Carmarthenshire male voice choir to disband after 50 years

By Garry Owen
BBC News

Media caption,
The choir was founded 47 years ago and toured internationally

For almost half a century, this group of ordinary folk have gathered at a Carmarthenshire village pub to find harmony in their voices.

The Dyffryn Tywi Male Choir performed with the likes of Wynne Evans and Rhydian Jenkins and toured Europe and America.

But a decline in numbers has meant the "heartbreaking" decision to end.

"It was more than just singing, it was all about friendship and camaraderie," said director Davinia Davies.

The Carmarthenshire choir had boasted more than 40 members, but despite recruitment campaigns and appeals, the lure of a male voice choir has not proved strong enough.

"I don't think we could have tried harder than what we have done but sadly we failed to attract new blood," said secretary Derrick Rowlands.

"It's a tragedy that a small choir like ours, who have worked so hard in our community, had to call it a day."

There is a palpable feeling of sadness, combined with a slice of pride, as the choir meets for the final time in the pub in Llandyfaelog.

They have been "like family" to each other and it is impossible to overstate what the group means to members.

Image source, Côr Dyffryn Tywi
Image caption,
The choir has performed with the likes of Wynne Evans, Fflur Wynn and Shan Cothi

The choir's oldest member is Irfon Davies, a sprightly 85-year-old with a sense of humour, but his face clouds over when asked how he feels that his singing days have come to an end.

"I can't explain how important this choir is to me. I have been a member for 46 years, " he said, before pausing and adding pensively, "but then I suppose it comes to us all".

John Etherington has been singing with the choir for 13 years after retiring to the area.

"I had never sung in a choir before I heard this choir sing in a concert in Ffos Las and have been with them ever since," he said.

"They are a tremendous bunch of lads so the choir having to pack up is really heartbreaking. They've been family to me in Wales."

As well as performing with big names and travelling extensively, the choir has raised thousands of pounds for charity.

Image caption,
Members of the choir gather for the last time

However, the writing has been on the wall for a while, according to musical director Davinia Davies.

"The boys would come here every Tuesday night to sing and they were so happy singing. But this is more than just the singing, it is all about friendship and camaraderie."

The pandemic was a problem, of course, but the struggle to recruit new member had already begun.

"The main problem is that people have a lot more going on in their lives theses days. How much time they have for a weekly practice and concerts?"

Martin Henry, the choir chairman who joined when he was 18, hopes the group is remembered for their music.

And as the meeting draws to a close and the men pack away their music copies for the last time a voice rings out around the pub: "Don't worry boys, our music will live on... in our hearts."