The age of the tour

By 1960 Mads was getting restless. Having achieved success domestically the choir was keen to explore the continent and beyond. According to the University’s Courier magazine in 1960, this new adventurous spirit was largely attributable to Mads’ new conductor, Roy Bohana. Whatever its origins, it was a spirit that remained strong throughout the 1960s.


The tour of the 1960s showed Mads as being adventurers. Not only were the trips to far flung countries such as Iceland, Canada and the USA but they were also often months long. International political divides were no barrier to such trips as that to Russia in 1964.

Working in the world of media

Another highlight of 1964 was the contribution that Mads made to a BBC programme in a series called Songs for the asking. The programme was compered by Michael Aspel and featured the BBC Welsh Orchestra under the Baton of Arwel Hughes with Charles Clements on the piano, and transmitted on Friday 29th May.


As seen from this account book from the 1960s, Mads had support from many important Welsh characters such as the poet T. H. Parry Williams and composter and head of the university music department, Professor Parrott.


Mads Memories

“Our decision to go there was mind boggling in its naivety. Hardly any of us had realised the rather Spartan conditions that existed in Leningrad and Moscow in 1964 but we were determined to go ‘somewhere different’ and so the committee, chaired by John Lyn Davies, contacted the Soviet Embassy, offering our services during the summer vacation of 1964. We were invited to spend two weeks in September singing at various educational establishments and, possibly, on television. The trip lasted three weeks because of the long train journey across Europe.

“We were warmly received everywhere and treated to some wonderful visits to palaces, cathedrals and all types of museum. On one occasion we saw a mile-long queue to Lenin’s mausoleum in Red Square and our guide suggested that we might like to join. After a quick conference (in Welsh, of course, as most of our singers spoke the language of Heaven!) we asked to be excused, pleading exhaustion. Without further ado, the guide spoke to a policeman who parted the queuing throng a few yards from the entrance and placed us in the gap. Not one of the Russians complained!

“Yes, we gave many concerts, including ones at the Leningrad Conservatoire and Moscow University, and also appeared on two television programmes, but I think all eighteen members of Mads would agree that the experience as a whole has remained vivid in our memories, because that 1964 trip changed our outlook on the world.”

— Joan Wyn Hughes on the 1964 tour to Russia

“In 1964 Michael Tippett came to Aberystwyth and Mads put on a concert in his honour in the Exam Hall (Old College building). We sang his folks songs from the British Isles – of course, we did the Welsh one ‘Gwenllian’. One member of the choir (tenor, of course!) hadn’t realised that we were singing it in English for Tippett – the copy has Welsh and English words. So we all began singing ‘My heart’s delight, delight’. The tenor (who was not looking at the conductor glaring at him and ignoring the prods from his fellow singers) sang ‘Gwenllian, Gwenllian …’ in dulcet tones which reached Tippett’s ears above the rest of the choir. We all went on singing until we realised that Tippett – who was a tall and rubbery man sitting in the front row – was doubled up laughing! This cleared the air, so we all stopped, had a good laugh and started again, all singing the same language! He was extremely chatty and friendly and at the end of the concert played us his second piano sonata that he had just composed – the public hadn’t heard it yet. A day that should go down in Mads’ history!”

— Dorothy Clarke telling the story of meeting one of Britain’s foremost composers