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Listen: Australian project gives contemporary twist to traditional Welsh music

16 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Jenny M Thomas and Maddie Spawton (Credit Zoe Spawton)

Despite the rivalry of Wales and Australia on the rugby pitch, these distant nations have unbreakable links and a surprising connection through new choral music.

There are currently around 156,108 people of Welsh ancestry in Australia, and a small group of them are celebrating Welsh culture on the international stage, combining choral singing with visual art in an innovative way.

This week, a creative arts project is breaking new ground in Australia called ‘Côr of the matter’ – with côr meaning choir in Welsh.


Award-winning composer, Jenny M Thomas, who is leading the initiative said: “We’re taking traditional Welsh songs to target audiences’ core emotions.

“The music yearns to explore deep aspects at the core of the human condition like despair and existential questioning.”

Jenny M Thomas

The songs have been reimagined through a contemporary lens that’s captivating audiences down under and generating interest back in Wales. 

New choral arrangements are breathing fresh life into beloved Welsh classics like Myfanwy, Calon Lân (A Pure Heart), and Sosban Fach (Little Saucepan).

Thomas’ Welsh arrangements aim to bring about a trance-like state through repetition and shifting between unresolved harmonies.

Building on the success of solo works in the Welsh language, she now has her sights set on music for choirs.

The distinctive style has been described by folk magazine fRoots UK as transformative, and being able to get under listeners’ skin.

“Timeless beauty”

Daniel Griffiths, the choir’s conductor said: “We’re not your typical Welsh choir. We are taking the timeless beauty of traditional Welsh songs and using modern arrangements to unlock new dimensions of their emotional power.

“The Australian spirit of ‘having a go’ is very much alive in rehearsals, where some singers are trying Welsh for the first time!” 

Welsh Church, Melbourne

Joining a choir is said to offer a wealth of benefits, from improved physical and mental well-being to the joy of social connection, but some singers are using the experience to reconnect with their Welsh heritage.

Maddie Spawton (Credit Zoe Spawton)

Maddie Spawton was encouraged to sing in the choir through her Welsh father.

She said: “I grew up with some exposure to Welsh culture and language, and spent two years in Wales some time ago, allowing me to spend valuable time with my Welsh family.

“This choir seemed like a great opportunity to connect with others in Melbourne, and also deepen the connection with my heritage.”

Choir member Bill Spawton – father of Maddie Spawton


A deep longing for home, or ‘hiraeth’ as it’s known in Welsh, is a common feeling among Welsh expats globally. 

This choir’s contemporary twist on traditional Welsh songs aims to harness this ‘hiraeth’, offering a powerful way to connect back to Wales whilst also introducing the beauty of Welsh language and culture to a wider audience.

Côr of the matter is set to perform eight newly-commissioned choral works to premiere at the Australian National Celtic Festival in June 2024, and a concert at Melbourne’s Welsh Church in July. 

Talks are also underway about the possibility of a visit to the 2025 National Eisteddfod which is set to take place in Wrexham.

The project is supported by the Australian National Celtic Festival, Melbourne Welsh Church, and Cymru a’r Byd. 

Find out more here.

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