Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales

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The Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales is an exceptionally popular effort to capture the tradition of the Welsh industrial male chorus at a professional level. Wales, long known as the "land of song,…
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The Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales is an exceptionally popular effort to capture the tradition of the Welsh industrial male chorus at a professional level.

Wales, long known as the "land of song, a nation of singers," has a long history of choral singers. During the Industrial Revolution, across Britain group musical activities became a feature of mines and mills. England became famous for its brass bands (such as the Grimethorpe Colliery Band or the Black Dyke Mills Band). In Wales, the workers tended to form male choruses. Although Wales is smaller than the American state of New Jersey, it has nearly 200 choirs.

Even with heavy industry becoming less a part of the national scene, the choirs have remained (albeit in many cases their memberships are becoming more and senior). But their distinctive, earthily masculine sound, which often contrasts with moments of surprising gentleness, is still heard in numerous Welsh towns.

The Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales was founded by famous choral conductor Alun John. He picked singers from top music colleges and from the National Youth Choir of Wales, hiring thirty-two trained singing musicians. They set to work to adopt the authentic Welsh men's chorus sound at a professional level. Its first performance was at an international Rugby match at the Welsh National Stadium before an audience of 50,000.

The Chorus set out on the circuit of Community Concerts, where they appeared at over 100 concerts in less than two years. The group quickly became highly popular in Wales, appeared several times in television in Wales and throughout Britain, and was invited to give a private performance for the Prince of Wales.

The Chorus has made three tours of the United States, also gaining strong popularity in that country and has received an award for promoting Welsh culture in America.

The Chorus's present director is Timothy Rhys-Evans, a young baritone who was brought up in a mining town in the South Wales Valley and knows the original tradition on which the Chorus is based. He won the Baritone Solo award in the Royal National Eisteddfod, the Ryan Davies Memorial Fund Award, and the Glengettie Scholarship. He continues to sing as a baritone soloist in recitals and concerts and at the Welsh National Opera.

In 2000, the Black Mountain Male Chorus of Wales released a disc made with the famous Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, singing representative pieces from their repertory, primarily Welsh hymns and ballads.