This vocal collective was formed in 1947 as the BBC Welsh Chorus by BBC music director, Idris Lewis, to accompany the BBC Welsh Orchestra. Mansel Treharne Thomas conducted both the chorus and orchestra from 1947 to 1965, but suffered a stroke in 1979.
John Hugh Thomas was the chorus master from 1983 to 1995. During his tenure, the chorus became a staple on TV and recordings, specifically as the accompanying choir of treble phenom, Aled Jones. Jones is famously known as the angelic voice on the Howard Blake song, “Walking in the Air”, from the children’s animated Christmas special, The Snowman.
Christmas was something of a recurring theme for Aled and the chorus: On Christmas Eve 1984, they performed together in a television program entitled Born in Bethlehem; The Aled Jones Christmas Album, All through the Night with Aled Jones and Voices from the Holy Land were released in 1985; So was Aled Jones with the BBC Welsh Chorus, which went to #11 on the U.K. charts; An Album of Hymns and Aled: Music from the TV Series followed in 1986.
Other recordings on which they have appeared include: Arwel Hughes: Dewi Sant (Saint David); Bantock: Song of Songs; Celebration: Christmas Fanfares and Carols; Cesar Franck: Psyche complete / La Chasseur maudit; Doctor Who: Original Television Soundtrack; Dyson: Quo Vadis; John Tavener: We Shall See Him as He Is; Mahler: Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection”; Mendelssohn: Paulus; The Spirit of Christmas Present; Stokowski Dirigiert Tschaikowsky; and, Within a Dream: A Celebration of the Artistry of Richard Hickox.
Hickox was the Principal Conductor of the orchestra through 23rd July 2006, and served as Conductor Emeritus until the day he died, in November 2008. There is no dearth of talented conductors wielding the baton in his stead: Since September 2006, Thierry Fischer has filled the post of Principal Conductor, and he has had support from Conductor Laureate Tadaaki Otaka, Principal Guest Conductor Jac van Steen, and Associate Guest Conductor Grant Llewellyn. In 2011 Thomas Sondergard was appointed as the 14th Principal Conductor and his contract runs through 2018. For the 2016-17 season Xian Zhang was made the Principal Guest Conductor.
Xian Zhang as its next principal guest conductor, effective with the 2016-2017
The chorus makes its home in St. David’s Hall in Cardiff, but its home away from home is Royal Albert Hall in Londonwhere it has been a staple at the BBC Proms. It is a dual-purpose chorus that serves not only as the national chorus but also the broadcast chorus and can be heard on BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio 3, BBC Radio Wales, and BBC television.
BBC Welsh Chorus recordings
O Come, all ye Faithful (Frederick Oakeley/John Francis Wade)
Arranger – Sir David Willcocks
Conductor – John Hugh Thomas
Organist – Huw Tregelles Williams
Percussionists – Chris Stock & Mark Walker
Fanfare Trumpeters of the Welsh Guards
Musical Director – Lt. Col. P. Hannam, BEM