All posts by Tony Griffiths

Dai was There – 1970

A Committee Meeting held on January 20th 1970 sanctioned the payment of affiliation fees of Three Pounds Ten Shillings to become members of the Welsh Association of Male Choirs, and a further payment of One Shilling per Chorister for insurance purposes.

In January a social evening was held at the Haywain Pub where the Choir hosted members and wives of the Tonyrefail Male Voice Choir. This was a great success and resulted in the recruitment of two new members from Bristol. Bill Nash, whose brother belonged to the Tonyrefail party, had come along with his friend Jack Brittain to listen and enjoy a night out. They were so impressed with the singing and the friendliness of the Caldicot contingent that they turned up at the next rehearsal requesting membership. Ralph Hodges welcomed then with open arms and they soon became two staunch and loyal additions to the ranks.

Ralph Hodges continued to hold the baton, and throughout 1970 the accompanists included Violet Hill, Elwyn Powell, David Whitcombe and Meurig Jones. Some of the concerts for that year included venues at Tintern, Ebbw Vale, Trethomas, Ponthir, Bristol and Newport.

This was the year the Choir first tasted success in competition. The venue was again at Kington and the test piece for Glee Parties (under 40 voices) was ‘Tempest and Calm’. We were the third choir to take the stage and had to wait whilst two more had their turn before adjudication. Most of the choristers were gathered outside the main hall of Kington High School, where the competition was held, when the result was announced over the public address system “First prize … Caldicot and District Male Voice Choir!!”.

Well, there was pandemonium, everybody was leaping about, slapping each other on the back and congratulating everyone. Social Conductor Colin Jones vaulted (he was younger then) a fence into the school garden and soon reappeared with the biggest and longest stick of rhubarb in the world. He used this to conduct the Choir at the evening’s celebrations held at a wayside hostelry called ‘The Buck Inn’ conveniently located on the road home.

On returning home, the ‘Cup’ was placed on display in Washbourne’s Hardware shop which was situated those days in the main street. All the Choir turned up at the next rehearsal in uniform for an official photograph which can be seen displayed on the wall of our Choir Hall. A social evening was held at the Haywain Pub to celebrate the win.

A complaint was received at a committee meeting on 10th September from some members of the Severn View Club. Apparently, after giving a concert there, some choristers continued singing in the car park before heading home, and the club had received a letter from a local resident!

The A.G.M. for 1970 was held on the 19th of October in the Junior College, Caldicot. The election of Officers was as follows :-

  • President – Alderman Les Budden
  • V. President – Councillor Graham Powell
  • Conductor – Ralph Hodges
  • Chairman – Doug Baynham
  • Secretary – Vic Edwards
  • Treasurer – Chris O’Conner

Committee : – Colin Jones, Idris Jones, Ray Smith, Terry Trollope, Dai Powell, Ken Rowlands, Austin Keeble, Bill Nash, Terry Davies, Ken Penny and John Evans. Those underlined are still choristers today (Nov 2002).

It was passed at the meeting that the Bristol choristers would be exempt from the Choir contributions of sixpence a week because they had to pay Severn Bridge tolls every time they attended rehearsal. To my knowledge this still stands today. A recruitment drive also called for, owing to the membership still remaining less than forty.

A discussion was held at the Meeting regarding purchase of uniforms and it was decided bu a majority that black blazers would be appropriate. As soon as a suitable supplier could be found it would be the choristers obligation to buy one. For the time being the Choir would retain the black and gold striped tie although it was hoped a unique design could be found in the near future along with a blazer badge.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

Dai was There – 1969

1969 brought more concerts and a small influx of new members including myself. In fact I was entered on the register as number 28, to be followed by Percy Smith, bringing our numbers up to 29. In June, just before I joined, the Choir made its first Eisteddfod appearance singing the test piece ‘An Evening’s Pastoral’ at Kington. Although no prize was won it was recorded in the minutes of the next Committee Meeting that Ralph Hodges was very pleased with the performance.

The Annual Concert for 1969 was again held at Green Lane with the same artist as the previous year. The Compere was Councillor Graham Powell.

A special meeting was held on June 30th to discuss a proposal from Caldicot College that the Choir become affiliated to them as many other local organisations had already done. This was turned down by the members present who expressed concern that the Choir would lose it’s independence and possibly some control of it’s finances.

The 1969 Annual General Meeting took place on September the 4th with 29 members present. Strangely in those days, as well as Officers and Committee Members, the position of Conductor was also put up for election. The meeting reconfirmed Ralph Hodges as Conductor and Doug Beynham as Chairman. The Secretary was Doug Edwards and Chris O’Connor was elected as Treasurer.

An interesting snippet from the Committee Meeting held on the 29th September records that a total of £20 from Choir funds (probably about half the bank balance) would be made available to offset the cost of the forthcoming rugby trip to watch Wales play Ireland in Dublin in the spring of 1970.

The occasion was a great success and although there were no official concerts there were many impromptu performances. On their return it is said the Haywain Pub sold more Guinness in two weeks than it had in the previous six months!

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

Dai was There – 1968

The first Annual Concert was performed in 1968 at Green Lane School, where the Choir now held their rehearsals. By now the Choir, still under the baton of Ralph Hodges, was accompanied by Mrs Edith Bourton-Tuckwell. The solo artist for the concert was Mrs Ann Richards, who had become a regular performer with the Choir. Also around this time light entertainment at concerts was provided by second tenor Ken Rowlands and Jan Castellari who was a local magician and illusionist. Miss Ann Ruggles, later to become Mrs Ann Sykes, also frequently appeared as a solo artist.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’

Dai was There – 1960’s

Well, in the beginning I wasn’t as the title may suggest, but I thought I would start by outlining what I know of the Choir’s early years. There are almost no records of the early 1960’s but a brief history can be sketched from a few that still exist and personal memories of the people I knew at that time. The early part of the decade saw a large increase in the population of Caldicot as men and their families moved from other steeltowns to join the workforce at the new giant Richard Thomas and Baldwin’s, Spencer Works at Llanwern. A fully integrated steelworks soon to employ over 9000 people.

Many of these men were from ‘Male Voice’ country, and so in 1963 a small group got together to form a Choir. The local headmaster, Mr Ralph Hodges, who lived in Tintern, was elected Conductor, and Mr Roy Nanckievel as accompanist. The name of the Choir was agreed at the first meeting and was to be called ‘THE CALDICOT AND DISTRICT MALE VOICE CHOIR’.

There were few rules to start but the stage dress stipulated that if possible the chorister should wear a dark lounge suit and a white shirt. The only mandatory item was a black tie which had diagonal gold stripes. While we are on the subject of the striped tie, it brings to mind an incident which happened much later. When Roy Clements joined the Choir he immediately purchased his tie. Unfortunately no one informed him where to get it and so he duly turned up for his first concert only to find his ‘stripes’ went the opposite way to all the others.

Immediately the Choir were in demand for local concerts and initially this was their role, singing to local groups and OAP clubs. However, the dedication of the twenty strong group was soon evident as the Choir started taking on concerts further afield. It may surprise some more recent choristers to learn that even with this small number they regularly sang some of the ‘greats’ such as ‘Martyrs‘, and ‘The Crusaders’. The Choir remained just above the twenty mark for most of the mid 1960’s.

From Dave Gould’s Choir History – ‘Dai was There’