VOICES are stilled, harmonies silenced, as choirs all over the country are prevented from meeting up and enjoying the simple pleasure of singing together.

For Pembroke and District Male Voice choristers, their concert at Pembroke Town Hall on St David Day was the first of 15 booked for 2020, with more to be arranged.

Reluctantly but inevitably, in the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the decision has been made to cancel all concerts for the rest of this year, with dates transferred to 2021. Choirs face fundamental difficulties in social distancing at practices and at concert venues – Pembroke and District practices at St Teilo’s Church Hall in Pembroke Dock.

The choir has been an ever-present part of the musical and social scene in Pembrokeshire for 68 years, forming as the Pembroke Borough Choir after a first call for voices in October 1952. That same month the first practice was held at Trinity Schoolroom, Pembroke Dock, which became the venue for weekly sessions. Inaugural officers were: Chairman A V Rees; Secretary Hugh Davies; Treasurer F G Lloyd; Music Secretary Owen Jones.

In between the new choir had made a brilliant appointment, one which was to splendidly guide them for the next 47 years – that of their first conductor, Mr W P ‘Bill’ Lewis, up until his death in 1999. Deputy Conductor David Gwynne took charge for five years before the founder conductor’s daughter, Christine Lloyd, became musical director.

Christine was choir accompanist for 39 years and today the Lewis family tradition continues with husband Phil as choir secretary, daughter Jenny as accompanist and son Steve a member of the second bass section.

Bethel Baptist Chapel, St Florence, was where the new choir made its county debut in April; 1953, press reports enthusing "this combination of 50 excellent voices sang magnificently," and "the choir….has only been in existence for a few months and with such enthusiasm and interest among its members it is certain that Mr Lewis and his colleagues will fill a long felt want in the musical life of the Borough."

The programme included timeless male voice pieces like ‘Crimond’, ‘Passing By’, ‘All In An April Evening’ and ‘Comrades In Arms’.

Since that spring day 67 years ago the choir has performed at countless venues – chapels, churches, village halls, and on much bigger stages including the Welsh male voice gatherings at London’s Albert Hall on many occasions. Members have toured in Ireland, Germany and the UK and formed enduring connections with other choirs, both in the UK and Ireland and overseas. The choir takes great pride in supporting many worthy causes and never charges for its performances.

This week’s focus upon archive photographs looks back to the early decades of the Pembroke Borough Choir – which changed it name to the current Pembroke and District Male Voice in 1974. These photographs are from the choir’s own archive – also now part of the Pembroke Dock Heritage Centre collection.

With acknowledgement to Christine and Phil Lloyd.