OUR HISTORY AND EVOLUTION
The story of today’s Carmarthen and District Youth Opera, and its place in the Performing Arts within Wales, owes a great deal to the vision, drive, and dedication of countless volunteers over four decades.
From its beginnings in 1979 at Carmarthen’s Further Education Centre youth club, a small group of dedicated and enthusiastic adults formed an organisation that would provide an opportunity for young people to develop and display their artistic talents.
Driven by the late Elizabeth Evans MBE and her husband David, their commitment and perseverance in the early years sowed the seeds for the success that followed.
Few would have dreamt that, four decades later, this organisation had become Carmarthen and District Youth Opera, one of Wales’ most successful cultural societies, with a reputation for high quality musical entertainment, and been granted Royal Patronage.
The first annual musical production “Snow White “ in 1979, won the Lord Snowdon Award, presented by the All Wales National Federation of Youth Clubs Entertainment.
The following year, and with an appetite for “more”, Oliver was performed by a renamed Carmarthen Further Education Centre Youth Department Amateur Music and Drama Society.
By 1983, it had become known as Carmarthen FE Centre Youth Opera.
1986, saw the company perform “Jesus Christ Superstar “at the prestigious Waterford International Festival of Music and Drama, an event that raised the profile of the company across the UK. No expense was spared in taking our donkey across the Irish Sea.
In the same year we were delighted to accept an invitation to repeat the same performance at St David’s Cathedral.
By 1987, the Society became known as Carmarthen Youth Opera.
Throughout this period, the popularity and standing of the Society was growing, as was its reputation for exceptionally high quality musical productions.
Local venues were proving difficult to accommodate a growing audience support.
In 1987, an empty and almost derelict Carmarthen Lyric Cinema, seemed to be a very unlikely solution to the problem. However, the Youth Opera’s Director and founder, the late Elizabeth Evans MBE saw the huge potential the building offered and, in her unique style, managed to convince the owner to let the Youth Opera clean the building and put on a live Show. A huge Carmarthen Youth Opera adult volunteer clean -up effort followed, which enabled the dream to come true ….and the Society had a new “home “.
Further major initiatives secured the purchase and total extensive refurbishment of the building with substantial funding support from Carmarthen Town Council, Carmarthen District Council, Dyfed County Council and Welsh Office.
A new exciting era had begun, and major (even lavish) productions were now possible.
In 1989, the company become known as “Carmarthen and District Youth Opera “and, yet another new era had begun. It gained Charitable status and became a company limited by guarantee.
This, importantly, opened the door to access private, public and voluntary sector funding sources, which are so crucial to our financial viability.
In the same year, the company was privileged to accept an invitation to perform “Jesus Christ Superstar” at St David’s Cathedral as a BBC documentary. This was followed by an invitation to represent Wales at the Newport International Festival of Musical Theatre.
Further major Lyric refurbishment works in the early 1990’s and later, gave a home to the Youth Opera with a venue and facilities in which it could deliver productions of the very highest quality to a 500 + audience. For a period of some 15 years, it functioned as an entertainment centre run voluntarily by the Lyric Trust, drawn from the Youth Opera’s army of supporters.
The theatre is since owned and run by Carmarthenshire County Council as a venue for current and future generations.
By any measure, today’s Carmarthen Lyric Theatre owes its very existence to the vision, initiative and unstinting commitment of CDYO volunteers, its loyal supporters, together with funding support from the local Councils and from Welsh Government
1997 saw the company perform at the Buxton Festival of Music Theatre and, in 1999, at the iconic London Palladium.
Our many accolades proudly include a performance for Her Majesty The Queen, and the Emir of Qatar at the LNG Terminal, Milford Haven official opening in 2009.
We are particularly proud, on the occasion of the visit of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall to the Lyric in 2010, to have been granted HRH The Duchess of Cornwall’s Royal Patronage.
Our Patron also visited our company on the occasion of our 40th Anniversary in July 2019, and we have been invited on a number of occasions to perform at their home near Llandovery, Carmarthenshire.
Other specific commemorative events include the concert to celebrate the life of the late Elizabeth Evans MBE in 2005, our 30th anniversary Gala concert and Dinner in April 2010, and our 40th Anniversary Dinner in July 2019.
Over the years, we have been proud recipients of numerous NODA Awards, and from the High Sheriff of Dyfed “ for our distinctive contribution to outstanding community service”.
Whilst the company has grown in standing and profile over the years, its fundamental ethos remains the same … in giving young people “opportunity”. Their development, with high quality support from successive superb Directors and Musical Directors, is supported by a small army of around 70 dedicated adult volunteers, and underpinned by an experienced hands – on Management Team.
Over the years, many cast members have gone on to successful careers in music and dramatic arts, including technical roles, whilst all will have benefitted from lifelong learning experiences as a team member of a highly successful organisation.
In search of excellence, we are happy to push the boundaries, and our productions are high quality, challenging, often spectacular and, for audiences of all ages, ( hopefully ) always value for money. Everyone will have their own favourite from our four decades of musical entertainment that include outstanding and memorable performances and productions.
We are particularly proud of the hundreds of young people that are, or have been, our cast members, and have enjoyed and benefitted from the experience. We are also fortunate to have wide audience support and are particularly grateful to our Friends, local business sponsors and grant giving bodies for their financial support.
Last but not least, we are particularly fortunate to have a small army of dedicated, experienced adult volunteers to support and uphold the values, quality and standards that are the hallmark of the Carmarthen and District Youth Opera family.