Testimonial from Australia to the South Wales Choral Union
To the Editor of the Cardiff Times 1st March 1873
Love of country is a strong characteristic of the Welshman, and though thousands of miles of sea and land may separate him from his native home, still his-sympathies will always tread in the direction of Old Cambria.
A striking illustration of fondness and recollection of home has recently been furnished in this district. A few months ago it became known amongst the Australians generally, and its Welsh inhabitants in particular, that four or five hundred sons and daughters of Old Gwalia had banded themselves together, under the title of the South Wales Choral Union, and determined to put in an appearance at the Crystal Palace, there to contend for the prize offered to the best choir.
As soon as the news of their success was received, a few of the Welsh inhabitants of this district determined to mark their appreciation of the brave little band of Choristers by presenting them with a National Baton, for which purpose the sum of £50 was quickly raised, chiefly among the working miners of “Sebastopol,” (a small township near Ballarat.)
The Baton, an illuminated address in Welsh, which I have forwarded by this mail to the Rev. Canon Jenkins, Aberdare, as chairman of the South Wales Choral Union, is intended to be presented by the Rev. J. Farr, on behalf of the subscribers. Mr. Farr having been a long resident amongst us, will possess the advantage of knowing how to convey correct information as regards the moral and social life of our miners, as well as the modus operandi of gold mining generally.
As a brief description of the Baton itself may not be uninteresting to some of your readers, I will explain that the body is composed of ebony, elaborately mounted in pure gold, and is an elegant production of the goldsmith’ art. Its length is 19 inches. The butt-end has a Druid’s head of solid gold, surmounted with a nicely cut crystal, found in the Prince of Wales’s claim, Sebastopol. Beneath the flowing hand of the Druid is the following inscription:
“Presented to the South Wales Choral Union, as a National Memento of their Success at the Crystal Palace, by a few admiring countrymen in Australia.—Ballarat, 1872,”
Over the inscription are the Australian Arms, the Kangaroo and gun richly embossed in frosted gold, entwined with fern leaves, the Prince of Wales’ feathers, and the “Ich Dien,”’ are immediately under the above. Next follows a ferrule with the oak leaf and acorn chased there-on, reminiscent of the sacred groves of the Druids, which forms a handsome terminal to that portion of the ornamentation. At the point of the Baton there is another ferrule three inches long, with the Welsh harp on one side, and the time honoured Leek on the other side. The Baton was manufactured by Mr. Johnson, jeweler of Sebastopol, and does him great credit, nor should I be doing justice to my son, (a native of Cardiff, by the bye,) did I omit to mention that he was the originator of the design, and supplied the necessary drawings. —I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient Servant,
HENRY DAVIS, Hon Sec. Iron Villa, Dytes Parade, Ballarat, Australia, Jan. 2, 1873.
21st March 1873
On Tuesday last two concerts were given by the South Wales Choral Union the first, a grand morning concert at the Athenaeum, and the second in the evening at Zion Baptist Chapel. The Challenge Cup, value 1,000 guineas, recently presented to them at the Crystal Palace was exhibited, also the gold baton, value 50 guineas, presented to the Union by Welshmen residing in Australia. The Swansea branch of singers, were met at the station by the Llanelly branch of the choir, and by the rifle corps Brass band, who played and sang on their way into town. Crowds of people, numbering some in the thousands, followed them, the trophy (the 1,000 guinea cup), were carried up in a box, and great was the anxiety manifested to see it. It was quite a gala day here, it being the half holiday, everybody was in their holiday attire, and the enthusiasm was great and very creditable to the inhabitants.
The Rev Canon Jenkins of Aberdare, appeared on the platform with the gold baton received from Australia, and was well received. He has been a firm friend of the choir since the commencement. His support has been of the most enthusiastic and valuable character. He explained the origin of the choir and how the gold baton bad been presented. The natives of Wales in Australia, having beard of the great success of their fellow-countrymen under the leadership of the redoubtable Griffith, “the working blacksmith,” were determined to commemorate the event by presenting him with a gold baton, with which to conduct the choir in future and he (the Canon) confidently anticipated that Caradog would again lead them on to victory as he had done before. The Rev Canon then sketched the history of the choir from its commencement, and the history of music in Wales. Giraldus Cambrensis, an ancient Welsh writer, had remarked centuries past on the singular genius of the Welsh for music, which had been proved in all ages. And when it was known that a prize of so valuable a character was offered by men of the highest culture, and anxious to cultivate a popular taste for good music at the Crystal Palace, the natives of South Wales were determined not to let the occasion pass without an effort being made on their part to secure the trophy. Though the music selected was of the most difficult kind, Bach, and Mendelssohn’s compositions were known for that, yet it did not deter the natives of “Gwyllt Walia” from making an attempt, and so far it has been a successful one. A worthy characteristic of this choir was, however, that though composed as they were of working men, colliers, miners, ironworkers, &c., they did not seek eagerly for the prize of gold alone. They had their reward in learning some of the compositions of the great masters. Mastering the most intricate and difficult pieces of music to such a degree (almost to perfection), which drew from judges, who were the greatest in the land, the highest encomiums. He had the authority of no less a gentleman than one own countryman (Mr Brinley Richards), that the judges on that occasion were unanimously of opinion that better singing could not be desired, and that the choir was unequalled, not only in the kingdom, but in the world. When the choir was started they wanted help, and noblemen and gentlemen had liberally come forward to help them as they were really in need of money. Some came forward with their guineas, and the poor workmen readily contributed their half-a-crown, &c., and he had no doubt of the future. They (the choir) represented Wales, and Wales and Welshmen were honoured by their achievements. This work of art (the gold cup) was one of great beauty. As it could be seen, the four pillars surrounding the cup, represented four of the greatest masters in music, Woodrupp, Palestina, Handel, and Mozart, all men of genius, filled with great thoughts, which they immortalized in their grand music. It had a wonderful influence on the human heart and was a great civiliser. He should like to see every working man exercise a taste for something, trying to excel in some art: music, poetry, painting, or architecture. To master such music as came from these great master minds, was equal to mastering a language such as the Greek, or any other difficult subject. It was an intellectual exercise of a high order. The Eisteddfodau had doubtless contributed in no small degree towards cultivating the intellect in literature and music, and the success of this choir was one of the results. He only had to hope that sufficient help would be given them to enable them to visit the Crystal Palace, in London, once more, and secure this trophy for Wales. He was quite confident himself of the result against all comers.
Caradog, now, with his gold baton in hand, mounted the chair in front of the choir, and they sang again Y Gwenith Gwyn,” and afterwards concluded the programme by rendering in grand style the Hallelujah” Chorus. As before stated the singing was magnificent in all respects.
7th June 1873
It should be mentioned that during the afternoon the Crystal Palace price cup was brought on to the orchestra and exhibited amidst the demonstrative cheers of the visitors. The gold baton, presented to the South Wales Choir by Welshmen in Australia, was exhibited by Llyfnwy, of Maesteg, at the same time. The special facilities afforded by the Rhymney Railway Company, were most satisfactory, and the management of the trains reflected very creditably on the officials.
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