Fondly remembered: Gethin Hughes

Côr Meibion Llanelli will be remembering their former accompanist, Gethin Hughes, at their annual concert at Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli (Saturday, June 30, 7pm).

Gethin was affectionately known as Llanelli’s ‘Mr Music’ prior to his death in 2011. Following his death, a special Gethin Hughes Memorial Bursary Scholarship was established. The first winner of the cash bursary was Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama student Megan Thomas, from Trimsaran. The choir’s annual concert in June will feature the contest to decide the next winner of the bursary scholarship. The competition will form the centrepiece of the concert by Côr Meibion Llanelli Male Voice Choir, with the choir performing a wide-ranging repertoire dovetailing the competition.

The Gethin Hughes prize is the brainchild of Côr Meibion Llanelli musical director Mr D Eifion Thomas, a close friend of the late Mr Hughes.

“Gethin was a great pal and a long-serving accompanist for Cor Meibion Llanelli,” said Mr Thomas.
“We travelled the world to concerts and festivals and Gethin was famous the world over for being a real character and a wonderful ambassador for Llanelli.

“Gethin made an outstanding contribution to music in Llanelli and in Wales. It is wonderfully fitting that we should honour his memory and celebrate his life with a musical bursary prize.
“Gethin cared very much about supporting and promoting youngsters on their musical careers. Hopefully, this award will go a long way to encouraging, supporting and developing musical talent in Carmarthenshire.”

The bursary organisers also include Cor Meibion Llanelli chorister Richard Christopher, Gethin’s second cousin.

Mr Christopher explained: “The aim is to perpetuate Gethin’s memory by making this a regular competition for young Carmarthenshire musicians. The prize is a cash bursary to the winner to help them in their first year of music college.”

Gethin died just a few days short of his 76th birthday. He was closely linked with the famous Triniti Chapel in Llanelli and was a much-respected music teacher at Ysgol y Strade, Llanelli. He founded the Llanelli Young Music Lovers and spent a substantial amount of his free time taking his concert party on the road to support various charitable events. For many years, Gethin contributed a regular column in the Llanelli Star newspaper. The ‘Solo Note’ columns later formed the basis of a book called ‘Always be natural’. It was a title given to him by the late great entertainer Roy Castle, who told Gethin – ‘Never be sharp, Never be flat, Always be natural’.

Gethin’s stories were always liberally sprinked with stardust. The list of stars and celebrities he met and accompanied was endless. He was lucky enough to call many of them his friends. From Sir Malcolm Sargent to Gracie Fields, from Betty Driver and Bill Roache of Coronation Street, from Jack Warner to Elsie and Doris Waters . . . Gethin had stories to tell about them all.

Gethin was also known for his sense of adventure. From scuba-diving off The Great Barrier Reef in Australia to riding a mechanical bucking bronco at a Wild West centre in Denver, Colorado, to playing out his inimitable party pieces at post-concert Cor Meibion concerts, nothing was too much of a challenge for Gethin. Gethin spent 65 years as an accompanist at his beloved Triniti Chapel in Llanelli. His work as an accompanist and fund-raiser for various charities earned him an MBE – but it also earned him much more. It earned him the affection and respect of the people of Llanelli and beyond.

About Côr Meibion Llanelli
There’s an old saying that identifies the easiest job in the world as being the person who introduces a guest speaker ‘who needs no introduction’. The same can be said of any attempt to paint a brief profile of Côr Meibion Llanelli. It would take a fairly hefty book to summarise the achievements of the choir over a history spanning more than 50 years. But here are some keynote events –

Côr Meibion Llanelli was formed in the village of Bynea under the baton of the late Denver Phillips BA. in 1964. The choir’s longest-serving music director is the present holder of the baton, D Eifion Thomas, who has helped the choir grow in stature and strength to become one of the leading male choirs in Britain. They have been successful at all the major choral competitions that Wales has to offer.

The honours list includes five National Eisteddfod first prizes – at Lampeter in 1984, Fishguard in 1986, Llandeilo in 1996, Bridgend in 1998 and Llanelli in 2000. The roll-call of wins also records seven firsts at the Miners Eisteddfod at Porthcawl, six firsts at Cardigan and three Pontrhydfendigaid “Eisteddfodau”.

The Llanelli Male Choir has graced many leading auditoriums and concert halls in the land – London’s Royal Albert Hall and Festival Hall, Birmingham’s Town and Symphony Halls, Oxford Town Hall, Plymouth’s Guild Hall, The MacRoberts Centre at Stirling, as well as Cardiff’s St David’s Hall and Swansea’s Brangwyn Hall.

The choir has travelled extensively throughout the world – Germany, Canada, USA. France, Ireland, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Most recently, the choir performed at the British Army ‘BritFest’ in the garrison town of Paderborn in Germany.

The choristers have thousands of pounds for charities such as Cancer and Leukaemia Research, The Red Cross, Heart Foundation and Tenovus as well as local charities and school groups.

The choir rehearses twice weekly on Monday and Thursday evenings at Furnace Community Hall, 7pm start. Visitors and new members are welcome.

Words and pictures by Robert Lloyd, www.rlloydpr.co.uk

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