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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 August, 2004, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Male choir's first woman director
Sian Pearce
Sian Pearce said her appointment was 'a dream come true'
One of Wales' best known male choirs has appointed a woman as its musical director for the first time in its 69-year history.

Sian Pearce will take over when Alwyn Humphreys bows out in January after 25 years at the helm of Morriston Orpheus Choir.

Ms Pearce believes her appointment reflects the changing face of male choirs in south Wales.

She is the first woman to hold the post since the choir formed in 1935.

I think you have got to look at a varied programme but you have got to keep the hymns and the things Welsh male voice choirs are famous for
Sian Pearce

Morriston, like other choirs, has branched out into the pop world in recent years performing with the likes of Welsh rockers The Alarm and chart-toppers T'Pau.

And while traditional Welsh hymns are still a staple of the choir's programme, modern tunes have been added to its repertoire to broaden its appeal.

It is something Ms Pearce is happy to embrace.

"It is just moving forward," she said.

"You go with tradition but you have to be able to open yourself up to get a wider audience and these are things that are bringing in a younger audience."

Reputation

A freelance singing teacher, who grew up in Risca, she says she has noticed a growing interest in choral music among her students.

"I noticed with the choirs at the Eisteddfod last week there are a lot of younger members and youngsters that are coming through now," she added.

"I think you have got to look at a varied programme but you have got to keep the hymns and the things Welsh male voice choirs are famous for."

Ms Pearce described her appointment "as a dream come true" and said she had received a wonderful welcome from choir members.

"As part of the interview I had to take the choir during practice," she explained.

Alwyn Humphreys
Alwyn Humphreys is bowing out after 25 years at the helm

"I was nervous to start with because Morriston has such a good reputation, but I was not intimidated.

"As soon as I started I could feel that the choir was warm towards me.

"I went out feeling that even if I did not get the post I had been given the opportunity to conduct them and that was really nice."

Several established male voice choirs in north Wales have female musical directors but it is less common among the choirs of south Wales.

"I doubt whether it will make a difference being the first lady," she added.

"I just can't wait to get started. Alwyn's last concert is in January but from September I will be taking every other practice to feel my way in with Alwyn's help which is very generous of him."

New Year's Honours

In his 25 years with the choir Mr Humphreys has conducted and compered it in more than 500 concerts and for 25 albums.

He is a familiar face on Welsh television having presented major musical events such as the Henry Wood Proms, the Welsh Proms, the Royal National Eisteddfod and the Llangollen International Eisteddfod.

In the 2001 New Year's Honours he was made an MBE for his services to music.

Choir chairman, Jeff Harrison, said: "Sian was chosen by a clear majority of the votes from choir members.

"She will have a few months to work in parallel with Alwyn to learn the choir's traditions."




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