Rhondda Vicar Rekindles Valley’s Musical Heritage

Fr Paul and Grahame at piano sm

Fr Paul Bigmore with poet Dr Grahame Davies at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

A community project set up by a vicar to rekindle music in the Rhondda Valley marks its 15th birthday this weekend (Oct 20) with a celebration concert.

The Archbishop of Wales, a children’s choir, an award-winning tenor and soprano will be among those joining in the birthday celebrations of Music in the Community – a project which has brought music into the lives of more than 35,000 people over the years.

The concert is organised by the project’s founder, Father Paul Bigmore, vicar of the parish of Ynyshir, and it will feature the premiere performance of work he has composed – a hymn dedicated to the Archbishop and settings of poems by two contemporary Welsh writers. The event will be a double celebration for the parish as it also marks its 125th anniversary that weekend.

Neath soprano Shoshana Pavett will sing Fr Paul’s settings of two poems – In Expectation, by Christine James, Wales’ first female Archdruid of the National Eisteddfod, who is from Tonypandy, and Departed, by Dr Grahame Davies.

Also being sung for the first time will be a hymn composed by Fr Paul and dedicated to the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, for his ministry to the project.

Children from Cor y Cwm – a choir made up of children from schools in the Rhondda – will perform in the concert, which is called “Ancient and Modern: from Bach to Bigmore”. And the audience will have the chance to hear one of the first performances of Welsh tenor Joshua Owen Mills, from Neath, since he won the MOSCA Young Welsh Singer of the Year Award at the end of September. In August Joshua also became the first person ever to win two prestigious National Eisteddfod prizes in the same year – the Towyn Roberts Scholarship and the Osborne Roberts Memorial.

The artistic director of the concert will be Andrew Wilson-Dickson, a tutor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Fr Paul, who is presently studying post-graduate composition at the College, hopes the concert will be an opportunity to thank those who have been involved in making Music in the Community such a success.

He says, “Music in the Community has enabled thousands of people to engage with music and ministry, providing opportunities for academic studies and group activities. Its outreach programme, for example, has encouraged the revival of hymn singing in Wales and seen choristers from Canterbury Cathedral perform in the Rhondda and school children from Ynyshir perform at Canterbury Cathedral, in front of two archbishops.

“I am delighted that so many talented people are now able to perform at this concert and join us as we celebrate the gifts God has given us, making the Rhondda once again the home of excellent music.”

Archbishop Barry says, “The Music in the Community initiative has touched the lives of many people, from all ages and cultures. It has brought them together, sharing in fellowship and widening their understanding of music as a vehicle for expression and communication. It has provided opportunities for people to experience the arts in new ways and has helped revive our spiritual heritage and culture. So I am delighted to join in its birthday celebrations.”

The concert takes place at St Anne’s Church, Ynyshir, on Sunday, October 20 at 3pm.
Tickets need to be ordered in advance to avoid disappointment. To obtain tickets either:

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 01443 684148

Meanwhile, the parish of Ynyshir celebrates its 125th anniversary the same weekend. It is holding an exhibition on Saturday, October 19, featuring displays of parish records and local societies and groups which have been involved with the parish over the years. The exhibition will be opened at 11am by John Watts, the Deputy Mayor of Rhondda Cynon Taff, and will stay open until 3pm. There will also be a cake and savoury competition in the church hall on the same day. All entries have to be submitted between 6-7pm on Friday, October 18.

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