Retired teacher Ednyfed Williams was only three years old when a famous male voice choir was formed in 1933 – 90 years later they’re both still here and still singing.
Ednyfed, from Frongoch, near Bala, joined Côr Meibion Trelawnyd in 1955, and on Saturday, 1 July, he will take his place in the bass section at their 90th anniversary concert, alongside tenor and Go Compare star Wynne Evans at Rhyl’s Pavilion Theatre.
As well as celebrating the momentous milestone, the choir will support Hope House, with a raffle to raise money for the hospice charity, which provides a vital service for children, young people and their families across most of north Wales and Shropshire.
The choir rehearses every Tuesday at the Memorial Hall in Trelawnyd, and is planning to launch its new CD at the concert.
Two years ago the choir, whose vice presidents include Oscar-nominated actor Sir Jonathan Pryce, featured in a touching documentary, Men Who Sing, directed by Ednyfed’s son, Dylan.
He decided to make the award-winning film after Ednyfed told him he was selling the family home in Dyserth and arranging his own funeral.
It highlights the choir’s desperate campaign to recruit “brown-haired men” to join the massed ranks of grey and bald heads, described as “adorable Welsh geezers” in a review in The Guardian newspaper following its cinema release.
The documentary went on to win a BAFTA Cymru award with Dylan named best director in the factual category.
The recruitment drive worked and 93-year-old Ednyfed now sings alongside the choir’s youngest member, 15-year-old Owain Davies Williams, a pupil at Ysgol Glan Clwyd, St Asaph.
The age gap of 78 years between Owain and Ednyfed is believed to be UK record.
Ednyfed, whose father was a minister, was born in Frongoch where the family lived in the house once occupied by the manager of the Royal Welsh Whisky Distillery.
“My father was a good baritone and his brother, Owain Thomas Williams, who lived in Trefnant and worked on the railway, was well known as a very fine bass,” said Ednyfed.
“My daughter is a very good soprano and my two sons both have very good baritone voices but they don’t sing now.”
He puts his longevity and good health down to the beneficial effects of singing.
“Singing is well known for being good for your health.
“It’s wonderful for your breathing and for your chest,” he said.
“We’ve won the National Eisteddfod seven times and I’ve been in the choir for all those wins – the first was in 1964. I’ve been with them to Canada and to Germany, France and Holland.”
The choir’s first conductor was William Humphreys, father of novelist Emyr, and they had notable successes and a number of competition wins including at the Lewis’s Eisteddfod in Liverpool, staged by the famous department store on the city’s Lime Street.
The choir resumed after the Second World War with 24 members and by 1955 when Ednyfed, joined there were 60 voices.
He left Holywell High School to train as a teacher in Bangor and spent two years of National Service as Sergeant Williams, teaching illiterate soldiers to read and write.
He said: “When I joined the choir more than half of them spoke Welsh and I was singing with people who were from very different backgrounds to me.
“There were farmers and policemen and there were 14 miners from the Point of Ayr colliery who all lived in the village.
“It’s very different now but we do seem to be able to attract new and younger members. We have a 17-year-old and another young lad of 15 whose grandfather was in the choir.
“I still love it, hearing the different voices blending together, especially when Ann gets us singing quietly. That’s a beautiful sound.
“You see all those people from different backgrounds and they’re all joined by their love of singing.”
Musical director Ann Atkinson, who has a distinguished career as a singer, conductor and tutor, said: “They’re just a lovely crowd of guys and very good to work with.
“Ednyfed Williams is still going strong at 93. He’s a very good bass and still loves it and is a great character. It’s great that he can still do it and still enjoy it.
“Different voices last longer than others and generally male voices last longer than female, they keep their shape but singing is very good from a health point of view.
“It’s very good for the breathing and for the soul.”