Alan Pillinger founded Porthcawl Male Choir in January 1980. Alan was the original Musical Director and his wife Beryl was their first accompanist. The first practice was held in St. John’s Church Hall in Newton, Porthcawl, with approximately 14 members. Within 6 months the numbers had grown significantly, so much so, that the choir was forced to move to larger practice premises at New Road School in Porthcawl.
After performing in front of friends in the Jubilee Rooms, the Choir’s first Public Performance was at The Masonic Home in Porthcawl, closely followed by their first Annual Concert at the Grand Pavilion Porthcawl, in November 1980.
The Choir continued to grow steadily when in 1982 the Choir had the ultimate honour bestowed on them; they were invited to sing for the Pope, at his arrival and departure from Cardiff Airport. Overseas tours followed when, in 1983, the Choir went to Stuttgart and Neuenstadt, a very successful trip, that produced many lasting friendships between members of the German choirs and the Porthcawl choristers, many still remaining friends to this day.
In 1984 they won their first Eisteddfod, in the Rhymney Valley, and in the same year winning the Tumble Eisteddfod in the little, very Welsh, village just outside Llanelli. Shortly afterwards Alan and Betty Pillinger left the Choir and the choristers continued under the guidance of Ken Gadd and Adrian Hall, to both of whom the Choir owes its undying gratitude.
Mair Jones, our current Musical Director, took over as Accompanist and Alec Brooks became the MD. Alec decided to move on and Ken Gadd bridged the gap until a more permanent MD could be found.
In 1989, the choir advertised for an MD and Ms Norma Ridout was appointed. Thus began a new period under the direction of two talented Ladies, who not only led the choir but enchanted our audiences with their beautiful singing of duets. The choir continued to improve and put in a creditable performance in a competition held in Cardiff’s St. David’s Hall.
In 1990 the choir enjoyed a trip to Spain and gave concerts in Callela Cathedral and Barcelona. We also hosted a choir from s’Hertogenbosh (Netherlands). A strong bond with the town was established when we attended a service of liberation(from German occupation) in their town square ,followed by a joint concert in their town hall.
The choir was hosted by Post Office choirs on a tour of Germany. We traveled by coach and stayed in Neuenstadt, Stuttgart and Cologne, where we gave concerts and the sound of Norma and Mair singing Pie Jesus will never be forgotten.
In 1994 we invited to perform in a charity concert in the Margam Orangery. Four professional opera sings traveled from London to star in the concert and it proved to be an outstanding occasion.It was during this year that Norma decided to move on.
Mair Jones then was appointed Musical Director which she has now held for well over 25 years. Elizabeth Thomas then Bethan Thomas were accompanists in the ensuing years. Currently Richard Davis and Beryl Cullen make up the remainder of the musical team as joint accompanists, ably supporting Mair in the musical department. It is significant that many of the original choristers are still singing with the Choir today, and are going strong, a fact of which the Choir is extremely proud.
We have traveled in Europe, entertaining audiences in Barcelona, France and Holland and Spain. One of the more moving moments was when, a few years ago, they were asked to sing at the Remembrance Day service at the War Memorial in the Dutch town of ‘s-Hertogenbosch. This was to commemorate the liberation of the town in the Second World War by the 53rd Welsh Division, who lost a large number of men in the action, a fact that the townspeople, in their deep gratitude, have never forgotten.
On route to Holland, when passing through Belgium, the Choir visited the War Cemetery at Ypres, the scene of legendary epic battles during the Great War, which contained the graves of the fallen young men of both wars, some aged only 17 to 18 years. The graves being beautifully kept by the War Graves Commission. The Choir sang a very moving hymn of tribute at the Central Monument in the Ypres Cemetery and observed a period of silence in remembrance of those who had died.
More recently the destination was the northern French town of Saint Sebastien-sur-Loire, which is twinned with Porthcawl. The main concert of the tour was in the city of Nantes where the Choir sang in a beautiful church, which had been completely rebuilt after being destroyed during the Second World War.
Always in search of improvement, and to give the people of Porthcawl something different, the concept of their Annual Celebrity Concert was hatched. The inaugural Concert, in 1999, starred the Welsh Legend – Max Boyce. So successful was the event that when the tickets went on sale they were sold out in a matter of days. As a result, a second performance had to be hurriedly staged to satisfy the demand; and that sold out as well. The pattern was therefore set and since then we have had further successes with other Welsh greats, including stars of BBC Television and Radio – Roy Noble and Frank Hennessey, Peter Karrie of the “Phantom of the Opera”, Beverley Humphreys and Iris Williams.
In 2004 the young Mezzo Soprano Katherine Jenkins performed with us in two wonderful concerts and we spent a week in Torreviacha ,Spain, where we performed in a local Church.
In 2005, we celebrated our 25th Anniversary, which we did in style with the Regimental Band of The Royal Welsh Regiment on Saturday and the superb welsh soprano Shan Cothi was our celebrity guest the following day. We went orchestral and were in concert with the Carmarthen Symphonic Wind Band in 2006.
In 2007 we shared the stage with the winner of the Rosenblatt Song Prize at the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition- Elizabeth Watts
The choir enjoyed a week’s holiday in Fuengurola in 2008 where we and Cymric choir Port Talbot ,gave a joint to celebrate St. David’s Day.
The talented pianist Rhodri Clarke, based in Holland at this time, appeared in the 2009 concert.
Our 30th Anniversary concert in 2010 was a tremendous success with the Rhydian Roberts as our headline artist. Britain’s popular soprano Lesley Garrett was our celebrity guest in 2011 and in 2012 we welcomed the return of Shán Cothi.
In 2013 the award winning West End and Broadway actor and recording artist John Owen Jones was our celebrity guest.
In October 2014, we were delighted to have another star of television and West End show – Sophie Evans from Tonypandy. This was followed with a 5 day visit to Cornwall , organised by Stuart Phillips. The choir participated in two concerts ,in aid of charities.
In September 2015 we welcomed Richard & Adam the singing brothers who were discovered by the “Britains Got Talent” T.V. show.
September 2015 welcomed the Elvis Festival in Porthcawl. Our Choir performed in two venues in the Hi- Tide and were rewarded with standing ovations.
2015 – Mair Jones – our talented M.D. has now been with our Choir for 30 years, initially as accompanist , followed by 27 years as Musical Director.
The 2015 Christmas programme was particularly heavy, with us providing carol services in three care homes and a concert in aid of Porthcawl Stroke Society.
2016 – The choir gave a joint concert with Marazion Apollo (Cornwall) on the 27th Feb. and a concert to celebrate St, David’s Day in Parkdean Holiday Park Porthcawl. In June we gave a concert in the Porthcawl Lifeboat Station in aid of the RLNI. This was the second occasion we sang out over the slipway. The first took place some years ago when we took part in a service of dedication and blessing of the new lifeboat donated by the people of Midlands City.
Wynne Evans was the Celebrity in the Annual concert on the 3rd Sept. and on the 16th the choir plus friends visited the west of Scotland staying in an Hotel at Loch Awe (between Glasgow and Oban). A concert was given in Oban Cathedral, in aid of Macmillan Cancer support and was a resounding success. Excursions to Glasgow, The Isles of Mull and Iona were well supported and we enjoyed visiting the Hydro project (Loch Awe) and the town of Inveraray. The tour was for 5days,( 2 days of which were taken up travelling),and was organized by Howard Evans.
2017 – Another busy year, with the Choir performing in 10 concerts and 6 weddings (excluding the Christmas programme). We traveled to Torquay for a weekend break and joint concert with Tamar Valley M.C. We were also the guest choir in the Lydbrook Music Festival and enjoyed the experience of singing in the National Museum of Wales to an international audience. Our annual concert starred the brilliant Mike Doyle. Our participation in weddings allowed us the opportunity to visit some beautiful places in happy circumstances and we traveled as far as Derby. Brian Whitehead was awarded Life Membership in recognition for his commitment to the Choir and his admin. activities over the past 32 years.
The choir takes great pride in bringing uniquely talented artistes to Porthcawl whilst also upholding the Welsh Tradition of choral singing. We hope that with the support of our valued audiences, patrons and other supporters, we can continue to present these celebrity concerts.