From the Taff to the Thames

The London Welsh Festival of Male Voices at the Royal Albert Hall, 2016.
Photo courtesy of John Downing MBE.

It is 21st October 1972 and I’m walking out onto the stage of the Royal Albert Hall for the first time, ready to sing to a capacity audience. My heart is thumping. Nine months earlier, my only musical experience had been standing on a chair in my local club in the rugby-mad town of Treorchy in the Rhondda Valley, belting out Tom Jones’s ‘Delilah’. So what had changed?

I came to work in London at the end of 1971 and, like most ex-pats, I looked for my fellow countrymen and found the London Welsh Rugby Club and the London Welsh Male Voice Choir. 

Treorchy is famous for male voice singing and has one of the best choirs in Britain so it was only natural I found myself joining a London-based Welsh choir. Since that day in 1972, I have sung at the Royal Albert Hall on many occasions, appeared at two Royal Variety Performances and been part of the backing choir for Roxy Music, Take That, Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones.  

In 2003 I combined my love of music and rugby and became one of the founders of the London Welsh Rugby Club Choir. We have appeared on radio and television and were invited to perform at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics. Not bad for amateur singers.  

Teddington is a world away from the South Wales mining valleys but it’s now my home and has been for the past 14 years. I love looking out of my window every morning to see Teddington Lock and the woods beyond. Being able to walk up one of the best high streets in Britain, with Bushy Park on the doorstep, is a complete joy. Lockdown has brought our community together – I have got to know my neighbours who were complete strangers to me before.

If you are thinking of joining a choir, don’t think, do it! You don’t need to be a great singer or read music, but you do need one essential quality –the ability to listen to the voices around you and blend in. If you can hear yourself then you are singing too loudly and need to tone it down. 

The last 50 years have been a wonderful musical journey from my local rugby club to some of the world’s great auditoriums and sporting venues. Why not get involved in singing and see where it takes you?

Joe Jones

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