2012 Islwyn Norman 2gggVeteran choristers from the Treorchy Male Choir have each reached a staggering 70 years of unbroken service to the world-famous organisation.

Islwyn Morgan and Norman Martin both joined as youngsters in 1947 and their special anniversary probably makes them the two longest serving members of a male voice choir in the world.

The musical duo joined the ranks only a few short months after the Choir was reformed following World War II.

Now they are the elder statesmen of the group and despite the advancing years rarely miss a single rehearsal, concert or even an overseas tour.

Islwyn, aged 89 of Matexa Street, Ton Pentre and Norman, aged 93 of St David’s Street, Ton Pentre are both Vice Presidents of the Choir.

They have both held senior positions in the Management Committee with Islwyn serving as Secretary for 20 years and Norman as Registrar and Archivist for 40 years.

Islwyn, who performs in the ranks of the First Tenor section explained, “The Treorchy Male Choir has played such a massive part in my life that I cannot imagine being without it. I’ve made lifelong friends, met some wonderful people and travelled the world – things I would never have done had I not been part of the Choir.

Second Tenor Norman added, “To think that one moment you’re being introduced to the Queen and the next you’re singing in the Sydney Opera House or visiting the White House. It is absolutely unbelievable.”

Together the old friends have appeared in more than 2,000 concerts, sang on over 90 commercial recordings, made 500 television and radio programmes, attended over 6,500 rehearsals and performed to packed audiences in the biggest concert halls across UK, Europe, Canada, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

They have performed alongside Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Burt Bacharach, Katherine Jenkins and Julie Andrews and have also made guest appearances on the Royal Variety Show and for the Prince of Monaco.

David Bebb, Chairman of the Treorchy Male Choir said, “No words can possibly express the immense debt of gratitude we owe Islwyn and Norman for their unbelievable dedication to the Choir for a combined 140 years.

“It is staggering to think that both men have served this Choir for an absolute lifetime and continue to remain dedicated choristers despite the passing of the years.

“Surely they must be the longest serving male voice choir members in the world today.

“Their contribution to the Choir knows no bounds and we look to them frequently for advice and support when decision-making takes place.

“Many of us have grown up with Islwyn and Norman regarded as the elder statesmen of the Choir and we hold them in high esteem, not just as first-class choristers but true gentlemen.”

One of ten children born in Stuart Street, Treorchy, Islwyn was the son of a well-known male voice choir conductor. He was a first-class scholar at Pentre Secondary School and at the age of sixteen became a clerk at Rhondda District Council He remained with the Council until early retirement in 1980.

In 1946 he undertook National Service with the Royal Navy and was stationed on the Cumberland Cruiser at Plymouth. Islwyn met his sweetheart Margaret while worshipping at Noddfa Chapel in Treorchy and in 1953 they were married. The couple had two children, Rhydian and Anne.

It was at Noddfa that Islwyn joined his family in song. All of the children had fine singing voices and all worshipped together where they often took part in oratorio and gymanfaoedd ganu. His elder brother, David, joined the Treorchy Male Choir during the 1930s and when the Choir was reformed in 1946, many of the brothers soon followed suit. Islwyn was the youngest and last to join at the start of 1947.

Also the son of a miner, Norman was born in Treherbert but grew up in Chepstow Road, Cwmparc. At the age of 14, he left school to work in nearby Park Colliery as a collier boy. His working life underground continued for a further 25 years during which time he endured all of the hardships and dangers faced by fellow colliers on a daily basis. These were the years of pre-Nationalisation of the coal industry and in the case of the Park Colliery, pre-machinery too, with miners supporting the low seams with pit props and toiling with a pick and shovel as tools. Norman was one of 2,000 men working at the Park Colliery during those years.

In 1941 Norman was one of the many local residents who witnessed the indiscriminate bombing of Cwmparc by the Luftwaffe. He worked throughout the night to try and free the living from the wreckage of their homes.

Norman was largely self-educated, eventually studying at night school in the Rhondda College in Llwynypia where he gained extensive qualifications in mining engineering, eventually leading to his appointment as a Deputy Overman in the Colliery. With Nationalisation came a new hope and atmosphere for better conditions underground and Norman’s continued studies at night-school resulted in him achieving the standard of a qualified Chartered Engineer and Mining Engineer.

A self-made man, Norman’s academic prowess in the fields of mining, engineering and mathematics saw him accept the appointment of a lecturer at Rhondda College where he remained for the next 27 years. In 1947 he married Melba and they had one son, Alun.

One Sunday afternoon in April 1947 Norman was walking through Treorchy when he reached Glyncoli Road and heard singing coming from the local school. An old friend, Eilir Wright, called him inside and he first encountered the newly-formed Treorchy & District Male Choir under the baton of John Haydn Davies.

Norman’s dedication to the Choir remained unwavering. It was such dedication that resulted in the present-day Choir Archives of more than 10,000 items, making it probably the most comprehensive archive of any amateur organisation in the world today.