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Is Don. Is good

Friday, 5th July, 2019

Don Mudie performing at the Repertory Society’s five-decade celebration in 2013. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt Don Mudie performing at the Repertory Society’s five-decade celebration in 2013. PICTURE: Gavin Schmidt

By Callum Marshall

Don Mudie’s love of opera and balladry has seen him deliver some fantastic aria performances in the local Eisteddfod over the years.

Towards the end of the 1960s, the groundswell for starting up a local Eisteddfod began to emerge.

“I remember they were talking very much about establishing it during 1969,” said Don.

“Hartley Harvy I would say was the originator of it, or one of the originators.

“He was a well known musician, he was in the BIU band and he had a music shop in Argent Street, later in Oxide Street, and that’s where we held the meetings.”

Don, who was part of the local Philharmonic Society and Quartet Club, soon became the representative for both groups at those early Eisteddfod meetings.

“There was a lady within the Philharmonic encouraging it to become involved in the Eisteddfod,” he said.

“I agreed to be the representative of the Philharmonic Society, which is still a choir now, and the then-current Quartet Club.

“So I went along to the organising meetings.

“Going back to the first Eisteddfod, they’d never been through such a program before.

“The Quartet Club didn’t get on  (stage) until close to midnight. Timing was a tricky thing.”

Over the years, Don would feature in many of the aria championships of the local Eisteddfod.

He performed pieces such as ‘Impossible Dream’ from the Man of La Mancha, an aria from Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann, The Yeomen and the Guard by Gilbert and Sullivan, and Figaro’s La Fargo Factotum from the Barber of Seville.

The one that sticks out the most, he said, was performing the prologue in the opera Pagliacci.

“In 1976, through at least six months’ hard work, I learnt the prologue to the opera Pagliacci,” said Don.

“The prologue is a story of life as it is with its ups and downs and problems.

“It’s sung by the character Tonio, who’s actually a villain in the opera.

“It’s a wonderful song and I sang it in English.

“(So alongside) my accompanist Rhonda Langford, who’s since left town, we worked very diligently on it. 

“And through hard work I took first place.

“It was wonderful to be able to do it. I’d never known it before but I said I’d like to do it.” 

He said there was a nice symmetry to the 1976 win and being compere for the Eisteddfod years later.

“In later years I’ve been a presenter, a compere,” said Don. 

“I remember compering it in 2016 when it was at the YWCA Hall.

“And I said then that it was 30 years previously to that that I’d won the aria championship.”

When asked what had drawn him to opera and balladry in the first place, Don said it was the drama and attached emotions of it.

“The drama, the pathos, the sadness, the happiness, all these things,” he said.

“My mother’s family was musical and my father’s family wasn’t, and I think that’s what attracted my father to my mother. 

“(So) it’s something that’s in me. I didn’t have to cultivate an interest (in it.)”

Don Mudie will be singing at this year’s Eisteddfod in a non-competitive performance. The song he’ll be performing is yet to be decided.


* This year’s 50th anniversary Eisteddfod will take place from August 17-21 at the Civic Centre. 

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