On a cold Tuesday evening on the 29th of January 1980, fourteen men gathered at Cambrian Hall for the Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir’s first rehearsal. A few months earlier, Gwyn Evans, Bill Jones and John Wilkinson had gotten together to discuss starting a choir here in Vancouver. John who was a teacher at John Oliver Secondary School invited his colleague, music teacher Denis Whyte to direct the choir. Singers were recruited through advertising in the local press and by word of mouth via the Welsh Society.
Within a year, the choir had grown to around 50 men as evidenced by the above photograph. From modest beginnings, the choir quickly built up an eclectic repertoire that included the expected Welsh traditional songs and hymns such as Myfanwy and Gwahoddiad, but also folk songs from the Commonwealth and spirituals. This tradition continues today with the choir boasting over seven hundred songs in its ever expanding library.
In addition to Celtic concerts in the spring and the busy fall season around Remembrance Day and Christmas, the choir started touring in and around British Columbia and around the world. Choir members have many fond memories of visiting Australia, the UK, Europe and the US. However for many, the two big highlights were participating in the London Millennium Festival of Welsh Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall in October 2000 which featured over 1000 singers from 18 choirs from all continents around the world; and being invited by the Russian Ministry of Culture to participate in the official 300th Anniversary celebrations of the founding of St Petersburg in 2003.
The Vancouver Welsh Men’s Choir faces the future with confidence as it continues to celebrate the joy of singing, to build community and to support local young musicians. We welcome you whether you are tenors, baritones or basses to join us as we look forward to the next 40 years!