2014 Festival Report

Niagara Falls – April 2014

What a super weekend! Crazily hectic, but so enjoyable. This Festival continues to be the highlight of the year for so many of the Welsh people of Ontario. I have to reserve a Falls View room because it’s the only way that I actually get to see the Falls! However all the hard work and stress of the preparations are well worth it. Nothing pleases us more than to hear compliments, see happy smiles and listen to enthusiastic singing.

The weekend’s entertainment began with the Noson Lawen. Ian White was invited to show some of his wonderful slides of Wales and he quizzed us on our knowledge! (I didn’t pass the test!!) In addition to items from individuals, Bois y Castell members, and Merched Dewi, we were also entertained by skits presented by “The Two Myfanwys”, Board Members and some of the choir members. Emcees for the evening were Myfanwy Bajaj, Cerwyn Davies and Tara Sian Bajaj.

Saturday morning’s AGM was followed by Awr y Plant (Children’s Hour). Despite not having had the opportunity for a full rehearsal prior to the event, Katie Quesnelle, Charlotte Morgan, Tegan Thomas, Kieran and Kyle Cordy and Morgan Phillips delighted the audience with their version of the story of Ann Thomas of Cefn Ydfa- always a bit of a tear jerker. Thanks to Jade Thomas for her assistance.

Music seems to be in the veins of our children and it was quite amazing how they had matured in the past 12 months. Little Kieran Christie opened this part of the proceedings with his very own piano composition, “Good Morning”. Piano soloists included Harry Jones, his little brother, Jack, and Charlotte Morgan. Madison Freemantle played a clarinet solo and Kieran and Kyle Cordy sang “Calon Lan”. Madison and her cousin, Kieran , also recited poems. It has become a tradition in Awr y Plant for children to share with us their favourite joke(s) and there was definitely no lack of Joke Tellers that morning! Hefina closed the performances by thanking parents and grandparents for encouraging the children to participate and for bringing them to Dewi Sant for practices. Dim plant? Dim Awr y Plant! (No Children? No Children’s Hour!)

“Spare Time”: two words that don’t pertain to the weekend! A quick turnaround before it was time to attend the first of two seminars. “We’ll gather lilacs” was presented by Sheryl Clay Newell, Ed Newell and Alan Thomas. This was the story in song of the life of Welsh composer, actor and singer, Ifor Novello. Quite super! Then on to Sian Thomas’ account of the resurgence of Y Fari Lwyd (The Grey Mare). Sian explained how the tradition of dressing up the skull of a horse and travelling from farmhouse to farmhouse “singing for their supper” had of late found favour again. We did not have the opportunity to make a replica head but Sian encouraged us to write the “question and answer” poems that are part of this tradition. Great fun was had by all.

No time for a shower or a cup of tea because the pre-banquet reception began at 4:30 p.m. President Meriel did succeed (with difficulty) in getting us to our seats not much later than the prescribed 5:30 p.m. Highlight of the Banquet was the presentation of the Gold Award to Myfanwy Davies of Ottawa. Rev Dr Cerwyn Davies, 2013 recipient, presented the Award to an emotional MyfanwY, a most worthy winner.

Then the Concert! We had so looked forward to hearing our guest choir, Bois Y Castell and we were thrilled by their performance. Nia Clwyd, their director, had prepared a superb repertoire. Adding to our delight were the three soloists- head teacher Gary Anderson, first year university student Deiniol Jones and Grade 12 student Iolo Roberts. When we learned that their accompanist, Kim Morgans was not only an accomplished pianist but also a first class harpist, we succeeded in renting a full sized pedal harp for the evening. What a joy! Kim was indeed a superlative player and, for many, her solos and the choir’s Cerdd Dant to the harp were highlights of the evening. What a wonderful musical experience, and the Bois and Nia deserved the standing ovations that they received.

Of course, the main purpose of the weekend is the two Gymanfa sessions. Nia admitted that she was rather nervous as she maintained that conducting Cymanfaoedd was not her forté. But she needn’t have worried because she did a superb job and had total control over us. The rapport between her and Alan Thomas, our organist was excellent and we all sang with gusto.

All too soon the weekend came to a close. Meriel Simpson handed over the Chain of Office, Pittsburgh Bible and Gavel to incoming president, Donna Morris. The final duty of the weekend was the Board meeting where we dissected and analysed the weekend’s events. The main reason why the weekend is so successful is that we all have our particular job as Board members.

The Market Place and tea room were once again a great meeting place, and a special thanks to all those bakers who made sure that we did not run out of bara brith and Welsh cakes. In fact thanks to all our volunteers. You help make the Trustees’ jobs so much easier.

If you have never attended one of these Welsh Festivals, may I strongly urge that you mark the last weekend of April 2015 in your diary. We will again meet at the Marriott Gateway on the Falls. Our “coup” is that we have attracted the most famous contemporary musician, song writer and conductor in Wales. Robat Arwyn and his choir, Côr Rhuthun, are definitely not to be missed. Don’t forget: the last weekend of April, 2015!

Hefina Phillips