Chapter 8: Jubilee
It was inevitable that a group of young men arriving fifty years ago in what for them was a foreign city, should seek each other’s company, particularly since many of them already knew each other, or relatives of each other; news in letters from home was passed round, there was comfort in sharing good news and bad with others from the same background. The eventual arrival of relatives, including sometimes elderly parents, meant that an established pattern of family and community life was transferred from The Rhondda to East Oxford. The Party is a natural expression of that established pattern, since music-making is very much part of its heritage; without it, something else might have taken its place, something more selfish, less satisfying, less conducive to survival. For some of the older members choir practice has become a habit, and breaking a habit of forty years or more can be painful. In celebrating its Golden Jubilee The Party is marking the survival of Welsh culture in an English provincial town for 50 years. Why does it survive, in spite of a long war and a post-war revolution in people’s habits and standards of entertainment? It has survived when other music-making organisations have perished; a perusal of old programmes reminds one that Morris Motors Band and Pressed Steel Band have both disbanded, despite their enjoying a measure of sponsorship. Members have always paid for the privilege of belonging; for many years even the conductor and accompanist received no honorarium. It is a truly amateur body, any fees and prize money are paid in to The Party’s funds to help meet running costs.
For years members rehearsed twice and three times a week in cold, badly-lit school halls, with leaking roofs and pianos long past their prime. Rehearsals followed long slogging days in the factories, half-deafened by the clatter of presses, when it would have been so much easier to go home and spend the evenings with wife and children.
The demand for The Party’s services continues unabated, it does not have to seek engagements, requests pour in. In the past 15 years it has given concerts in 35 towns and villages, mostly in Oxfordshire. Yet, unless a new generation of choristers can be found, commonsense suggests that The Party must die. It is too much to hope that young people will turn to this kind of music-making, when professional perfection is available at the touch of a radio or television switch, It is doubtful if sponsorship would bring in the necessary new blood. Survival to date undoubtedly stems from its Welsh origins; there is a rather symbolic irony in the recent election of a Scotsman as its chairman.
Whatever the future may hold, The Party can be proud of its fifty years of service to others, its fifty years of song. The constitution defines its objects as the study and appreciation of the art of music and the promotion of good fellowship among music lovers. Without doubt those laudable objects have been achieved.