to Abertillery to have vocal lessons from Mr Tom Stephens, he was struck by the amount of promising young ladies and gentlemen and their efforts should be encouraged. He heaped praise on the work of the conductors and wished them the very best in their future work with the Abertillery Choral Union.
In November 1895 it was reported that Mr E. J. Williams, vice-conductor of the Abertillery Choral Union is to form evening continuation classes, to meet at the Abertillery Board Schools in which he will teach the members of the choral union the practice and theory of music.
The Abertillery Mozart Male Voice Party.
On Monday 4th October 1897, at the annual Chair Eisteddfod held in the Central Hall, Ebbw Vale, the Abertillery Mozart Male Voice Party competed in the male voice competition. A short while later they disbanded. The party disbanded and reformed many times over the years to come, though they were the leading and most successful male voice choir’s attending many Eisteddfods in the years to follow under the leadership of Mr Tom Stephens R.A.M. (as seen right).
In early 1898 it was reported that Mr Tom Stephens R.A.M. was to reform the Abertillery Mozart Glee Party and in April of the same year they appeared at the opening ceremony of the Tillery Institute on Division Street, Abertillery, though under the Baton of Mr W. D. Richards of Blaina. In May the party was officially reformed and trials for the permanent places in the choir took place at the National Schools and also at the home of Mr Stephens. In the following June it was reported that Mr Stephens had voice tested 118 gentlemen, tenors and bass, the committee selected 82 gentlemen to join the society.
On Wednesday 16th November 1898 the Mozart Glee Party gave a concert at the Public Hall Abertillery. Special artists were invited to take part and were as follows – Mr John Bailey, (Euphonium); Miss L. Stephens of Abertillery, soprano; Miss Claudia H. Thorney of Merthyr, mezzo soprano; Mr Richard Thomas of Llanelly, tenor; Mr Harry Evans of Tredegar, baritone; Mr W. D. Richards A.C. of Blaina, violinist and Mr Ben George R.A.M. of Bridgend. Mr Amos Harding A.L.C.M. was pianist. Admission fees – 2s., 1s. and 6d.
On Tuesday 27th December 1898 an Eisteddfod was held at the Town Hall, Porth. Four choirs contested as follows – Mountain Ash, Treorky, Ton Pentre and Abertillery. The Abertillery Mozart Glee Party, under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Stephens won 2nd prize. At this Eisteddfod the Arrael Griffin Brass Band under the conductor-ship of Mr H. Bentley won 1st prize and Miss Cicely Tilney of Abertillery won 1st prize in the violin solo.
In April 1899 Mr Stephens advertised for singers to join the Mozart Glee Party in readiness for the forthcoming Eisteddfods.
On Wednesday 27th June 1900 a meeting of the members of the Mozart Glee Party took place at the National School, Abertillery under the presidency of Mr N. Llewellyn. The meeting was in connection with reforming the party and to elect new officers as follows – Mr T. Stephens R.A.M. (Conductor); Mr W. R. Williams (Treasurer); Mr G. Gunter (Corresponding Secretary) and Mr A. Williams (Financial Secretary); Committee – Mr N. Llewellyn; Mr W. Rowlands; Mr J. Evans; Mr David Edwards; Mr A. Dyke; Mr T. Stewart; Mr W. Dancy; Mr W. Selway; Mr J. James; Mr M. Richards; Mr J. H. Williams and Mr C. Howells: The party agreed to petition the School Board for the use of the British School to practice in and to have Thursday and Sunday evenings for rehearsals. In later reports the School Board refused permission as they didn’t want the application to open doors for all organisations to apply for use of the schools.
In April 1901 it was announced that Mr Tom Stephens had re-organised the Mozart Glee Party to compete at Abergavenny. The party numbered 40 members and they practised at the Co-operative Hall, Abertillery.
In July 1901 it was reported that an Abertillery Male Voice Party was recently formed and had secured the Metropole Theatre, Abertillery for the purpose of practising on Saturday evenings with the first rehearsals taking place on Saturday 3rd August at 5.30pm.
In 1902 the Abertillery Choral Union was still active and under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Stephens, they were holding meetings in the King Street Baptist Schoolroom, Abertillery.
On Monday 15th September 1902 an Eisteddfod was held at Beaufort, Ebbw Vale. The Abertillery Mozart Glee Party took 1st prize, £20. and a Gold Medal for Mr Tom Stephens the conductor. At this Eisteddfod Miss Edith Gunter won an individual prize and Mr W. E. Davies also won a prize for a duet with Mr Harry Clist of Cwm..
The Abertillery Choral and Orchestral Society.
In December 1902 an advertisement appeared in the South Wales Gazette (as seen left) informing the public that the Abertillery Choral and Orchestral Society were to form a musical society under the conductor-ship of Mr Amos Harding. It was their intention to prepare one of Handel’s works for a public performance. It was decided to form a choral society to study classical music with Rev H. S. Rees as their president, Mr Owen as secretary and as mentioned, Mr Amos Harding of 62 Princess Street, Abertillery as their conductor. It was later stated that Mr S. W. Thomas of 54 Princess Street, Abertillery would become secretary to the choral society.
On Wednesday 18th February 1903 an Eisteddfod in connection with the Falmouth Road Calvinistic Methodist Chapel, London was held at the Queens Hall, London. At this Eisteddfod the Abertillery Mozart Glee Party and the Gwent Choral Society, both under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Stephens of Abertillery competed. The Gwent Choral Society were awarded 1st prize with 55 points out of a possible 60 and the Coventry Choir came second with 53 points. In the male voice competition the Abertillery party came 4th with 50 points out of a possible 60 points.
In 1903 the Abertillery Mozart Glee Party disbanded.
In March 1903 a letter was published in the South Wales Gazette in which the question was asked “Why doesn’t the various choirs and choral societies in Abertillery combine and come together as one”? It seems as though there were smaller independent male voice parties in the town. An example of this was noticed on Wednesday 4th March 1904 when at a supper and smoking concert held at the Liberal Club Abertillery, a male voice choir gave a rendition of “Comrades in Arms” under the conductor-ship of Mr George Selby. Mr Selby was the founding member number 1 of the Liberal and Labour Club, Abertillery, he was an insurance agent and lived at 43 Alma Street, Abertillery.
On Good Friday 10th April 1903 the fourth annual Eisteddfod in connection with the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Abertillery took place at the Gymnasium Hall, Abertillery. The only male voice choir that was listed in the results was the Tillery Glee Party. There were juvenile choirs on the same programme – Brynteg, Primitive, Ebenezer and Six Bells.
The Six Bells United Male Voice Party.
In July 1904 it was announced that the United Male Voice Party had been recently formed at Six Bells, Abertillery (as seen right).
On Sunday 31st July 1904 a meeting was held at the English Baptist Chapel, Commercial Road, Llanhilleth to consider the formation of a male voice party for the district. The officers were elected as follows – Mr H. Thurzer (President); Mr Lewis Price (Treasurer); Mr George Challenger (Secretary): Two names were put forth for the position of conductor, Mr James Davies and Mr David Edwards, Mr James Davies was chosen as conductor.
On Friday 19th August 1904 it was reported that Mr King Proctor Mus. Bac. of 18 Cromwell Street, Abertillery had been approached in connection with him undertaking the leadership of a male voice choir, if it was formed to take the place of the old one that had ceased to exist.
In October 1904 the Six Bells Male Voice Party performed at the Presbyterian Hall, Six Bells under the conductor-ship of Mr E. Thomas, with Miss D. Thomas and Mr E. Prosser at the piano.
In February 1905 the United Male Voice Choir were practising at the Mission Hall, Six Bells.
In late 1905 Mr Tom Stephens had moved to 51 Devon Place, Newport, Monmouthshire. It was stated he was offering his services in teaching voice production and artistic singing in the Italian method. Mr Stephens was giving singing lessons to Miss Violet Russell-Brace, daughter of Mr William Brace, the miners agent. Miss Brace had just entered the Royal Academy of Music under Professor Vicetti.
In June 1905 a letter was published in the South Wales Gazette written by Mr King Proctor Mus. Bac. of 18 Cromwell Street, Abertillery. Mr Proctor responded in writing to the request to form a male voice party, he said he “Didn’t think that it would be a good idea to rush into a reformation and scramble through rehearsals just to compete in the up-coming Eisteddfod”. Mr Proctor made clear that the old male voice party had been managed uneconomically and in a slip-shod manner, he went on to say “At the last Eisteddfod the prize money did not cover the train fares of the 50 members” and that “Members fees were not collected in a sufficient way by a responsible treasurer”. He also did not approve of the members being unwilling to contribute the 5s. and the way they rehearsed with rival organisations and leave you in the lurch at the last minute, he said “If they were made to deposit 5s. they would be loyal to that party, if they opposed to paying they should not be members”. So he made it clear he had no option but to decline the offer to conduct the newly reformed Abertillery Male Voice Party.
In July 1905 it was announced that the United Male Voice Party, Six Bells was under the conductor-ship of Mr Theo Burton.
On 30th October 1905 an Eisteddfod was held at the Gymnasium Hall, Abertillery organised by the Six Bells United Male Voice Party, Six Bells. The secretaries were – Mr William Down, 3 High Street, Six Bells and Mr L. Elliott, New Gladstone Street, Abertillery.
In December 1905 in a letter published in the South Wales Gazette it was announced that Mr D. J. Winstone late of Abertillery had been made Director of Music at the Public Schools of Newport USA under the Board of Education. He was also the Director of the Kentucky Academy of Music Choral Society and President of the Cincinnati College of Music. Mr Winstone was a pupil of Mr Walter Prosser, Abertillery, he had lessons in voice production, vocal physiology and ear training from Mr Prosser.
The Brynteg Male Voice Choir.
In 1906 the Brynteg Male Voice Party under the conductor-ship of Mr W. Morgan appeared in reports. Brynteg was an area of Blaenau Gwent from Oak Street to the Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church and down to Alma Street. The choir may have been connected to the Brynteg Congregational Church, Oxford Street, Abertillery.
In 1906 Mr Amos Harding was the conductor of the Abertillery Choral Society with Mr John Osman of 30 Gray Street, Abertillery, as secretary.
The Cwmtillery Male Voice Glee Society.
In July 1907 the Cwmtillery Male Voice Glee Party appeared in a report in the South Wales Gazette (as seen left). Mr T. Jenkin Williams was president of the society, Mr David Parry was hon secretary, Mr A. J. Spear was conductor, the accompanists were Master G. T. Hale and Mr Frank Evans. On the Wednesday 3rd July they held their first concert at the Christian Bible Chapel, Cwmtillery.
By the following November Miss Beryl Jones was accompanist. They had been holding practice meetings at the Christian Chapel, Cwmtillery though had moved to the Crown Infants School, Blaenau Gwent.
The Abertillery Master Glee Singers.
On Wednesday 28th July 1909 a concert was held at the Colliers Hall, Cwmtillery by members of the Abertillery Master Glee Singers (as seen right), a party that had just recently formed. The conductor of the new party was Mr John Thomas of Abertillery. The members were as follows – Tenors – Mr A. Beynon; Mr G. Williams; Mr A. Harvey; Mr D. Lewis and Mr W. Edwards: 2nd Tenors – Mr W. Parsons; Mr C. Jenkins and Mr H. Hodges: 1st Bass – Mr A. Price; Mr W. Richards and Mr W. Jones: 2nd Bass – Mr G. Jones; Mr B. Harrison; Mr E. Jones and Mr A. Bundred: Accompanists were – Messrs B. Woodward and W. Woodward:
In September 1909 a meeting was held at Jackson’s Rooms, Llanhilleth in connection with forming a Male Voice Party for the district of Llanhilleth. It was decided to form a party and the following officers were elected – Mr William A. Cousins (Secretary); Mr Stanfield Gibbs (Treasurer); Mr Harry Hill (Conductor) and Mr S. Hill as accompanist. It was stated the party would be known as “The Excelsior Glee Party” and a committee was to be chosen to draw up rules etc.
On Thursday 23rd December 1909 the Master Glee Singers gave a Variety Performance at the Metropole Theatre, Abertillery, under the conductor-ship of Mr Llewellyn Edwards of Abertillery. Some of the artistes names were as follows – Mr George Jones; Mr T. Samuel; Mr George Williams; Mr A. Bundred; Messrs A. Beynon; W. Parsons; A. Price; W. Richards; Bert Woodward; W. H. Rosser and B. Harrison: Miss E. Dyke was the Accompanist.
The Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society – Reformation.
The Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society which had been in existence since the 1890’s was re-formed in 1909 under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred. Mr Tom Bundred (as seen left), born at Nantyglo in 1889 was the son of Mr Daniel Bundred a prominent musician at Nantyglo and Blaina and later the precentor (a person who leads a congregation in its singing or prayers) at the Carmel Church, Abertillery. (See more information below).
On Wednesday 27th July 1910 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred first appeared when they performed at the Presbyterian Chapel where they entertained at the Forward Movement Presbyterian Chapel, Six Bells, following the Arrael Griffin Colliery Ambulance Team in their recent success in winning the “Martin Shield” during the Ambulance Team competition. Before the concert the Abertillery Salvation Army under the leadership of the Bandmaster Mr Veale marched through the streets of Abertillery.
On Wednesday 31st August 1910 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred gave a concert at the Primitive Methodist Church, Blaenau Gwent, Abertillery. The artistes were as follows – Miss Gladys Brown; Miss Pembry; Messrs H. Dykins and E. Lloyd on the violin; Mr J. Williams; Mr Abe Lewis; Mrs Bundred Morgan; Mrs A. Lewis; Messrs L or S?. Hone and C. Gough A.L.C.M. were accompanist: The secretary of the Orpheus Glee Society was Mr Powell.
On Saturday 3rd September 1910 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society held a concert at the Carmel Vestry, Abertillery.
On Wednesday 2nd November 1910 a benefit concert was held at the Trinity Chapel, Abertillery in the interest of the children of the late Mr John James of Church Street, Abertillery. The artistes were as follows – Misses Lizzie Jordan and Miss Maud Talbot soprano’s; Miss Kate Michael A.L.C.M. contralto; Mr H. Clist baritone; Miss G. Partridge and Master D. Morgan duettists; Elocutionist, Madame H. J. Gwillim and Master Leslie James the pianist: The Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred gave a performance, the Accompanist was Mr Amos Harding A.L.C.M.
The Abertillery Male Voice Party.
In 1911 it was reported that the Abertillery Male Voice Party were at the Pavilion Theatre Abertillery under the conductor-ship of Mr T. Ford L.T.S.C., Accompanist Miss E. Ford. This party was different from the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society.
In May 1911 it was reported that Mr Amos Harding, the choirmaster and organist at the parish church had been approached with a view to organising a contingent from Abertillery to form part of the Welsh National Choir was would be giving a concert at Crystal Palace, London in connection with the Festival of the Empire Imperial Exhibition and Pageant of London. Officers were to be elected as part of the Business and Musical Committees and the following were to serve on the general committee – Messrs T. F. Salt (President); Mr Amos Harding (Conductor); Mr W. Frowen (Treasurer); T. Ford; C. S. Read B.Sc.; E. J. Purnell; George Rogers; E. A. Hancock; W. Waters; H. Talbot; Tom Carter; A. Redwood (Six Bells); T. Stewart; E. Winstone; T. Bundred; J. Gallier and Mr W. Adams;
In July 1911 it was stated that the Abertillery Choral Society had again been recently reformed were rehearsing at the Oak Street Assembly Rooms and were invited to send a contingent of singers to the Welsh National Choir who were preparing for the Welsh Concert at the Crystal Palace in connection with the Festival of the Empire on the 23rd of September 1911. The Abertillery Choral Society announced they were to give two concerts, one at Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church, another at the Trinity Church or the Tabernacle Church (not made clear in the reports), in which they would perform the full programme they would be singing at the festival.
Mr Harry Evans was to be their conductor and he was to visit Abertillery to meet with the members of the choral society prior to the concert. At this time it was reported that Abertillery had two choral societies.
On Wednesday 13th September 1911 the concert in connection with the Abertillery Choral Society’s rehearsals for the forthcoming Festival of the Empire was held at the Blaenau Gwent Baptist Church, Abertillery. Mr T. E. Salt presided and the chief artistes were as follows – Miss Grace Harrhy, soprano; Miss Gerty Salt, mezzo soprano; Miss Gladys Brown, contralto; Mr W. West, tenor and Mr J. Chappell baritone: Miss Ethel Ford and Mr Idris Morgan accompanists: Mr Amos Harding was the conductor.
On Tuesday 19th September 1911 the Abertillery Choral Society held another of their rehearsal concerts for the forthcoming Festival of the Empire at the Tabernacle Chapel, Abertillery. It was reported over 250 singers of the Abertillery contingent attended. Mr William Stewart J.P., presided and the chief artistes were as follows – Miss Winnie Warfield, soprano; Miss Gerty Salt, mezzo soprano; Mrs T. Adams, contralto; Mr George Williams, tenor and Mr Abraham Bundred baritone: Miss Ethel Ford and Mr Idris Morgan accompanists: Mr Amos Harding was the conductor.
On Saturday 23rd September 1911 the Welsh National Choir appeared at the Festival of the Empire at Crystal Palace. The Choir consisted of sections drawn from Glamorganshire, Monmouthshire, North Wales and Liverpool. The numbers of those who took part were as follows – Cardiff, 195; Newport, 410; Abertillery, 231; Abercanaid, 112; Neath, 130; Kenfig Hill, 36; Bridgend, 8; Cwmaman, 115; Llanidloes, 105; Porth, 181; Ogmore Vale, 180; Dinas Cross, 23; Port Talbot, 148; Aberavon, 46; Rhymney, 215; Bargoed, 45; Aberdare (Davies), 166; Aberdare, 160; Mountain Ash, 250; Abercynon, 164; Tongwynlais, 24; Abercarn, 108; Llandrindod, 50; Pontypridd, 148; Blaina, 108; Pontypool, 101; Maesteg, 150; Liverpool, 241; Ferndale, 144; Pwllheli, 46; Ebbw Vale, 70; Resolven, 887; Penydarren, 93; Ruthin, 70; Treharris, 111; Abertridwr, 68; Prestatyn, 50; Cowbridge, 46; Abersychan, 30; Machen, 32; Nantyglo, 3; Llansamlet, 115; Denbigh, 28 and Llandudno, 50: Mr Harry Evans was Conductor. Mr Arthur E. Sims of Newport and Mr T. Hopkins were the organists with Mr David Richards as the pianist.
In December 1911 the South Wales Gazette reported Mr Stanley Hone the accompanist for the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society had successfully passed the necessary examinations recently held at Cardiff, gaining the diploma of Associate of the London College of Music, with the right to append the initials A.L.C.M. to his name. Mr Hone was a pupil of Mr Ernest H. Wilson.
In July 1912 Mr Amos Harding, organist and choirmaster was advertising his services as such and also giving lessons on piano, organ and singing. Mr Harding’s address was 54 Princess Street, Abertillery.
On Wednesday 17th January 1912 over 300 people attended the first banquet in connection with the Abertillery Town Choral Society held at the Drill Hall, Abertillery. The officers were as follows – Mr T. E. Salt (Chairman); Mr W. Adams (Treasurer) and Mr W. Frowen (Secretary):
On Wednesday 24th July 1912 the first annual Flower & Veg Show, organised under the auspices of the Six Bells Fur, Feather and Horticultural Society was held at the Abertillery Park. The Abertillery Male Voice Party performed.
On Saturday 24th January 1914 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society held their annual supper at the Bush Hotel. Mr Abe Lewis presented Mr Tom Bundred (Conductor) with a silver-mounted baton, Mr H. Handy presented Mr Tom Elliott (Treasurer) with a gold scarf pin and Mr T. W. Spence presented Mr Tom Powell (Secretary) with a fountain pen.
The Abertillery and Six Bells Combined.
In March 1914 it was reported in the South Wales Gazette that the Abertillery Male Voice Party had again re-formed, this time under the conductor-ship of Mr Jack Jenkins, Mr Ben Jones as chairman with Mr E. W. Eke as secretary. Practices were held at the Bethany Baptist School. It seems as though the Abertillery Party had combined with the Six Bells Choir (as seen in the ad above).
In June 1914 Abertillery and Six Bells Male Voice Party combined won 1st prize at the Trinant Eisteddfod.
In October 1914 it was announced that Mr J. Jenkins, conductor of the Abertillery and Six Bells Male Voice Party was to become the conductor of the Abertillery Co-operative Choral Society. Mr Jenkins was one time the conductor of the Blaina Male Voice Party before coming to Six Bells.
The Crug Glee Society.
In November 1914 the members of the Crug Glee Society under the conductor-ship of Mr Dan Lewis held a concert at the Colliers Hall, Cwmtillery in aid of the War Relief Funds. The Accompanist was Mr Victor Brain and the Chairman was Mr M. Coles.
Dame Clara Butt with the Abertillery Orpheus United Choir.
On Tuesday 6th June 1916 Dame Clara Butt the World renowned contralto singer appeared at the Metropole Theatre, Abertillery. This was reported to have been Madame Butt’s first visit to Abertillery and it was organised as part of her fund raising charitable work on behalf of the “Clara Butt Rumford Fund”. The money raised went to provide employment for the many artistes who were adversely affected by the war. To this Dame Clara Butt had promised to give a portion of the proceedings, she had also given thousands of pounds to the Red Cross and the War Relief Fund.
During this concert the Abertillery Orpheus United Choir, under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred, announced they would assist Madame Clara Butt (as seen right). The concert was arranged by Messrs Dale, Forty & Co Ltd, piano merchants of Cardiff, Cheltenham and Birmingham. Miss Carrie Tubb also appeared and performed with Madam Butt. It was later made public that Mr Tom Bundred had received a letter from Madam Butt, in which she praised his professionalism in the way in which he had organised the singing of the orpheus choir at the concert.
In October 1916 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society advertised vacancies in their choir and held rehearsals at the Trinity Vestry, Abertillery every Saturday evenings at 8.00pm. Mr D. Elliott of Springfield House, Alexandra Road, Six Bells was secretary and the Conductor was Mr Tom Bundred of Abertillery.
On Sunday 7th April 1918 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society held a concert at the Metropole Theatre in aid of the “Abertillery Boys” who were fighting in the Great War. The Conductor was Mr Tom Bundred aided by the following artistes – Mrs Mansel Thomas, soprano; Miss Gladys Smith, contralto, of Brynmawr; Mr W. R. James, tenor; Mr Abe Lewis, baritone; Mr Willie Edwards, violinist with Miss Myfanwy Owen and Mr Myer Rose as elocutionists: The Orpheus Male Quartette; Mr Percy Silverthorne accompanist: Admission to the concert was 1s. 6d.
The Aberbeeg Male Voice Choir.
In October 1919 the Aberbeeg Male Voice Choir was formed. The choir was under the conductor-ship of Mr Bert Williams.
In December 1919 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society, advertised as the Abertillery Male Voice Party were advertising their forthcoming concert to be held at the Trinity Chapel, Abertillery on New Years night. It was reported the choir would perform the choral ballad “Sardanapalus” assisted by Mr Abe Lewis as baritone. The Male Voice Party also gave the first of the series of 1920 concerts.
On Saturday 17th January 1920 the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Society held their annual supper at the Trinity Presbyterian Schoolroom. It was reported that 80 attended the meal, with many members contributing to the concert. Mr W. L. Williams (President); Mr Jenkin Williams and Mr W. P. Rowlands (Vice-Presidents); Mr Tom Bundred (Conductor): Those who took part on the night were as follows – Madam S. E. Sainsbury; Messrs H. Hancock; A. Gibbs; J. Hughes; A. Lewis Price; J. James; W. Meyrick; W. Matthews and W. West: A Quartette by Messrs T. Bundred, J. Cordy J. James and G. Edwards: Recitation by Miss Myfanwy Hughes: The following ladies attended to the tables – Mesdames Machin; Gwillym; Wakeland; G. Williams; Cox; Sainsbury; Hughes and Misses Hoskins; Terry and Pullin:
On Sunday 7th March 1920 the Orpheus Male Voice Party and the Lymes Club Silver Band performed at a concert held at the Pavilion, Abertillery. The party were assisted by the following artistes – Miss Gladys Partridge, soprano; Mr Abe Lewis, baritone; Mr W. R. James, tenor and Mr Cliff Morgan as pianist: The Chairman was Dr E. C. Fahmy.
On Sunday 1st August 1920 owing to such a large number of people who were unable to gain admittance to the Metropole Theatre during last weeks concert, the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Society gave an open air concert at the Recreation Grounds, Abertillery. The Conductor was Mr Tom Bundred, with Mr Cliff Morgan the accompanist.
On Friday 6th August 1920 the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Choir competed for the first time at the National Eisteddfod held at Barry. They held fourth place under the leadership of Mr Tom Bundred.
In August 1921 it was reported the Abertillery Male Voice Glee Society were unable to compete at the National Eisteddfod at Carnarvon, the great expense involved and the financial state prevented them from attending.
The Abertillery Orpheus Juvenille Choir.
On Saturday 22nd October 1921 the Abertillery Orpheus Juvenile Choir under the leadership of Mr Tom Bundred competed at the Welsh Musical Festival at Mountain Ash. The choir won 1st prize and £5 for their rendering of “The Child and the Robin” conducted by Mr Tom Bundred. Nine choirs competed and Abertillery Juveniles were the smallest with only 44 in their number. The senior Abertillery Male Voice Choir sang the “War Song” they didn’t do well and it was stated the choir lacked tenors of quality.
On Wednesday 14th December 1921 the Juvenile Orpheus Choir performed at the Trinity Church, Abertillery. Some of the members who performed were as follows – Buddug Jones; Alice Spence; Emily Stevens; Olwen Rowlands; Edith Parfitt; Phyllis James; Lily Watkins; John Dix; Haydn Elliott and Lawrence Ward: Recitations were given by – Gwen Byard; Beattie Collett and Laura Terrett. Mr Tom Bundred R.A.M., R.C.M., T.C.L., was conductor with Mrs T. Bundred R.A.M., L.R.C.M., as accompanist. Mr O. N. Roberts B.A., was chairman:
In Easter Monday 17th April 1922 the Abertillery Juvenile Orpheus Choir competed at the Abergavenny Eisteddfod and won 1st prize. Mr Tom Bundred R.A.M., R.C.M., T.C.L., was conductor with Mrs T. Bundred R.A.M., L.R.C.M., as accompanist.
In November 1922 it was reported the Orpheus Glee Society under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred had recently reformed and had appeared at the Oakdale Eisteddfod and had taken 2nd place, one point behind the winning party, the Pontlottyn. Special credit was given to Mr Tom Bundred for his selected piece “The Lee Shore”, Cyril Jenkins, which was said to have been a very descriptive composition.
On Tuesday 13th March 1923 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred R.A.M., R.C.M., T.C.L., appeared at the Jubilee of the Bristol Musical Festival, held at the Victoria Rooms, Bristol. They secured first place with 177 points from a possible 200. At this time Mr R. Griffiths of 53 Alma Street, Abertillery was the secretary of the society.
The Lymes Glee Society.
In April 1923 the Lymes Glee Society first appeared in the South Wales Gazette (as seen left). It was reported that they had won the 2nd prize at the Pontypridd Eisteddfod on the previous Saturday 7th April 1923. Mr W. R. James was the conductor.
On Saturday 16th February 1924 the Lymes Glee Society appeared in the South Wales Gazette when they held a concert at the Abertillery Hospital for the staff and patients. Mr W. R. James was the conductor with Mr Cliff Morgan the accompanist. Some members of the party were as follows – Miss D. Adams; Mr W. Williams; Mr Fred Morgan; Mr Joe James and Mr P. Evans:
On Saturday 8th March 1924 the Lymes Glee Society held their first annual supper. Some of the names of the members were as follows – Alderman Levi Harris J.P. and Mr F. Lawrence (Vice-Presidents); Mr W. R. James (Conductor); Mr G. Stephens (Secretary) and Mr T. Adams (Club Secretary): Singers – Messrs T. Phillips; J. Hughes; H. Williams; W. Williams; W. J. Meredith and P. Evans:
In March 1924 the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society held a concert at the Brynmawr Market Hall, conducted by Mr Tom Bundred in aid to raise funds for the Brynmawr Relief Committee.
On Saturday 21st February 1925 the Lymes Glee Party held their annual meeting at the Highbury Club, Abertillery presided over by Mr Phillip Evans. The following officers were re-elected – Mr William Porter (President); Mr Livi Harris J.P.; Mr Tom Adams and Mr F. G. Lawrence (Vice-Presidents); Mr Phillip Evans (Chairman); Mr J. Meredith (Vice-Chairman); Mr Tom Lewis (Treasurer); Mr Cliff Morgan (Pianist); Mr W. Johnson (Assistant Pianist); Mr Mr W. R. James (Conductor); Mr J. James (Assistant Conductor); Mr George Stevens (Hon Secretary); Mr Harry Williams (Assistant Hon Secretary): It was stated that the Lymes Glee Party had entered nine competitions, had won 1st prize in five, 2nd prize in three and a 3rd in one. They had won the Club Union Trophy at Pontypridd where they were placed 1st of of nine parties.
On Saturday 21st March 1925 the Lymes Glee Party travelled to Loughborough to participate in an Eisteddfod. They were placed 7th out of 30 competitors. Mr W. R. James was the Conductor.
Over the next few years the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Male Voice Society suffered in competition and concert participation through a lack of members, which in turn put a financial strain on the society.
On 20th August 1925 Mr Tom Bundred and Mr R. Griffiths wrote a letter to the South Wales Gazette, which was published in the Friday edition 21st August, in which they stated the party had for a few years, like other organisations in the town, had suffered from the trade depression and was still suffering. Though they thought that the choir should be represented at the forthcoming Eisteddfod at Swansea, which they had already took the decision to participate. Mr Bundred said the chief male voice competition required a number of eighty voices at minimum with the second competition requiring at least 40-60 voices. As Abertillery had no where near that number of singers they appealed for new members join the party, who had time to practice, take part in competitions and to bring honour back to the town.
The England Tour in Aid of the Abertillery Relief Fund.
In August 1926 it was announced in the South Wales Gazette that the Abertillery Town Relief Committee held a meeting presided over by Mr D. Walters J.P., in regard to the suggestion of sending a concert party or parties to tour the North of England to collect subscriptions for the fund. Three parties had stated they were prepared to make the tour, Six Bells, Lymes Club and the Blaenau Gwent. The following week the Lymes Glee Party paid a visit to the Black Mountains and entertained the men employed on the construction of the Waterworks.
In September 1926 a letter was published in the South Wales Gazette from Mr Albert Urch, he gave an update on the Lymes Glee Party’s visit to the Midlands in aid of the Abertillery Relief Fund. Mr Urch wrote the choir members were in good health, they had for several nights sang on the Town Square at Crewe, they had entertained the crowd at Crewe Alexandra Football Ground and had collected £10. 14s. 9d. During a visit to the Socialist Club they collected £4. 10s. The Railwaymen’s Club had realised £6. 7s. 0d. and before they left the area they were booked at the Pioneer Angler Club, Crewe, a farewell concert at the A.S.L.E. & F. Club, Crewe. They were to arrange a stay at Northwich for 14 days and afterwards proceed to Runcorn.
In January 1927 some of the Lymes Glee Party were as follows – Mr Phillip Evans; Mr Daniel James; Mr Fred Morgan; Mr Jim James; Mr W. Williams and Mr Vic Humphries: Mr W. Johnson was accompanist.
After 1929 the Lymes Glee Party did not feature in any other known reports throughout the 1930’s.
In 1929 it was announced that Miss F. M. Edenden had been appointed accompanist to the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society. It was stated that Miss Evelyn Dowding and Mrs T. Bundred had been previous Accompanists.
In 1929 some of the Abertillery Orpheus Glee Society members were as follows – Mr Sam Horler (President); Mr Tom Bundred (Conductor); Mr James Meredith (Chairman); Mr W. R. James; Mr Ivor Screen; Mr D, Parfitt; Mr Bob Griffiths (Secretary); Mr Vernon Williams and Miss F. M. Edenden; Mr Stainer (Treasurer); Mr T. Elliott (late Treasurer); Mr W. T. Spence:
Sometime in the mid to late 1930’s the juvenile choirs disbanded.
In the first week of November 1930 the Abertillery Choral Society held a special meeting at the Snowden Cafe, Abertillery. Mr Tom Bundred and Mr Sam Horley presided, it was announced that the towns choral society was to be disbanded as of the lack of members, mostly male members. On Monday 15th November 1930 at a meeting of the choral society at the Wesleyan Schoolroom, Abertillery, a few new faces showed up and it was agreed to keep the singing group together.
Throughout the 1920’s the Abertillery Male Voice Glee Party under Mr Tom Bundred was reported as such, though in many other written reports known as the Abertillery Male Voice Party. Whether this was the fault of various reporters preference in reporting or the party had actually changed its name, I don’t know?
In January 1931 the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Party under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred were disqualified from the Llandrindod Wells Eisteddfod, whilst competing in the male voice test pieces, one of the test pieces being sung with the aid of a piano. This practise was against against rules and as a result the Gwent Party (Nantyglo) were placed first. At this time Mr Robert Griffiths was secretary of Abertillery the Male Voice Party.
In May 1931 it was reported the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Party were to appear on the wireless from the Cardiff Station on the following Tuesday 19th May 1931. A photograph of the party taken at the time was reproduced in the “Radio Times” magazine. The image was presented to Mr Sam Horler by Mr Tom Bundred and Mr James Meredith.
In October 1932 a meeting was held at the Trinity Church, Abertillery to re-elect the conductor Mr Tom Bundred in the same post. The other officers elected were as follows – Mr Sam Horler (President); Mr James Meredith (Chairman); Miss F. M. Edenden R.A.M., R.C.M., (Accompanist); Mr John Gardner (Vice-Chairman); Mr A. Pritchard (Treasurer); Mr Ivor Screen and Mr Clifford Llewellyn (Music Stewards); The committee – Messrs W. T. Spence; T. Pearce; S. Ridout and Harold Morris:
In March 1933 the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Party broke away from tradition and introduced some variety into their practice nights by holding a “Free and Easy” evening. It was a novel innovation and was met with success, solo’s were sung by the members who had never sung individually in public. Solo’s were given by the following – Mr E. Jones; Mr A. Westcott; Mr D. Cheedy; Mr W. T. Spence; Mr Cliff Legge; Mr Cyril Morse; Mr Percy Williams and Mr T. Pearce:
In November 1934 it was announced that Mr W. Lewis of Blaina became vice-president, Mr Ivor Harris was assistant secretary. The committee had two new members, Mr William England and Mr Fred Coombes.
In January 1936 the Abertillery Male Voice Party under the conductor-ship of Mr Tom Bundred were winners at the Pontypool Eisteddfod held at the Town Hall, organised by the Wesley Choral Society. Abertillery secured the prize of £8 and the Eisteddfod Chair for the conductor. It was reported that five choirs sang and the test piece was “Nidaros” (Protheroe). The placings were as follows – Abertillery Orpheus 95 points. Pontypool Orpheus 92. Cwm Apollo 90. Gelli Rhondda 89 and North Gwent 87.
On Friday 12th March 1937 Mr Tom Bundred sadly passed away at his residence 3 The Poplars, Abertillery. (See below for more information). After the death of Mr Tom Bundred Mr Ivor Screen became the conductor of the Abertillery Male Voice Party.
The Abertillery Unity Choir.
On Sunday (Unity Sunday) 18th July 1937 a meeting was held outside the Powells Tillery Institute on Division Street (as seen right) under the auspices of the Abertillery Labour Unity Committee. The Chairman Mr Tom Powell had organised the meeting to bring attention to the non-intervention in Spain. The guest speaker was Mr Michael Foot, Labour candidate for Monmouth. Mr Len Chivers and Mr Harry Jones also spoke. The Abertillery Unity Choir opened the meeting by singing “Guernica” which was composed by Mr G. Price, the conductor.
The Cwmtillery Male Voice Choir.
In October 1937 it was announced that a new male voice choir had been formed at Cwmtillery. Called the Cwmtillery Male Voice Choir, the choir’s practices and meetings were held at the Woodland Sports Club, Cwmtillery. The committee were as follows – Mr Vernon Williams L.L.C.M., (Conductor); Miss Kate Sergeant T.D.L.C.M., (Accompanist): Officers – Mr T. Richards (Chairman); Mr Sid Mason (Secretary) and Mr Eddie Holmes (Treasurer):
In October 1937 it was announced that the members of the male, ladies and the (late) juvenile choirs at Abertillery were to place a Memorial in the Trinity Church, Abertillery to the memory of Mr Tom Bundred, where he had acted as precentor and deacon for many years. A series of concerts were to be held at various venues in and around the town and all the old choristers, male and ladies choirs were asked to rejoin and perform to raise funds for the memorial.
In 1938 the Conductor of the Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Party was Mr Ivor Screen, with Miss Laura Edmunds L.R.A.M., M.R.S.T., as accompanist and assistant conductor. The officers were as follows – Mr Sam Horler of Cardiff (President); Mr James Meredith (Chairman); Mr John Gardner (Vice-Chairman); Mr W. England (Treasurer); Mr Robert Griffiths (Secretary); Mr H. A. Lewis (Librarian): Committee – Mr J. Chapell; Mr Tom Pearce; Mr Sam Rideout; Mr Reg King; Mr Fred Coombes; Mr D. Cheedy; Mr W. Dicks and Mr Towy Berrow:
Many smaller groups of male and female choirs were formed over the years before the war and after (More information to come).
The Later Years.
The Abertillery Male Voice Choir is still in existence today.
Points of Interest – Mr Daniel Bundred 1852-1914.
Mr Daniel Bundred was born at the Garn Vach, Nantyglo in 1852. He was later employed as a coal miner at Nantyglo and married Miss Elizabeth Morgan of that place in 1877. He was a prominent musician at Nantyglo and Blaina. By the 1911 census the family moved to No29 High Street, Abertillery and had four sons living at home – Mr James Bundred; Mr Abraham Bundred; Rev David William Bundred (Church Minister Student of Trevecca) and Mr Thomas Bundred: Mr Daniel Bundred was the precentor (a precentor is a person who leads a congregation in its singing or prayers) at the Carmel Church, Abertillery. In later life Mr Bundred worked as a watchman for the Abertillery Urban District Council.
Mr Tom Bundred. 1889-1937.
Mr Tom Bundred was born at the Garn Vach, Nantyglo in 1889, the son of Daniel and Elizabeth Bundred. Tom followed in his father’s footsteps, was a coal miner working for the Powells Tillery Colliery and in 1907 became the Precentor at the Trinity Presbyterian Church, Abertillery at the age of just eighteen. Mr Tom Bundred married Miss Ruby Harding, they had a daughter Miss Olgar Bundred. On Friday 12th March 1937 Mr Tom Bundred sadly passed away at his residence 3 The Poplars, Abertillery.
The family had been very accomplished musicians and gained many diplomas which earned them the following – Mr Tom Bundred R.A.M., R.C.M., T.C.L. and Mrs Ruby Bundred nee Harding R.A.M., L.R.C.M.
In 1907 Mr David William Morgan (Hairdresser and Tobacconist) married Miss Eleanor Bundred the sister of Mr Tom Bundred, they had a son Mervyn Brynley Bundred Morgan born 1909. Mr David William Morgan set up an hairdressing business at 7 Oak Street, Abertillery.
In the early 1930’s Messrs Morgan and Bundred opened a store in the Trinity Buildings, Abertillery, by the name of Bundred-Morgan.
Abertillery Labour Unity Committee.
In July 1937 the Abertillery Labour Unity Committee met outside the Tillery Institute, Abertillery as stated above to bring attention to the non-intervention in Spain. In reports at the time, the Chairman Mr Tom Powell had tried to organise the meeting at the Park, Abertillery though was refused permission.