“Praise the Lord! We are a musical nation,” intones the Rev. Eli Jenkins in Dylan Thomas’ masterpiece, Under Milk Wood. It’s a reputation of which the Welsh feel deservedly proud. Although plucky miners singing their way to the pithead was the dewy-eyed fabrication of Hollywood (How Green Was My Valley), Wales does make a great deal more noise, and make it a great deal more tunefully, than most other small countries.
The country’s male voice choirs, many struggling to survive in the aftermath of the decimation of the coal industry that spawned them, are the best-known exemplars of Welsh singing, but traditions go much further back, to the bards and minstrels of the Celtic age. Wales continues to nurture big voices and big talent: from the hip-swivelling Sir Tom Jones and show-stopping Dame Shirley Bassey to anarchistic rockers the Manic Street Preachers and young divas like Charlotte Church, Katherine Jenkins and Duffy.