The Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir (or Abertillery Orpheus Male Voice Party) was founded in 1908, although it had existed under other names since the 1870s, and was predominantly made up of members from local church choirs whom in turn, were employed in the local coal mines. Abertillery is a typically hard worked town in a narrow valley where coal tip clusters and mountains retain the scars of nineteenth century greed for coal at any price.
On Tuesday 6th June 1916 Dame Clara Butt, the world renowned Contralto, appeared at the Metropole, Abertillery in a concert to raise funds for the employment of Artistes who were adversely affected by the Great War. The Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir, conducted by Tom Bundred, supported Dame Clara Butt in the concert and the conductor later received a letter from Dame Butt congratulating him on his professionalism and organisational skills.
Other world renowned singers we have performed with include the former Principal Bass of the Royal Opera House Robertl Lloyd, who subsequently became Patron of the Choir. We have also performed with the Peter Karrie, viewed by many as the best Phantom of the Opera ever. Other soloists include Inia Te Wiata, Vernon and Maryetta Midgley, Cynthia Glover and Margaret Price. We have also been blessed over many years with having many fine local singers, both from within and outside the Choir.
These days, we don't spend our lives in the dark dangerous abyss of coal mining and since the closures of the mines we have moved into the world technicians in clean factories, headmasters, engineers, shop owners, gentleman of retirement and yes, unfortunately unemployment in some cases. This has no bearing in the choir. All men are born equal to Abertillery Orpheus Choir.
Our fathers and forefathers sang and we sing with them today. We are proud of our heritage. Only those of us who live here, know where to look for natural beauty. We can see the rugby posts in the park and remember the tries we scored in each slanting field. We know the stories of the 'tump', a burial place of ancient Briton's never proved, because each time it is disturbed it is miraculously replaced by the next morning! We know where to pick the blue bells and get clear mountain spring water in a drought.
Visit Abertillery one day and learn more, we'd love to see you. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy listening to our music, as much as we enjoy making it.
The Choir are currently researching the history of the choir with the aim of producing a printed history of the choir both for prosterity, reference and choir funds.
For more details visit the book project.
A list of current Choristers can be found here:
For details of how to sign up to these groups please visit our VP and Friends page
To view historic and current photos of the choir please visit our photo gallery.
Stephen Bard MA (Musical Director) Stephen was educated locally attending Nanyglo Comprehensive School where he began his music studies under the former choir conductor Mr Martin Budd who was, at that time, Head of Music. Stephen enrolled at Salford College of Technology where he studied for three years graduating with a Graduate Diploma in Band Musicianship. He took his postgraduate Certificate in Education at Bath College of Further Education later attaining a Masters of Arts Degree in Education form the Open University in 1996.
Stephen joined the Abertillery Orpheus Choir at the age of 15 and was appointed Assistant Musical Director in September 1991. After serving in that post for 8 years he became the Musical Director. He is also Musical Director of Abertillery Orpheus Ladies Choir and is on the Modern Languages faculty at Monmouth Comprehensive School.
Penny Hughes (Accompanist) Penny studied Voice at the Guildhall School of Music and Piano with varuious International Teachers. Penny has had a succesful career as a piano soloist and won several prizes including the Royal Overseas League competions in London. However it was her love of Ballet that won her over and she became a pianist for several Royal Academy of Dance (R.A.D) Schools in London and also provided her services as an additional pianist for the Sadlers Wells Company which is now the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Penny moved to Wales in 1990 and some became involved with several R.A.D ballet schools and also local Cecchetti ballet schools where is is the West Wales Associate Painist for the Society. Penny is on the staff of the Royal Ballet School of London and plays for specialist classes in Bath once per month. She is a highly experienced accompanist with a varied background in music and dance. She divides her time between her ballet work, a busy teaching schedule, and being the accompanist for three choirs.
Elizabeth Tiley (Deputy Musical Director / Accompanist)
Elizabeth Tiley graduted from Cardiff University with a B.Mus (Hons) degree in Music where she was awarded the Sir Geraint Evans Award for vocal performance for two consecutive years. In recent years Elizabeth has worked with Metro Voices at both Abbey Road Studios and Air Studios London recording numerous film soundtracks.
An experienced soloist, Elizabeth has been a featured performer on BBC Radio Wales and has performed at many presigious venues including Chatsworth House, The Wales Millenium Centre and St David's Hall Cradiff in shows such as The Three Phantoms, A celebration of Rogers and hammerstein and The Magic of the Musicals. Elizabeth is a former member of the national Youth Choir of Wales and Welsh National Youth Opera and is also an accomplished pianist and violinist.
The choir has made a number of recordings.
Some of these receordings are available for purchase at all concerts performances. You can also order a CD by contacting Abertillery Orpheus Male Choir
For more details visit our merchandise page
Whilst the choir was formed in 1908, it took until 1982 to do a continental tour. It was to Rome during the Easter Period and the choir received an audience with his Holiness Pope John Paul II in St Peter´s Square, whereupon he joined in the singing of a Polish Folk song 'Matka' which the choir had learnt especially for the occasion.
During the years since Rome, the choir has toured U.S, Canada, Germany, Holland, Spain, and France, with home tours across the UK including Scotland, where it was invited to take part in the Mary Mass Festival at Irvine in Ayrshire.
The choir have sang in many famous venues including the Usher Hall in Edinburgh, The Royal Albert Hall London and St David´s Hall Cardiff. In 1992, the choir took part in the world choir Ten Thousand Voice Concert at The National Stadium Cardiff. Here, the choir entertained the crowd at the National Stadium in its own right prior to the Wales v Italy international rugby match. In 1999 the choir performed in the closing ceremony of the Rugby World Cup at the new Millennium Stadium.
In August 2017 the choir represented Wales at the Interceltique Festival in Lorient, France (pictured above) and in 2018 we returned to the Royal Albert Hall to sing at the Festival of Welsh Male Choirs. We continue to regularly host visiting choirs and in 2019 we hosted a mixed choir from Stavanger, Norway.
Due to the onging Welsh COVID 19 restrictions the choir is not currently able to meet for rehearsals or concerts. We hope to resume reheasals in September 2021.
We will of course continue to learn new music, practice our Welsh language and support each other as friends and colleagues through this difficult time. We also continue to meet via video conferencing for Quiz and Poetry nights, in true Bardic tradition. We have also produced Lockdown Newsletters which you may find useful. These can be found on the members section. We remain hopeful that as the vaccine is rolled out across the UK that the rate of infections will reduce and choristers and audiences will feel more confident about returning to rehearsals and concerts.
Please keep an eye on our Facebook page which provides up to date information and memories.
For links to other Welsh Choirs and sites of local interest please visit the Links Page
50 years ago, in 1971, a group of chorister wives and friends decided to meet to discuss ways to raise money to help purchase much needed choir uniforms, and to provide ongoing financial help to the choir tours. The group are fittingly named after Eurydice, the beloved wife of Orpheus.
The ladies also help by running a tea and coffee rota to revitalize the men during weekly choir rehearsals. The ladies often accompany the men when the choir goes on tour and provide support for concerts by selling raffle tickets and choir mechandise. They also act as wonderful hosts for visiting choirs.
Just as the Male and Ladies choirs are seeking new members, so too is Eurydice.
If you would be interested in joining these wonderful ladies and supporting the choir's activities, please contact the Eurydice secretary, Teresa Bishop on 01495 301992
or 07900 854952
The benefits of singing have long been documented: We know it feels good to sing, but what actually happens to our bodies when we sing?
Research has shown that singing may actually help us ward off illness ( a benefit that is not to be underestimated in this current pandemic situation).
In order to understand the therapeutic effect of singing and how our voices can help our overall wellbeing, we explored the scientific mechanisms underlying the relationship between singing and our body chemistry.
We discovered that singing alters the hormones and neurotransmitters that boost mood-state and the immune system. We have also found that singing reduce stress, which is linked to so many health conditions. Our previous research shows that listening to positive music for more than 5 minutes a day can improve mood state and that engaging in music by singing or playing instruments is more effective than listening alone.
We have also found that singing can be good for mental well-being and that through group singing we can nurture our spiritual health and sense of belonging. Singing also boosts the immune system which may help reduce frequency of illness. For more details of the benefits of singing click here
You do not need to have a solo singing voice and you will not be required to have an embarrassing voice test in front of other people, just a short 5 minutes with our musical director to enable him to place you in the most appropriate singing section - if you are embarrassed to come along on your own not knowing any one, then please bring a friend with you as there is always plenty of room for all. The choir is always looking for prospective new members, so why not come along to our rehearsals and find out what we are all about.
There is a small weekly subscription which can be paid in person or, if you wish, you can set up a standing order for payment. If you want more information contact us via email or come along to Ebeneezer Baptist Church where choir practice takes place twice a week on Tuesday and Friday evenings at 6.45pm.Ebeneezer Baptist Church, Park Place, Abertillery NP13 1ED
We welcome enquiries from other choirs regarding joint concerts and we also welcome enquires from individuals and corporations to sing at Weddings, Corporate or promotional events, Birthdays and fund raisers. We are also available for Funeral Services and Celebrations of Life.
If you would like to discuss booking the choir please contact us by email below.The choir looks forward to the future with great confidence in the knowledge that our music helps enrich the lives of audiences both locally and further afield. Many charities have received financial benefit from concerts performed by the choir, a tradition it is hoped will continue in the years to come.
We are currently taking Concert bookings through till 2023, although we are happy to discuss longer term planning for Weddings and International and large scale events.For details of our Wedding services please visit our Wedding page