The Music of Wales

The Music of Wales

There is no doubt that music is part of the Welsh identity. Any national occasion not only has the crowd passionately singing the national anthem but will also see many people turning up early to sing along with a choir, or a group, that has been invited as the pre event warm up.

The tradition of singing emanates from the church with many songs sung in churches around the British Isles that are regarded as Welsh. “Cwm Rhondda”, “Blaenwern”, and “Mor Fawr Wyt ti. Wmv” are sung passionately in churches up and down the Principality every Sunday.

The Treorchy male voice choir

The Welsh folk songs have also proved popular and many of these are seen as Welsh anthems. “Sosban Fach”, “Calon Lan” and “Myfanwy” have successfully made the journey from being folk sings to being regarded as national treasures. “Every Welsh man and woman believe that they have a great voice”, and while this may be a slight overstatement, there is hardly a Welsh ceremony or celebration that goes by without singing playing an important part of the occasion.

The country is often referred to as the “Land of Song” and this title has been passed on with its love of male voice choirs. Two of the most famous choirs are the Morriston Orpheus Choir and the Treorchy Male voice choir who have won man international competitions.

A number of the country’s choirs were established from the mining communities in the 19th century. With very little other social opportunities available, it was a natural path for people to go and sing in the choir after a day at work. It was socially acceptable to be a member of a choir.

Each mining community would also have its own brass band. These bands would meet regularly and also play in competitions against the other local communities. It was from this base that music was installed into the Welsh culture.

In the 20th century a number of individual singers started to emerge going on to become international stars. The opera world saw the emergence of Delme Bryn-Jones and Geraint Evans, and in recent times Bryn Terfel has found success as a classical singer.

The “voice of Wales” Tom Jones

Popular music saw the emergence of Tom Jones and Shirley Bassey with their individual voices selling many records. Bassey is perhaps most recognized as being the voice behind the theme tunes to the James Bond movies “Diamonds are For-ever”, “Goldfinger” and “Moonraker”. Tom Jones has a voice that is recognized around the world. It is so flexible that his range has included singing a wide variety of different genres and he has been selling records for over 60 years. He has sold over 100 million of them with 36 top 40 hits in the UK alone.

Today’s most popular Welsh individual singers are Aled Jones and Katherine Jenkins. Jones started singing as a teenage chorister before entering the classical world. Jenkins has proved to be a success with her soprano voice. She regularly performs operatic arias, musical theatre, popular songs and hymns.

The rock world has also seen the emergence of Welsh performers. The Manic Street Preachers were formed in Caerphilly in 1986 and their success has resulted in them being simply known as the “Manics”. Their success has not been affected by the sad disappearance of their former rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards in 1995. The band has sold more than 10m million albums around the world.

The Stereophonics were formed in 1992 in the village of Cwmaman in the Cynon valley. The band’s first album “Word Gets Around” was an immediate success and from this they went on to become only the 8th British band to have five consecutive number 1 albums. They have also sold over 10 million records and many of their songs are played at international occasions. The single “A Thousand Trees” is now regarded as a Welsh anthem and the group are still going strong today.

Music in Wales is a vital ingredient of the Country’s unique culture.