None of you could ever know what it means to me to sing the part. All the year its cooking and washing and mending I am, but when 'Messiah' came around I stopped being Mrs Lloyd undertaker. I was Mair Lloyd - contralto
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A gentle, humorous,entertaining film with a Welsh village theme.
This charming film has never been available commercially and has not been seen on British television for many years. Fortunately the last time it was shown I recorded it to videotape and retained it. Its rarity is a great pity because the film is gentle, humorous and entertaining, genuinely recreating the atmosphere of a Welsh village of yesteryear where minor incidents become major events in the villagers' lives.
As film opens we see Geraint Llewellyn, excellently played by Clifford Evans, on a train returning to his native village of Cwmpant after being transferred back there for good from London. (Incidentally, for any railway enthusiasts out there, the opening shots of single line track were filmed on the long-closed Carmarthen to Cardigan line in South Wales on the approach to Conwil Station).
Immediately on his return he is offered the position of choirmaster to replace the recently deceased incumbent. He is persuaded to accept, particularly as their next production is the challenging 'Messiah'. With the choir assembled in the village hall, he hands out the major singing parts but Mrs Lloyd (Rachel Thomas), who has sung the contralto part for the past 12 years and who expects to do so again, is shocked when the part is given to Mrs Davies (Betty Cooper). She gives Geraint a piece of her mind with a display of controlled petulance and reminds him that she once came second on three occasions in the National Eisteddford. He reluctantly points out that her successes were "some time ago" at which Mrs Lloyd storms out dragging her poor son Cliff (played by John Fraser) with her. This leads not only to a split between the Lloyd and Davies families but between the village itself. And to make matters worse, Cliff Lloyd is courting Mrs Davies's daughter Olwen (played by Maureen Swanson). Happily the situation is ultimately resolved to everyone's satisfaction.
'Valley of Song' was the film debut of Rachel Roberts and she is superb as the village gossip 'Bessie the Milk', so much so that she virtually steals every scene in which she appears. Also in his second uncredited film part is Kenneth Williams, later to become much valued as one of Britain's great comedy actors but in this film, he is on screen for about 10 seconds and has only one line to say. Another notable moment is the brief appearance of Desmond Llewellyn (as the schoolmaster) who, a decade later, was to become well known as the 'gadget man' in the James Bond films.
These days, the film would be seen as very much a period piece. For instance, there is a scene where four coal-blackened miners are walking through the village and burst into song on seeing Geraint. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a Welsh miner let alone one who is prepared to sing in the street. To sum up then, a very gentle, if predictable story, well acted, nice location shots and if like 'old' British films and can handle all the Welsh singing, this would probably be the film for you.
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