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 2016 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.