Page last updated at 05:54 GMT, Tuesday, 12 May 2009 06:54 UK

Choir hits 100 but fears decline

Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice Choir in the 1930s
The choir has been an important part of the community for 100 years

A 100-year-old male voice choir blames "other interests" for struggling to recruit new members, despite the success of a TV talent competition.

Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice Choir in Blaenau Gwent celebrates its centenary but with most members over pensionable age the future looks less than rosy.

The choir has around 50 singers, several of whom are over 80.

But as recently as the 1970s there were almost 150 of them, with an average age between 35 and 40.

Even the popularity of musical talent competition Last Choir Standing - won last year by Cardiff-based Only Men Aloud! - has failed to encourage new recruits.

Choir secretary Keith Davies, 75, said he hoped he was wrong but he believed male voice choirs were "on the wane".

My friends won't join but they think it's fine
Kristian Morse, 16, choir member

"We've got a problem in getting younger members. I suppose there's so many other interests these days," he said.

"Back in the 1970s, we had a choir of 145 singing members but now we've got about 50.

"The average age in those days was about 35 to 40 and it was the kind of thing where you finished playing rugby or cricket or whatever and you joined a choir."

Mr Davies said the choir had managed to attract some younger members a few years ago after performing with Tredegar Comprehensive School.

"We did a concert with the comprehensive school choir and we had about eight or nine that joined us," he said.

"Three or four lasted a couple of years but once they started courting or went to college, they left the choir."

The choir does have one young member, 16-year-old Kristian Morse, who is getting on for 70 years younger than some of the more experienced singers.

Tredegar Orpheus Male Voice Choir
The choir's average age has increased steadily since the 1970s but it has recruited 16-year-old Kristian Morse, pictured third from the left, back row

"It's a bunch of guys and we all enjoy it and have a laugh together - it's fun. They think they're younger than they are!" he said.

"My friends won't join but they think it's fine. They come to watch me in shows."

He said his friends were too busy watching television and playing on games consoles to join but he believed choirs did have a future.

"When they [young people] see them [choirs] singing more modern songs, they will start to join then," he said.

"Younger choirs are starting up and they're taking over the older choirs but there will still be choirs about."

But for those older choirs, recruiting younger members remains a problem - one which the band secretary sees on a regular basis when he attends concerts.

"I've seen one or two of the local choirs lately and they all look like us on stage - old!" said Mr Davies.

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