Introduction

The following brief history relates to the current Mountain Ash and District Choral Society but we know that an earlier society existed. Our limited information stems from some old programmes and accounts that were donated to our choir and which relate to the period 1911 to 1913. We’d like to learn more about this earlier society so please get in touch if you have any more information (Sec).

Our Birth

December 1964 saw another birth in Bethlehem, that of the Mountain Ash & District Choral Society.  The first rehearsal was in January 1965, at the former Bethlehem Chapel, High St., Mountain Ash under the baton of Miss Phyllis Morley-Jones (later Mrs George Thomas), with Mr. Lyndon Howells as Accompanist.

The nucleus of the new choir sprang from the ashes of Penrhiwceiber Choral Society, but soon choristers were attracted from all over the Valley and today members travel from the Rhondda, Cowbridge, Merthyr, Pontypridd and Glynneath.  The first year was spent very enjoyably learning a great deal of miscellaneous music whilst preparing for the first concert.  This was held on 13th January 1966, when the main work was Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast – tickets were half-a-crown (25p)!!

Conductors & Guests

Phyllis Brace became conductor in 1972. Mrs Brace in turn handed over the musical direction to Andrew Badham in 1991, from which time she has continued to be a busy deputy.

The City of Cardiff Symphony Orchestra has accompanied choir and soloists at annual concerts since 1992 and many well-known singers have been engaged including Beverley Humphreys, Janet Price, Jeremy Huw Williams, Alison Pearce, Jason Howard, William McAlpine, Kate Woolveridge and a very young Lesley Garrett (Elijah, 1983). Former D’Oyly Carte principals and WNO members have also guested.

The 'Noughties'

In 2003, Mountain Ash & District Choral Society formed a twinning link with Chorale Arpège of Montélimar, France. A number of exchange visits have been held, the most recent in July 2006 and many friendships have been formed between members of our choir and those of Chorale Arpège.

Our choir celebrated it’s 50th Anniversary with a number of events. The first was a performance of Handel’s Messiah, with full orchestra and soloists, held in St. Margaret’s Church, Mountain Ash on 6th December 2014. In May 2015 the 50th Anniversary celebrations continued with a performance of Elijah, by Mendelssohn. The soloists were Ros Evans, Kate Woolveridge, Tom Raskin and Jason Howard. St. Margaret’s Church was full, and all agreed it was a memorable evening. An anniversary booklet and mug were also produced, and the celebrations concluded with a grand dinner, when all who had been associated with the choir over the past 50 years were invited to join choresters and their families.

Our Conductor.

Our conductor, Andrew Badham,  was born in Mountain Ash and educated at Mountain Ash Comprehensive School from where he entered the Welsh College of Music and Drama studying organ under Robert Joyce, organist at Llandaff Cathedral. Andrew also studied choral conducting with Hungarian Celia Vadja, a former pupil of the composer Kodaly. After completing his studies at the WCMD, he moved to Philippa Fawcett College, London, where he gained a teaching diploma.

On leaving college, Andrew entered the Civil Service, and whilst in London was organist and choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church, Upper Tooting. On his transfer to Cardiff in 1982, Andrew returned to live in Mountain Ash. Since returning he has become involved with many musical activities. He served as deputy conductor and accompanist to the Cwmbach Male Choir from 1986 to 1991, when he took up an appointment as deputy musical director to the Treorchy Male Choir. In November 1993, he returned to Cwmbach Male Choir as their Musical Director.

On his return to Wales in 1982, Andrew re-joined the Mountain Ash & District Choral Society having first joined it whilst in school, singing in the bass section. He soon became assistant accompanist and conductor before being appointed conductor in 1991. In 1997, Andrew became Musical Director of the Treorchy Male Choir and successfully juggled a busy schedule of rehearsals, concerts and tours with the two choirs. He currently focuses his attention solely on Mountain Ash & District Choral Society – enough of a job in itself!

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