By Arwel Lloyd Jones of Côr Godre’r Aran, based in Llanuwchllyn in Gwynedd
I remember just as it if were yesterday my father, David, coming home from Côr Godre’r Aran choir practice and announcing that Tom Jones, the choir conductor, had asked him to tell me that I had to join the choir.
This was indeed an honour, not even being asked but told to join. No persuasion was needed.
It was towards the end of March 1963 and the choir was practicing to compete at the Llandudno National Eisteddfod, and this is the reason for me to be able to celebrate being a member of the best choir in the world for the last fifty years.
I’m sure I could write a book about my experiences during my time as a member of the choir. Obviously over such a long period the experiences have being sweet and thrilling when winning Eisteddfod competitions or climaxing in an exceptional concert performance, but also there was seriousness and sadness when experiencing the loss of friends and young choir members.
I’ve decided to upload old pictures of the choir from the 1950s to the present day, which you can see by searching ‘Côr Godre’r Aran’ on People’s Collection Wales.
In looking back I realise how lucky I’ve been to be involved and to have had the opportunity to travel to many parts of the world as a member of the choir… Australia, Bali, New Zealand (twelve times), Hong Kong, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, Patagonia, USA and Canada, to name but a few. And then there’s touring Ireland, England, Scotland, and of course home here in Wales.
It was an exceptional experience for me as a new member to perform with the choir at the National Eisteddfod Llandudno in 1963, and to top it all we came first with both the memorable songs – Awdl o Foliant i Gymru, and the wonderful words written by Ehedydd Ial, Er Nad Yw Nghnawd Ond Gwellt – attaining 95 marks out of 100.
Another interesting and thrilling experience was to be invited to sing at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969. This was quite a difficult time in the choir’s history, but eventually it was agreed that we would take part, for the sake of the choir more than anything else. This helped raise our profile even more and it’s been gathering momentum ever since.
In 1975, the conductor, Tom Jones, decided to retire, and handed the choir over to Eirian Owen, and he said “I have no compunction that I can retire happily knowing that the choir’s future is in the safe hands of a young woman who is both capable and talented, and also is one of us. Thank you Eirian, and good luck to you with them.”
From then we went from strength to strength, and as I said previously I could write a book about all the exciting and unbelievable experiences I’ve had with the choir. With this young talented woman having got a very strong hold on the choir, we changed from singing ‘Cerdd Dant’ to songs more traditional to male voice choir music..
Another honour came in 1995 when I was to be chosen to act as secretary to the choir, and I’m still enjoying undertaking this work today.
Several pinnacles have been reached over the years: winning at the National Eisteddfod on more than one occasion; winning at Llangollen; winning the BBC Radio Cymru’s Wales Choir competition at Bangor. But one of the pinnacles that we have yet to win is the World Choir title at Llangollen, we have been close on several occasions, but who knows in the future maybe…
I thank the late founder Tom Jones, and our current conductor, Eirian, for the opportunity and the honour of being a member of Côr Godre’r Aran over the last fifty years – a member of the best choir in the world.