William John Evans 1866 – 1936

William John Ecans

William John Evans was born at 43 Commercial Street Aberdare on the 29th Nov. 1866. He was apprenticed to his father Rhys Evans, and worked with him in his tailoring business. He was given every encouragement at home to cultivate and develop his musical talent and he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the pursuit of music. He was appointed as organist and choirmaster of Siloa Chapel for 50 years, Aberdare, until 1935.

He was called upon to give organ recitals in many parts of South Wales. He also became a regular adjudicator at eisteddfodau and soon acquired popularity as a conductor of singing festivals throughout Wales. He conducted hundreds of these festivals. At Aberdare he rendered valuable service to the musical life of the town by establishing an orchestra and holding concerts at which the choral works of the great masters were performed. His orchestra won the chief prize at the Pontypridd national eisteddfod. The Mountain Ash male voice choir was victorious under his baton at the Albert Hall eisteddfod in London. It is said that he conducted nearly 1,000 singing festivals throughout Wales.

He was co-editor of the Welsh congregational hymnal: “Y Caniedydd Cynulleidfaol Newydd 1921,” and “Caniedydd Newydd yr Ysgol Sul, 1930.” Five of his own tunes were included in the former and his tune ‘Rhys’, composed in memory of his father for the Elvet Lewis hymn “Rho im yr hedd,” remains popular. Many musical compositions were performed by him and his father at Aberdare. He married Mary Elizabeth Milligan sometime during April and June 1895. After the death of his wife he retired from business and went to live with his son, Ifor L. Evans, then principal of the University College of Wales, at Aberystwyth. He died 12th Dec. 1947 at his son’s home and was buried in Aberdare cemetery. He was the father of Ivor L. Evans, Principal of University College Aberystwyth

Mr W. J. Evans’ “Home-coming” 8th September 1906

On Thursday evening it was noised abroad that Mr. W. J. Evans, the conductor of the victorious Cynon Male Voice Party, would return home that evening by the G.W.R. train that reaches Aberdare shortly before nine. By the time the train arrived a large crowd had assembled in the vicinity of the station. The hero of the hour, Mr. Evans, then entered a carriage which had been provided for him, and was escorted to the Market Hall, the crowd being headed by the Aberdare Town Band, who played “See the conquering hero comes.”

The meeting in the Market Hall was presided over by Councilor David Hughes, who, after remarking that the meeting would be an open one for the expression of feelings, called upon Mr. Llew Jones, who sang “Hen Wlad fy Nhadau.”

The Rev. D. Silyn Evans of Siloa Chapel observed that in most cases Eisteddfodic chairs and crowns went to cultured persons, such as preachers, but in the department of song the trophies were won by the common people, unlearned many of them. It was said that the Cynon Choir had been honoured at the Eisteddfod. No, it was the Cynon Choir that had conferred honour on the Eisteddfod. They had had good choirs in the valley under the conductorship of the late Mr. Tom Stephens and Mr. Tom Richards, but the Cynon Choir would compare favourably with either of them. Personally he was a flat shot as a singer. He had nevertheless come there to congratulate them and he would say most heartily, “Well done, sons of Cynon.” Some people entertained the fallacious idea that music in the Aberdare Valley was played out like the old Llwydcoed works. With regard to the conductor, like the “Village Blacksmith” in the song, “a mighty man is he.” Mr. Evans was not, like many singers, a man of one idea, but was a most versatile musician.

On 20th December 1913, Aberaman Choir’s New Conductor.

We learn that the conductorship of the Aberaman Institute Choir has been accepted by Mr. W. J. Evans, Aberdare, and that he commenced his duties on Sunday week. He succeeds Mr. T. Glyndwr Richards Mr. Evans does not propose to take part in any competition until the choir has been thoroughly trained by him.

Memorial to W.J. Evans Siloa Chapel, Aberdare
Memorial to W.J. Evans Siloa Chapel, Aberdare