Home » Chorister Mair still has Passion for singing after nearly 60 years
Community Community Denbighshire National News North Wales

Chorister Mair still has Passion for singing after nearly 60 years

(Centre) Mair Dowell who has appeared in a Good Friday concert every year since 1965 Pictured at St Asaph Cathedral with Conductor Trystan Lewis and Pendine Park Proprietor Mario Kreft. Picture Mandy Jones

A retired nurse will be chalking up a remarkable musical milestone at Easter by singing in a choir’s annual concert every year since the first one in 1965.

Mair Dowell, 76, will once again join the ranks of the Tremeirchion Bach Choir and Orchestra for the gala performance at St Asaph Cathedral on Good Friday.

The choir was co-founded by Mair’s late father, Alun Vaughan Jones, who worked as a builder but enjoyed a life-long love of music.

The concert, one of Wales’s longest running musical events, is being made possible this year thanks to the generosity the main sponsor, the arts-loving Pendine Park care organisation through its Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT).

The trust was set up by Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE and his wife, Gill, to support arts and community events.

It has supported scores of community organisations over the years, including Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, Welsh National Opera and North Wales International Music Festival which is also held in St Asaph Cathedral.

online casinos UK

Mair was just 16 when she first took part in the celebratory concert of Bach’s masterpiece, the St Matthew’s Passion.

She said: “Little did we know then that our beloved choir would still be performing Bach’s classic works nearly 60 years later.

“It has become one of North Wales’s longest-running music events and although I’ve done it countless times now, it’s still a great privilege to be taking part.”

Even through a demanding career as a nurse working in hospital A&E departments Mair always made sure she was off shift for Good Friday evenings so she could be there on her choir’s biggest night of the year.

The 2024 concert will see a twist to the programme which Mair says makes the anniversary year even more special.

For the first time they will perform the St John Passion, by Johann Sebastian Bach, rather than the acclaimed composer’s St Matthew’s Passion.

The decision was taken as this year’s Good Friday falls on March 29 which coincides with the 300th anniversary of the very first performance of St John’s Passion in Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche in 1724. The choir decided it was the perfect time to deliver their own first rendition of the famously complex oratorio.

The choir and orchestra will be led by one of North Wales’s best known conductors Trystan Lewis.

Choir member and chairperson Malcom Williams says the success of the annual concert and its longevity relies on the support of the dedicated villagers and local businesses who have helped raise the thousands of pounds needed to stage it each year.

According to Mario Kreft, he was happy to be helping a cause which has been at the heart of the local community for more than half a century.

He said: “The story of this choir and the groundswell of support it has received over the years is remarkable.

“Its fame has spread far and wide with highly accomplished musicians and singers from all over the UK now keen to take part in what is a quite extraordinary annual event.

“Mair is a key figure in its history having been there from the very beginning. It’s easy to see her enthusiasm has never waned.”

Mair recalls how her father was prompted to form the choir following a meeting with Michael Lewis, of the then Rhyl Music Club, and Dr Jean Green, a surgeon who lived in Tremeirchion in the 1960s.

Every Good Friday since that first inaugural concert in 1965 the Tremeirchion Bach Choir and Orchestra have gone on to deliver an annual production of St Matthew’s Passion, renowned to be one of Bach’s most difficult works.

The composer is known to have written five Passions but only two survive – St Matthew’s and St John’s.

As well as Tremeirchion Bach Choir, Mair also sings with St Asaph Choir, Mold Choral Society, and Dyffryn Conwy Choir.

She lived for many years in Tremeirchion, before moving to St Asaph.

She said: “As a nurse I was committed to my job, I would work any time, any day of the year, but with the exception of Good Friday evening. I always made sure I got that night off so that I could take part in the concert. As a result, Easter has always been a major part of my life.

“We’ve only missed one year since 1965 and that was when Covid-19 struck so we were unable to hold our concert that year. I was devastated that we had to forgo what has become such an important part of our choir and our village’s history.

“It had always been held at Corpus Christ Church in Tremeirchion, but in the second year of the pandemic with fears about social distancing still around, we were offered the chance to stage it in the much more specious surroundings of St Asaph Cathedral which was amazing. The acoustics and facilities are excellent. It was another incredible chapter for our choir and that is where we have continued to stage it in the years since.”

The Covid crisis means that Mair has achieved an impressive record of performing in 59 consecutive Good Friday concerts, although the choir is actually marking its 60th anniversary of formation this year.

Mair said: “Because Bach’s Passions are so long and notoriously difficult to perform  it is a phenomenal achievement that we have continued to do them for so long and not only that but we have attracted ever bigger audiences.”

Tickets can be purchased by calling Mair Dowell on 01745 583543 / 07768630055 or from Cathedral Frames on High Street, St Asaph.

Author