2011 Festival Report

Niagara Falls – April 2011

Although the elements conspired against us for the opening of our 50th anniversary celebration weekend in Niagara Falls, the show did go on and what a show it was! The scheduled opening event, a Thursday tour to some Niagara area vineyards and lunch at the highly regarded Inn on the Twenty, had to be postponed because of gale force winds. Fortunately most of those who had signed up were available to go on Friday and it was reported that, despite the weather delay, it was well worth the wait.

The opening event thus became the Thursday evening movie/quiz/informal noson lawen. Interestingly, our featured film, Patagonia, has recently been nominated for a 2011 Academy Award in the Foreign Film division. We thank all those who pitched in to support the evening held in an emotionally charged atmosphere without our scheduled MC, Sheryl Clay, and our weekend’s ‘guest of honour’, Hefina Phillips.

Friday’s opening welcome tea was a hive of activity. Mary Muckle played Welsh songs on her harp while the attendees mingled and chatted over their cuppas and the Welsh cakes so kindly baked and donated by many of our members.

The history panels provided through Catrin Brace, the U. S. Representative of the Welsh Government in New York, were a real hit. The American panels were developed for the Smithsonian celebration of Wales in Washington in June 2009 and the Canadian panel, organized by Trish Stevenson, was a great addition for our 50th anniversary celebration. A photographic display honouring those fifty years was assembled by long time member, Betty Jones.

The Friday evening Noson Lawen began with a planned program by Rev. Dr. Cerwyn Davies mirroring some of the traditions of the National Eisteddfod in Wales and our past presidents were acknowledged in a special rose ceremony. Our MC, Myfanwy Bajaj, introduced the participants of the second part of the program that featured items from the visiting choir, CF1, from Merched Dewi and Friends, from the Ottawa Cerdd Dant group and from many soloists performing musical and dramatic presentations. The afterglow of singing around the piano lived up to its reputation as a highlight of the weekend.

Saturday dawned bright and clear and the Falls and all its attractions beckoned. But many loyal members came along to the AGM and most particularly there was a full house for the Awr Y Plant. Following a script written by Hefina Phillips featuring Welsh Heroes and Heroines, the children were simply outstanding. All were aware that their director was in hospital and they wanted to do their best to honour her. And their best was a joy to behold! Of one thing we need have no concern. There is much dramatic talent forthcoming in the next generation.

The afternoon seminar given by Betsy Davies, a member of CF1, and the poetry reading session filled the afternoon along with visits to the marketplace and the tearoom.

The Saturday evening banquet honoured, in absentia, our inaugural Gold Award winner, Hefina Phillips. Unbeknownst to her, Hefina was to be the recipient of another award that evening. Philip Davies representing the National Welsh American Foundation presented her with the Order of the Ivorites Award in recognition of her work on the broader North American stage. The awards were accepted on Hefina’s behalf by her children, Sian and Alan.

Following the banquet, CF1, our outstanding visiting choir under the leadership of Eilir Griffiths, presented a stellar concert. The talent and musicality of the choir and its soloists prompted a well earned standing ovation at evening’s end. As an extra bonus, the choir serenaded us well into the wee hours of the morning at the afterglow following the concert

Sunday is always the highlight of the weekend. Members come with voices primed for the Sunday marathon and this year was no exception. We thank our conductor Eilir for putting us through our paces and sending us off singing as we made our ways home.

A special thank you to Sheryl Clay who sang at the Noson Lawen and at the banquet despite the serious nature of her injuries sustained in the windstorm. She was a real trooper!! Another special ‘diolch yn fawr’ to Hefina who had done so much preparatory work for the weekend and was not on hand to witness its success. We are so thankful that both of these much loved members of our Gymanfa family are now well.

Betty Cullingworth