Since its formation in 1902, all the choir’s musical directors were born in Wales, and many were fluent Welsh speakers.
At the choir’s founding in October 1902, Merlin Morgan was invited to be the choir’s Musical Director. He was a professional musician and the organist at Charing Cross Welsh Chapel (where the choir rehearsed). He became the Director of Music at Daly’s Theatre in the West End, and ensured close links with the star names and emerging talents, such as Ivor Novello.
When the choir decided to compete at the International Competition in Paris in 1912, Merlin resigned as MD due to his increasing fame and workload. He was succeeded as the choir’s MD by his brother, Ganmor Morgan.
Inter War years
No formal documentation has been found to confirm who the Choir’s Musical Directors were during this period or how long they were in post. It is believed that Merlin Morgan again took on the role when the Choir reformed after WW1. In 1923, the Choir competed at the Royal National Eisteddfod held in Mold, and a photograph taken at the time shows 61 men, including Llew Bevan the Musical Director. He probably was the choir’s MD until he resigned due to pressure of other work in January or February 1929. The choir accompanist during this time, who occasionally conducted the choir at engagements, was Horatio Davies, musical director of the London Cambria Choir, a mixed voice choir of 70 voices. There is, however, no reference to him being the LWMVC musical director.
In early 1929 George Thomas was appointed Musical Director of the LWMVC. He was also the organist at Charing Cross Welsh Chapel, but no further record of him has come to light.
A photograph believed to have been taken in 1938-39, at a choir rehearsal in Charing Cross Welsh Chapel, shows Kenneth Thomas at the helm.
Lyn Harry (1961 - 67)
When the choir was re-formed in 1961, Lyn Harry, a native of Llanelli, and a music teacher at a school in south London, was invited to become its musical director. In 1962, the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in Llanelli. The choir competed and were placed fifth of the choirs competing. Lyn left the choir in 1967 and later moved to live in Canada, where he became the musical director of the Canadian Orpheus Male Choir. Indeed, when the London Welsh visited Ontario in 1995, Lyn was the organist at its concerts and conducted the choir in a rehearsal.
Tudor Spencer Davies (1967 - 69)
Tudor was appointed the Choir’s Musical Director when the Choir was at its lowest ebb. He saw the Choir successfully produce the first 1000 Voices Concert at the Royal Albert Hall in October 1969. Tudor was the concert organist at the event, and at the Choir’s AGM a few weeks later, he thanked the Choir for achieving one of his life’s ambitions – that of playing the Royal Albert Hall organ at a concert. At the same meeting there were calls for the Choir accompanist John Peleg Williams to be allowed more time to conduct the Choir. John Peleg Williams said that Tudor Spencer Davies was the Choir’s elected MD and that he would do anything to support him in that role.
John Peleg Williams (1969 – 79)
John was head of a music department when he was appointed musical director of the LWMVC, and the Choir changed dramatically under his directorship. Initially, he persuaded a few of his musical ex-schoolboys to join the Choir, especially to augment the top tenor section. Although most of the previous traditional male voice repertoire remained, it was supplemented with a modern repertoire. In 1973, the Choir released its first pop record, ‘Sloop John B’, with ‘Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay’ on the B side. Another 45 rpm single was released the following year, and the LP ‘Take Me Home’ was released in 1975. John was the pianist at the 1969, 1970, 1972 and 1974 London Welsh Festivals of Male Voice Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall, and the Festival Musical Director in 1976 and 1978. In the autumn of 1979 John was appointed Director of Music by the Powys Education Authority and resigned as the Choir’s MD.
Dr. Haydn James (1979 – 2010)
With the choir growing, and achieving prestigious engagements, the Trustees became concerned that if something happened to the MD, there would be no one available to conduct the full concert repertoire at short notice. They decided to recruit a chorister to the choir who had conducting experience, who would also be appointed the choir’s deputy conductor. Haydn held such a position in another choir and had conducted them to success at the National Eisteddfod in Carmarthen in 1971. He joined the LWMVC in early 1979 as a second tenor. Following the resignation of John Peleg Williams, he auditioned for the post of Musical Director along with three others, and was elected to the post.
In 1998 and 1999, during the construction of the Millennium stadium in Cardiff, Wales played their ‘home’ rugby internationals at Wembley. The choir was invited to ‘provide a Welsh atmosphere’ at the stadium for all the matches. In due course, the Welsh Rugby Union appointed him as Musical Director, and since that time, he has conducted the home international matches for 20 years. Haydn was also Musical Director of nine of the London Welsh Festivals of Male Voice Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall.
In 2009 the Choir’s Constitution was re-written and one of the numerous changes made affected the appointment of the Musical Director. Previously the post was elected annually at the AGM. The revised position meant that the post would be a advertised in the national press, and after auditions, a four-year appointment would be made, with the Trustees having power to extend the position for a further two years. At the end of this period, the incumbent could re-audition for the position, and in 2010 Haydn chose not to do so.
Edward-Rhys Harry (2010 - )
Edward-Rhys was originally elected after the four most experienced applicants for the post had been interviewed and auditioned conducting the Choir. The Trustees extended his initial term of office to six years, after which the post was advertised in the national press, and Edward was re-elected after other candidates were also auditioned. Edward was musical director of the London Welsh Festivals of Male Voice Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018.
Other Musical Directors
The Choir has worked closely with many conductors including the following who were musical directors of the London Welsh Festivals of Male Voice Choirs at the Royal Albert Hall in the years indicated - Roy Bohana (1969, 70, 72 & 74), Noel Davies (ENO) (1980), Noel Davies (Pontarddulais) (1982, 84 & 92), Eifion Thomas (Llanelli) (1998), Alwyn Humphries (Morriston) (2004 & 10).