Côr Meibion Cymru De Affrig (The Welsh Male Voice Choir of South Africa)
Every year, choirs in the Welsh tradition around the world celebrate Saint David’s Day, which falls on the 1st of March, by holding a concert on the nearest weekend. Saint David’s Day (Welsh: Dydd Gŵyl Dewi) is the feast day of Saint David, the patron saint of Wales. Locally, Côr Meibion Cymru De Affrig, the Welsh Male Voice Choir of South Africa, will bring their tribute by holding a concert at Johannesburg’s Roodepoort Theatre on Saturday 3rd March, following a practice held dear by its members since the choir’s establishment. The celebrations will be all the more joyous as 2018 also marks their 40th anniversary.
The choir was officially formed in January 1978 by a group of Welsh expatriates. The seeds, however, were sown in late 1976 in the Killarney Hotel, Florida, Roodepoort. On Friday nights, about half a dozen of the local Welshmen gathered to enjoy the Welsh custom of informal sing-songs. Around mid-1977, it was proposed that a proper Welsh Choir be formed, with the intention of having a vehicle for promoting and preserving the unique art form. To this end, the group started rehearsing in the Durban Deep Gold Mines welfare facility. By the end of the year, the talented Rosa Roos (d.) had become involved. Sponsorship was obtained from the Light Horse Regiment and in January 1978, rehearsals moved to the German Hall in the then Rand Show Grounds (now part of Wits University Campus).
In keeping with the generosity of the Welsh spirit, the choir continues to exist as a non-profit-making organisation made up of amateur choristers, whose only reward is to give enjoyment to others through the medium of song. Throughout its history the choir has gravitated towards performances which engender social elevation, whether it be to raise money for service, charity or educational organisations, or to provide publicity for artists and choirs from differently privileged backgrounds. From its inception, the invitation to membership has been open to men from all backgrounds who have a love for singing and an affinity for the Welsh choral tradition. At present, there are in excess of 40 active members, few of whom are of Welsh extraction. For each, however, the upholding of the principles on which the choir was established is paramount. Never one to rest on its laurels, the choir is always actively seeking new members and performance opportunities that bring joy to new audiences.
For its Saint David’s Day concert in 2018, the choir will deliver a high-spirited rendition of songs both traditional and popular, from a repertoire that blends the many influences in its rich cultural heritage, under the batons of Mr Neil Bennett, the choir’s current Musical Director, and Dr Alwyn Humphreys (MBE). Dr Humphreys is a true icon of the Welsh Male Voice Choir custom, and is visiting South Africa from Wales by special invitation. The choir is proud to have Dr Humphreys as a Vice President. The audience can also look forward to a memorable performance by guest artist, the celebrated Nicholas Nicolaidis. The choir and Mr Nicolaidis share a long association (he lent his considerable talent as its Musical Director from 1998 to 2003, and remains one of its Vice Presidents), so their reunion on stage for this concert is sure to be something special. Piano accompaniment will be provided by virtuoso Hildè van der Meulen, for whose fond patronage the choir is deeply indebted. Ms van der Meulen expresses her considerable generosity by also being the executive director of the Marimba Education Foundation, who’s vision it is to add quality to the lives of young South Africans by providing opportunities for artistic self-expression through marimba playing, and to foster youth development through recreational music-making, encouraging discipline, skills development, group awareness, self-esteem and social cohesion.
The concert is open to all members of the public, and will commence at 15h00 on Saturday 3rd March 2018 in the Roodepoort Main Theatre. The event is always beautified by the inclusion of daffodils, a flower well-recognized as emblematic of Wales.