Do you hear the people sing?

4 Dec 2015

There is nothing more evocative of the sound of Wales that its male voice choirs…

There is nothing more evocative of the sound of Wales than its male voice choirs.

Standard bearers of local pride and iconic features of the contemporary Welsh landscape, they have moved audiences the world over with their stirring harmonies.

Written by Gareth Williams, one of Wales's leading cultural historians,  Do You Hear the People Sing? The Male Voice Choirs of Wales , traces the origins and growth of male voice choral singing in Wales from the 19th century to the present day, using the Eisteddfod as a lens through which to view its development.

Their reputation for excellence was often forged by their fierce rivalries on the stage of the National Eisteddfod where they would compete in front of crowds of up to 20,000.

Uniquely, the book records the winners of every male choral competition as the choirs fought for supremacy at the 'National', in an unbroken sequence since 1881, along with the stern and sometimes caustic remarks of adjudicators.

This is the biography of a famous tradition – a story about Wales, its people and its culture.

In his foreword, founder and musical director of Only Men Aloud and Only Boys Aloud, Tim Rhys-Evans describes the book as a "compelling account of Wales's most famous musical export".

Laced with humour, the book will settle countless arguments of the kind that still rage among choir aficionados. There are chapters dedicated to the choral giants of Morriston, Treorchy, Pendyrus, Pontarddulais and Rhos but also the successes of smaller choirs and more recently the emergence of slick professional outfits like Only Men Aloud.

The fluctuating fortunes of choirs during times of prosperity and poverty and the sacrifices they made during two world wars and in the teeth of industrial depression, reveals what singing together meant to these often embattled communities.

The day of the Welsh male voice choir is far from over; it has always adapted to changing times and taste, and the book ends where it begins, on the field of the Millennium Stadium in front of 70,000 followers, for like rugby the male voice choir is a tradition with a special Welsh resonance that continues to arouse the passions and touch the emotions of millions.

Gwales

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