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US church’s legacy set to support choir competition

Published date: 24 January 2013 |
Published by: Staff reporter
Read more articles by Staff reporter


 

ONE of America’s most famous churches – which closed last month – is to support a world famous choral competition held in Wales.

The Welsh Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles – where Oscar-winning actor Sir Anthony Hopkins attended a memorial service for his mother – held its final service last month after 124 years.

But its legacy will support the male voice choir competition at the world-famous Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod for the next three years.

The church was founded in Los Angeles in 1888, and is the second biggest in the USA with a congregation of nearly four million.

The church’s choir sang at the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco in 1938 and had singing and walk-on roles in the film, How Green Was My Valley, which won the 1941 Best Picture Oscar and Best Director award for John Ford.

Its last service was a sad day for 81-year-old Gwyn Phillips, originally from Cwmfelinfach, near Newport, who emigrated to Canada in 1956.

He met his wife, Mair, a Welsh-speaking nurse from Llysfaen, Colwyn Bay, there and they moved to LA in 1960.

He said: “The church has been around for a long time but for the last five or 10 years numbers have been declining and we weren’t really able to carry on.

“We used to hold a regular Cymanfa Ganu and that was very popular and so was the three-day weekend Eisteddfod we held. Whenever there was a Welsh choir in southern California we’d try and invite them and we’ve had the Llanelli and Rhos Choirs here and the three Welsh tenors, Rhys Meirion, Aled Hall and Alun Rhys Jenkins.

“We are at least glad we have been able to support events like the Llangollen Eisteddfod. It was a must as far as we were concerned and we were delighted to be able to sponsor the male voice choir competition with £5,500 over three years.

“Music and singing is all part of our heritage and even last year when Wales played England at rugby we went down to a bar and I counted 62 Welsh people there and we all stood to attention to sing Mae Hen Flad Fy Nhadau – even the English loved it.”

Eisteddfod musical director Eilir Owen Griffiths added: “While we’re obviously saddened to hear that this historic church has had to close we’re very grateful for its kind sponsorship and support.

“It’s a wonderful and very appropriate gesture that this church, which has been attended by immigrants from Wales for well over 100 years, should support an international event back home in Wales – I’m sure generations of Welsh Americans would approve.”

The church was founded in 1888 by the Rev David Hughes, from Llanwchllyn, near Bala, when its 22 members met in the back room of a shop in Los Angeles.

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