A male voice choir which performed at the opening of the Millennium Stadium, in front of the Speaker of the House of Commons, and in front of the Kray Twins, is celebrating its 60th anniversary.
Aber Valley Male Voice Choir, which currently has nearly 50 members, was founded in Senghenydd in 1959 by David John Evans.
Tom Jones, Shirley Bassey, Cliff Richard, Bryn Terfyl, Charlotte Church and Max Boyce are among the famous names to have performed with the choir during their 60 years.
In the beginning, the choir sang at local hospitals and chapels but in 1964, they left Wales for the first time to perform at the Westminster Theatre in London.
A year later, the group travelled to Ludwigsburg in Germany for their first trip abroad.
The 1960s saw the group perform at the Royal Albert Hall, as well as in front of the then-Lord Mayor of Cardiff and the notorious Kray Twins at a charity event in aid of the Aberfan disaster at the New Theatre in Cardiff.
The choir has since performed in countries across the world, including France, Belgium, Republic of Ireland, Spain, Czech Republic and Scotland.
During the 1970s, the choir entertained touring rugby teams from the southern hemisphere, such as Tonga and the All Blacks at Senghenydd Rugby Club.
In 1988, the choir toured Canada and the USA, doing eight concerts in 14 days.
The following decade, they performed in the Breton town of Lannion, which is twinned with Caerphilly.
In 1999, the choir sang at the opening of the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, which saw Wales beat South Africa for the first time ever. It was also the first and only time a piano has been played on the hallowed turf.
Ten years later in 2009, the choir marked its 50th anniversary by singing in front of John Bercow MP, who at the time had recently become the speaker of the House of Commons.
In 2014, the choir sang to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall at the National Mining Memorial in Senghenydd.
Earlier this year, the choir performed at the Lorient Festival Interceltique in Brittany.
In total, the choir performed nearly 1,500 times.
Musical Director Geraint Evans BEM joined the choir in 1962, following in the footsteps of his father, his four brothers and his two uncles, who were also part of the choir.
The nephew of the group’s founder, Mr Evans has been conductor since 1971.
He said: “I never had the intention to become conductor. I’ve always sang in choirs.
“I love it as much now as I ever have, if not more.”
Mr Evans also explained that in the choir’s 60 years, they’ve helped raise more than £1 million for charity.
He added: “We feel like we’ve been part of something really good.
“We enjoy the camaraderie. We’re here to enjoy ourselves. It’s not about being the best in the world, it’s about being the best we can be.”
Accompanist Aurelia Jones joined the choir in 1982 after seeing an advert in a newspaper for a new accompanist.
“Geraint came up to interview me and that was it. I’ve been there ever since.
“They’re a great bunch. I’ve had a lot of fun being part of the choir.”
Mrs Jones added: “The standout moment for me was performing at the Houses of Parliament.
“We sang on the steps of the Palace of Westminster and we were told afterwards we shouldn’t have sang there.”
The choir’s president, Wayne David MP, said: “The Aber Valley Male Voice Choir is one of the best Male Voice Choirs in South Wales. It is a great honour to be its president.
“The choir’s strength is that its singing is of a high standard and this is combined with it being a good group of men who really enjoy their singing.
“Live music is unbeatable and the Aber Valley Male Voice Choir certainly proves this to be the case.
“The people of the Rhymney Valley and beyond owe a huge debt of gratitude to the choir, its brilliant musical director, Geraint Evans BEM, and its superb accompanist Aurelia Jones.”
The choir will be joined on stage by Welsh folk singers Serrin for their 60th anniversary concert, which is being held at Bedwas Workmen’s Hall at 7pm on Friday, October 25.
Tickets cost £7 and are available from choir secretary Trevor Davies (07443 591381) or Mr Evans (07896 861840).