The choir has its roots in the slate quarrying village of Bethesda in the Ogwen Valley which lies on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park about 5 miles to the south east of the university city of Bangor. The choir can trace its origins back to the 1880’s when a united choir was formed from a number of smaller groups that existed on the various galleries or levels in the mighty Penrhyn Slate Quarry. Indeed, that choir travelled to Chicago for the World Trade Fair in 1893 under the name Penrhyn Male Choir and the present choir returned to “The Windy City” in 1993 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of their forefathers’ visit. After the First World War, unfortunately, there is a gap in the story and the choir as we know it today was formed in 1935.
In the beginning, almost all members of the choir were slate miners, as a workforce of almost 3000 worked at the quarry, but that number has now shrunk to under 200 and the choir has to draw its members these days from all walks of life including schoolteachers, local government officials, farmers and businessmen.
The Penrhyn Male Choir is one of the busiest choirs in Wales and before Christmas 2013 the members shared the stage with Wynne Evans, the operatic tenor who fronted the TV adverts for Go Compare. Just prior to that it was down to Cardiff for the international rugby match with South Africa where the choir was part of the pre-match singing on the pitch at the Millenium Stadium before 75,000 people. The following day a Welsh language TV programme featured the choir with one of Wales’ best known actors, John Ogwen, who hails from the same area.
In 2013 the choir recorded its latest CD called “Anthem” which contains a catholic and eclectic selection of songs from all over the world although the emphasis, naturally, is on native Welsh music.
This choir has travelled extensively with performances over the last twenty years in Germany, Finland, Hungary, Ireland and the USA and Canada as well as nearer home in Wales, England, and Scotland.
In October 2015 the choir had a short tour in America, having been invited to sing at the North America Festival of Wales, in Columbus, Ohio. Whilst in America the choir took the opportunity to arrange other concerts, the first at the Washington National Cathedral, then they visited old friends in Poultney, Vermont and performed in a concert in Glens Fall, NY. The tour culminated in the concert and “Cymanfa Ganu” at Columbus. The whole tour was a resounding success, and the choir hope to return to America in the not too distant future.
Musical Director Owain Arwel Davies B.Mus PGCE
Musical Director of Côr y Penrhyn since 2004, Owain Arwel Davies, an honors graduate from the School of Music at Bangor University, is currently Head of Music at Ysgol Tryfan, Bangor.
Brought up in Penrhyn Bay near Llandudno, Owain Arwel attended Ysgol y Creuddyn, and along with his father, Arfon Davies, was a member of Côr Maelgwn, conducted by Davey Jones. His mother, Eluned Davies, was brought up on Bronnydd Farm, Llanllechid, Bethesda, and in 2001 Owain Arwel returned to his roots in the Ogwen Valley. He settled first in Tregarth and now lives with his wife, Delyth and three children, Cerys, Elliw and Tomos in Carneddi, Bethesda.
His interests and musical commitments range from being a past member of one of Wales’ most successful brass bands, Beaumaris Band, and a former Principal Trombonist with the National Youth Brass Band of Wales and the Welsh Ensemble. He has enjoyed performances as a musician in some of the Country’s most prestigious venues. Such as The Albert Hall, Festival Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, St. Davids Hall and Brangwyn Hall to name a few. As a diverse musician he has also performed and recorded with some of Wales’ leading Rock and Pop Bands. He has also gained high acclaim for his musical productions in Music Theatre, recordings and television productions. In 2013, he was the MD for the Welsh television (S4C) Christmas concert ‘Carolau Llandudno’ directing, arranging and conducting the thousand voices and artists such as Wyn Evans and Peter Karrie. He is currently working on new music commission’s that will be performed and directed by himself in the ‘Bryn Terfel Theatre’, as part of Bangor University's new Arts and Innovation Centre opening in 2015. He is also in demand far afield as an adjudicator in many Eisteddfodau, and ‘cymanfa ganu’ director.
As a music teacher, Owain Arwel is well known in Wales for his qualities in nurturing and guiding talented young students, who have gone on to be professional musicians.
In 2014, Owain Arwel celebrated 10 years as MD of Côr y Penrhyn having had the privilege of leading this mighty band of men in numerous concerts all over the country and abroad. Under his direction, the choir has established themselves as one of Wales’ foremost entertainers and vocal ensembles.
Accompanist Frances Davies M.A., B.Mus., PGCE
Brought up in Dihewyd, Cardiganshire, Fran teaches at Grwp Llandrillo-Menai, she is also a piano teacher. She was victorious in the solo piano recital competitions both at the National Eisteddfod in Machynlleth and the Urdd national at Pwllheli. Fran is a life member, Music Ovate, of the Eisteddfod Gorsedd. Her bardic name being Frances Dalis. In 2007 she received a scholarship from ESRC to study the use of language in Caernarfon. She gained a PhD in 2013.