Kidwelly Festival Choir


Côr Gŵyl Cydweli

History of the Choir

as recollected by Mrs. Enid Harries

To celebrate the Festival of Welsh Castles in 1983 a wonderful diary of events was arranged in Kidwelly Castle. The Civic Society in Kidwelly were asked to organise this by the Town Council, and they appointed as Festival Director Mr. J.E.V. Fisher, a detective in the Dyfed-Powys Police and a native of the town.

A prestigious affair lasting some seven days was arranged, with most events taking place in the castle grounds. The superb programme was opened by a Songs of Praise, and included drama, lectures, a performance by the male voice choir Hwyrnos, a silver band, a children's choir, a Medieval Fayre organised by the Scouts, and an exhibition of "Old Kidwelly" - culminating in a Grand Pageant organised by the local WI. The weather, surprisingly, was incredibly warm and sunny for the duration, with the magical addition of swallows swooping around the castle towers during evening performances. The Festival certainly put Kidwelly on the map, as witnessed by a Hollywood actor attending one of the performances.

Following the success of this wonderful week the idea of forming a mixed choir in Kidwelly was suggested - the brain-child of the renowned musician Dr. Terry James (also a native of Kidwelly but at that time living in Los Angeles). The idea was received with great enthusiasm, and subsequently a small committee, who met at the Borough Ofices (the old Pelican Inn) arranged to advertise for members. The response was tremendous, and the following January a choir of some 30 voices attended the first rehearsal. It was decided that we should call the choir Kidwelly Festival Choir as the Festival had instigated the birth of the idea.

Dr. Terry James, whose musical reknown was global, was unable to assume the position of Musical Director due to other commitments. However, we were most fortunate to acquire the able talents of Mrs. Catherine Francis to take up the baton, and the newly-formed choir soon went from strength to strength. In addition to writing and arranging music for the choir Mrs. Francis wrote two wonderful works - Benedictus and Magnificat, and we did in fact make a tape recording of Benedictus.

Some years ago we set up a friendship with a German choir from Nieder Liebersbach whose members visited us on two occasions and performed a concert in St. Mary's Church. They subsequently reciprocated by twice hosting us, and we performed a couple of concerts at Weinheim and Nieder Liebersbach. We had a wonderful time and many members of our choir are still in contact with the German friends they made at that time.

Mrs. Francis continued as our Musical Director for 13 years but then had to resign due to ill-health. She was succeeded by another excellent conductor, Mr. Penri Williams, well known at Cymanfaoedd Canu. He was later followed by Mr. Roger Lewis, who was not only our Musical Director but also an accomplished cellist and often performed at our concerts with his Tawe Quartet ensemble.

Following Roger's departure we considered ourselves fortunate in procuring the services of an energetic young Director, Mr. Andrew Pike. Andrew is also a proficient organist and accompanist. We fondly remember the time, some years ago, when he accompanied the choir at a concert at New Quay in Cornwall.

At the time of writing the choir numbers some 50 voices, but we are always keen to acquire new members, especially for the male sections. We have exciting plans for this year, as we celebrate our 30th Anniversary.

The Choir in 1994

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