2010 Festival Report

Stratford – April 2010

What a truly superb weekend! I had an absolutely fantastic time. Trying to write this report is very difficult because I have run out of superlatives.

Côr Meibion Llangwm, was the visiting choir (Llangwm is a small village very close to Bala). I must admit that I knew very little about them, other than they are National Eisteddfod winners. Due to the over-active Icelandic volcano, air travel from the UK was uncertain, so I was anxiously awaiting their safe arrival. At 9 PM, a scant 24 hours after their arrival in Toronto, I received a phone call from Bethan Smallwood, their director. They were all enjoying themselves in a pub – with Tom Jones’ favourites being sung in the background. I quickly figured out two things – a) it was then 2 AM Welsh time, and b) we were in for a great weekend. (I was correct on both!)

The choir was truly excellent, with an interesting and varied repertoire. The soloist, baritone Trebor Lloyd Evans, defies superlatives. He was the winner of the Blue Ribbon in last year’s National Eisteddfod in Bala. He wowed us all! (Trebor will be in Portland in September.) The choir willingly participated in the Noson Lawen (MCed by Myfanwy Bajaj), joined us around the piano late into the night as we “practiced” the hymns for the Sunday Cymanfa, and, accompanied by Rhian Jones on the piano, thrilled us with their concert on Saturday evening. Bethan, their director, was dynamic, talented and had a wicked sense of humour. A great time was had by all.

The Saturday Banquet was the best ever. The meal was delicious. The guest speaker, Geraint Wyn Davies, delighted his audience with his witty, entertaining account of his life as an actor. Geraint is a fixture at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and this year is performing “Do Not Go Gentle”, an account of Dylan Thomas’ life, and as Stephano in The Tempest. His beautiful partner, Claire Lautier, is also an actor at the Stratford Festival. The two proudest people at the Banquet were Geraint’s parents, Rev.Dr. Cerwyn Davies and Nora Davies, and I did see Nora wipe away a tear!

David Prosser, also of the Shakespeare Festival, returned for the second time to enthral us with the history of the Festival. And in the middle of dinner, who popped in to officially welcome us to Stratford but the Mayor, Dan Mathieson! In the midst of his crazily busy schedule he had made time for the Ontario Welsh.

Trish Stevenson is to be congratulated on assembling a prodigious amount of Welsh cakes and Bara Brith for the tea room, and a huge “Thank You” to Joan Hughes for running the Bake Sale. An even bigger “Thank You” to those of you who contributed all those delicious goodies. Kudos to all the Board members for their hard work throughout the year and thus ensuring the success of the weekend.

I heard comments that the singing at the Gymanfa was “the best ever”. With Alan Thomas of Ottawa at the organ, Bethan Smallwood as conductor, and the backing of the Llangwm choristers, we sang every hymn with gusto. Trebor and the choir entertained us in both services- Trebor maintaining that he had sung about 86 songs during the weekend!

During the afternoon service, President Deian Evans handed over the Chain of Office to our incoming President, Betty Cullingworth. The Chain (now two years old) is an exquisite symbol of the Ontario Welsh Festival. The Pittsburgh Bible and the gavel are also now in Betty’s keeping for the next two years.

The weekend did have its sad moments. When we arrived on Friday we learned of the sudden death of the Rev. John Gratton Roberts. I personally can’t remember a Gymanfa without John, and every Noson Lawen he would sing a Welsh song, accompanied on the piano by his wife. They had indeed reserved a room for the weekend, so the news came as a huge shock to us all. The funeral took place on Sunday evening, with Rev. Deian Evans and Rev. Dr. Cerwyn Davies officiating.

And now we look forward to our 50th birthday in 2011. Planning is well underway, and CF1, a splendid choir of young voices, has accepted our invitation to participate in the celebrations in Niagara Falls where we hope to acknowledge past Presidents and Board members.

To celebrate our 50th Anniversary the first “Gold Award” will be presented to the person you deem to have contributed the most to the Welsh in Ontario. This Award will continue annually. You are invited to put forward the name of your candidate(s), giving the reasons for your choice. Send the information to Betty Cullingworth.

There will be a Children’s Tableau based on the Heroes of Wales. Please bring your children and/or grandchildren and contact Hefina Phillips if you think they might like to participate.

Hefina Phillips