A l'Aube du Dernier Jour (Guitar Score) by Francis Kleynjans

By Francis Kleynjans

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In schools teaching in Welsh, the choral tradition is vigorous, if patchy. The Urdd Eisteddfod, for example, which involves thousands of young people in singing and other competitions, works closely with schools (especially Welsh-speaking schools). In 1996 there have been nearly 250 applications to join the National Youth Choir of Wales – more than double any previous entry. While adult male voice choirs are looking increasingly elderly, there has been a rise in the number of ‘chamber choirs’ (in part, because of unwanted reductions in membership, but also – and more significantly – out of financial considerations).

One of the aims of this change was to attract young people to take part. There is no statistical information about the Roman Catholic Church, but liturgical reforms which place a strong emphasis on the participatory role of the congregation have led to a weakening in the importance of choirs. Much choral music is disappearing from the ‘repertoire’ because its texts were written in Latin which, since the reforms following JOINING IN 45 Vatican II, is no longer used in church services. In the Free Churches the pattern of choral singing is stable and healthy, with an emphasis on congregational singing with support from instruments.

4 Arnold Bennett, whose Clayhanger novels are a fictional chronicle of the Pottery towns, noticed what was going on and wrote of choirs ‘which sang at dinners, free-and-easies, concerts, and Martinmas tea-meetings. ’5 By the 1880s a powerful personality had emerged, James Garner, who further developed choral singing and whose choir, the Hanley Glee and Madrigal Society, acquired a national reputation. When he died in 1905, 15,000 attended his funeral. He was evidently an inspired, if strict, teacher.

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