There are a several interpretations of the name Dowlais; one such explanation refers to the local streams, merging to create the concept of “Two voices” blending as one, -an appreciative concept for the choir and its supporters. The original Dowlais Male Voice Choir was established in 1898 under the musical direction of the nationally renowned Harry Evans. The Choir set the highest standard in male voice choral music, and gained many prizes at various Eisteddfods and competitions. By 1915, however this Choir had disbanded, leaving the name “Dowlais Male Voice Choir” in a state of Nirvana.

Earlier in 1910 Cor Meibion Penywern, another nearby male choir had been founded by seventeen young men of the local Congregational Chapel,  Evan Thomas “Alaw Morlais”, a native of Penywern, was appointed the conductor. In the 1920s a decision was made by the committee of Cor Meibion Penywern to rename the choir, “Dowlais Voice Male Choir”. The original title did not give a true representation of the area where the members lived; also the name associated a link with a reputable male chorus from a bygone era. With the closure of collieries in 1920s and sections of the Dowlais steel works closing by 1930, a decision was made to disband the choir due to choristers leaving the area in the pursuit of employment, thus leaving huge gaps affecting the balance of the choir. The last concert this choir performed was in 1932.

For 33 years, the Dowlais sound lay dormant, until a small group of workers from the Guest Keen and Nettlefold Company, which had maintained Dowlais Iron and Steel Industrial tradition, a meeting was held in 1965 to reform the choir. A new generation of choristers, aided by choristers of the old male choir combined to recreate the resonance of the Dowlais Sound and revive the name of the Dowlais Male Choir. Its founder conductor was D. T. Davies MBE a musician of great repute throughout South Wales as conductor, adjudicator and accompanist.

 

Present Musical Director and Accompanist

The Choir has been fortunate in having the expertise of respected musicians behind up the baton since its commencement: D. T. Davies, Wynford Jones, John Samuel, Elwyn Gildas Williams, Annette Moore, and Gareth Ellis, Stewart Roberts and David Last. The present Musical Director, Darya Brill Williams, took up the position in 2012. The Choir’s accompanist, Michael Jones, has given immense support to the Musical Director and the Choir. With the enthusiasm and direction of the Musical Director, choristers have been inspired to attain a higher standard of choral excellence.    


Some of the Choir’s accomplishments

Like the ‘Phoenix rising from the ashes’ the Choir grew in number from 13 original choristers, reaching 120 at various periods. 1973 was the first of many musical peaks the Choir climbed, when it won the Chief Male Choral competition at the Royal National Eisteddfod at Ruthin. Over the years the Choir has received invitations to perform at some of the UK’s major concert halls, with numerous appearances at the Royal Albert Hall. Throughout its existence, the Choir has sung for many members of the Royal Family, including a Royal Command Performance in the presence of HRH Prince of Wales at the New Theatre, Cardiff. Tours began in 1975, visiting such countries as Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Eastern and Western States of the USA and Canada, Holland, Ireland, Italy, and Northern Cyprus. In 2005, the Choir was selected to represent Wales at ‘The Festival Interceltique’, in Lorient, Brittany. These excursions enabled the choir to represent the Principality and enhance its reputation through a high standard of male voice choral music’.

 

Dowlais sound reaches the universe

Back in the summer of 1997, BBC Wales visited the Houston Space Centre, Texas, USA. The purpose of the visit was to produce a television programme on the “Welsh Connection” of people employed by NASA who had involvement in the American Space Programme. Astronaut and Welshman Dafydd Rhys Williams had been selected for a space mission. Being of Welsh blood and proud of it, he kindly offered to take a CD of the Dowlais Male Choir with him on his mission. In April 1998, Dafydd was launched into space, circulating the world at a height of 150 miles, covering a distance of over 6 million miles at approximately 35 times the speed of sound – carrying the Dowlais Male Choir’s resonance around the planet in space. In recognition of the occasion, the title and the artwork on the CD cover symbolises the Choir’s aim in promoting choral music to far horizons.

The sound of the Choir has changed over the years, but the Choir’s blend of voices has always echoed a unique parochial intonation.

Carl Llewellyn