Friday 22 May 2015
Area connection to International Singing Star, Paul Robeson as recalled by Chorister, Roger Price.
On Friday, 22nd May, Bridgend Male Choir is delighted to be singing with Rutgers University Glee Club of New Brunswick, New Jersey at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Bridgend in a joint concert.
One of the USA's most successful choirs, all 76 choristers are aged under 25 years and will be bringing a wealth of musical experience. Possibly, Rutgers most famous former student is none other than international singer, Paul Robeson, who had an international career in singing, theatre & films and a very special relationship with this area. Some of this is recollected, by Bridgend chorister, Roger Price.
“In 1957 the South Wales Area of the National Union of Mineworkers extended an invitation to their great friend Paul Robeson to attend the South Wales Miners' Eisteddfod held at Porthcawl's Grand Pavilion. He couldn't come, the American government wouldn't let him leave the country because Robeson had upset too many people with his outspoken views and he was a victim of McCarthyism. But the NUM weren't about to give up: they established an audio link with New York from Porthcawl via the Transatlantic Telephone. Not as easy to do in those days as it is now.
So Robeson was able to speak and sing to his admirers waiting there to hear him. Amongst them the Treorchy Male Choir, conductor John Haydn Davies. Will Paynter, then President of the South Wales Area of the NUM, directed the proceedings and introduced the choir.
Paul Robeson's association with the South Wales miners stretched back to the late 1920s when he met a group singing on a hunger march. In 1938, at Mountain Ash, he spoke and sang at a great rally held in memory of Welshmen who had been killed in action with the International Brigade in Spain.
It was no surprise that Robeson should enjoy such a warm affinity with the South Wales miners. They shared a common philosophy and a vision of a fairer, more peaceful world.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, following the filming of "The Proud Valley" he returned to America to be showered with honours. Hamilton College of Clinton conferred on him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters with these words: "In honouring you today we do not express our enthusiasm for your histrionic or musical achievements alone, we honour you chiefly as a man, a man of tremendous stature who, above all else, travels across the world as an exemplar of the humanity and greatness of our democratic heritage" How sad that a decade later, in the climate of the McCarthy witch-hunt all honours, both meritorious and honorary, should be stripped from him.
Millions of people throughout the world have long since placed Paul Robeson in a proper world focus. His voice, his art, his humanity are known, admired, respected, appreciated and loved by millions in many countries on every continent.”
See and hear two accomplished choirs for just £5 at St. Mary's. For ticket enquiries, contact BMC Secretary, Gareth Reese T. 07773 170373 or any chorister.