TV producer aims to make a splash about campaign to recruit “brown haired” men to join his dad’s choir

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A TV producer whose story about joining a men’s synchronised swimming team inspired a hit film is taking the plunge again – after a plea to help save his dad’s male voice choir from going under.

Dylan Williams is making a new documentary programme about the desperate campaign for new members launched by Côr Meibion Trelawnyd which has an average age of 74 and is at risk of “withering and dying”.

The choir needs “brown-haired men” to join the massed ranks of grey and bald heads which include Dylan’s 89-year-old father, Ednyfed Williams, who lives in Denbigh and was the deputy head of Ysgol Maes Garmon in Mold,

Dylan, 50, who hails from Dyserth, moved to live in Stockholm after falling in love with his Swedish partner, Anna, who is now the mother of their three children.

But he felt like a fish out of water and joined a group of slightly overweight men in their 30s and 40s as part of the Stockholm Art Swim Gents synchronised swimming team as a way of creating a new social life over there.

He chronicled the experience in his award-winning 2010 documentary programme, Men Who Swim, which was shown in 80 different countries worldwide.

Eight years later the story was turned into a movie called Swimming with Men, starring the Welsh actor and comedian, Rob Brydon, playing the character based on Dylan.

According to Dylan, there are distinct parallels between the synchronised swimming team and his dad’s choir because both of them provide an important support network for their members.

So, he’s calling the new documentary, Men Who Sing, which is going to be shown on S4C towards the end of the year. It’s also been sold to broadcasters in Sweden, Denmark and Germany.

To raise the profile of the choir and attract new members they arranged flashmob performances at some unusual locations, including the animal mart in Ruthin, the Henllan Bread bakery in Denbigh, East Parade in Rhyl and the Kinsgspan insulation panels factory in Greenfield.

Dylan, a former pupil of Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph, said: “I came back here for a visit about a year and a half ago and came to see my dad and went up to the practice for the first time in 40 years.

“Seeing these once vital men now in their 70s was an emotional experience.

“When they started singing it was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes and I thought it was an opportunity for me to do something to help secure the choir’s future.

“The documentary about the choir features the same issues as Men Who Swim because it’s about how men come together to talk through their issues, to bond, to give themselves that breathing room from life. It’s the kind of social circle I was looking for in Sweden.

“They’re a really good bunch of fun-loving chaps. They pull each other’s legs and they’re there for each other through good and bad.

“What I want to try and ensure is that the choir is still around in 2032 when it will be celebrating its centenary.

“This has become a search for the brown-haired men because there’s not one brown haired man in the choir.

“If I were still living in North Wales, I’d be a candidate for the choir because I am exactly the age group that they’re looking for and I would join it. That’s something I thought I’d never say.”

His father, Ednyfed, who has now moved to live in Denbigh, has loved every minute since joining the choir in 1958 and they rallied round to support him when his beloved wife, Eirlys, passed away nearly 10 years ago.

He said: “You have an incredible variety of people here who are not the same shape, not the same colour, not the same cognitive ability, but are all similar in that they like to sing. Everyone is on the same level. Together they are one voice. Everything else in secondary. But how good are they at singing is the thing.”

It was a sentiment echoed by retired university lecturer Andy Cornwell, 72, a committee member and former chairman, who said: “I joined the choir 10 years ago and I absolutely love so many things about it, the camaraderie as well learning the music and the singing.

“Without fresh blood the choir is at risk of withering and dying so a key focus for us is to try to get some additional members which is why we are getting ourselves out there with the recruitment campaign.”

Conductor Ann Atkinson said: “It’s important to get new blood into this choir and to create opportunities for people to sing together.

“They’re like one big family and it would be nice to get a younger core. There is a lot of fun to be had with them and I’m sure that anyone who came would enjoy it a lot.”

The choir, which has 75 members, was formed in the village of Trelawnyd in 1933 by the local schoolmaster William Humphreys.

Since then it has performed in the USA, Canada, many parts of Europe and all corners of Britain and Ireland. The choir has achieved success in a host of competitions, winning at the National Eisteddfod six times.

Hollywood movie star Jonathan Pryce, originally from nearby Carmel, who starred in the Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, is one of the choir’s vice-presidents.

Anybody interested in joining the choir can download and complete an application form available on the website www.trelawnydmalevoicechoir.com or they can ring the secretary, Geraint Evans on 01745 339475 or 07506 531921