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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
Crisis for male voice choirs
Male voice choir generic
Numbers of choir members are dropping
There are fears that choirs are dying out in the land of song because of major recruitment problems.

A number of male voice choirs in south east Wales have said that they are struggling to attract young people to join their choirs.

Membership figures have been steadily declining over the last 30 years and many of the area's distinguished choirs are concerned about their future.

Keith Griffin from the Welsh Amateur Music Federation has been studying the problem.

Male voice choirs were strongest in manufacturing and industrial areas
Keith Griffin, Welsh Amateur Music Federation

He said that the drop in numbers has been a problem for some time adding that the collapse of industry in the south Wales Valleys had played a major part in the decline of the choirs.

"There are areas where numbers are suffering - mainly areas of high unemployment, but, where there are strong communities, the choirs are still strong.

"Male voice choirs were strongest in manufacturing and industrial areas - it is all about the local community.

"So, if you look at Ebbw Vale for example, the steelworks recently closed leaving 1,100 people without jobs.

"So the choir there isn't as strong as it was.

"People don't use their enforced leisure time to join the choirs and people don't tend to go out as much as they used to.

"Also chapel is declining and there are very few choirs in Wales which are chapel choirs," he added.

Men are in short supply in our area
Martin Hodson, Risca Male Choir

Martin Hodson, the music director for Risca Male Choir, whose choir won at the last National Eisteddfod, said: "I'm feeling the pinch because our numbers have gone down.

"I think the decline has been going on for some time.

"Men are in short supply in our area and we have under 60 on our books now.

"We seem to be down 10 to 12 men a year.

"We have tried all sorts of things to get our numbers back up because we are a good choir, but they still aren't coming," he said.

'Good sing-song'

His comments were echoed by Neil Price, the secretary of Tredegar Orpheus Male Choir.

"Unfortunately we are in the same position," he said.

"It is very difficult to get new members, we have had a few new members but generally speaking, it is very hard.

"I have only been a member for seven years and I have seen about 15 or 20 members leaving for various reasons.

"I think that the decline in chapels has contributed to the problem.

"What you find today is that young people don't have the chance or the opportunity to have a good sing-song.

"All of the choirs in our region are having the same difficulties in recruiting new youngsters," he added.

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