2017 Festival Report

Stratford – April 2017

“The best ever!”.  “Wonderful weekend!”  “Where do you find these amazing choirs?”  These were some of the comments that I heard during this year’s Festival.  So rewarding for the Board who had worked tirelessly all year to ensure the success of the 2017 Festival.

What made it so successful?  The main item on the list has to be the visiting choir- Côr Llanddarog a’r cylch.  Their director, Meinir Richards, expects (and gets) 101% from the choristers.  This was a mixed choir from South West Wales – one that we had been watching for a few years.  In a country that is famous for its choirs, Llanddarog is exemplary, winning first prize at least 5 times in the annual National Eisteddfod.

We were aware that we had invited a first class choir, but the icing on the cake was that they had the most amazing soloists- all carving superb careers for themselves musically.  Ffion Hâf is a winner of the coveted Blue Ribband, Elan Richards (Meinir’s daughter) has a superb soprano voice, Matthew  Williams is a trumpet player extraordinaire.  Their accompanist is Sioned Evans and one of the tenors, Rhys, joined Ffion Hâf and Elan on stage.

This was a truly “family affair”.  Matthew’s brother and mother sing in the choir, as do Sioned’s mother and sister.  Meinir’s two daughters, her sister-in-law and her niece are choristers – and those are only the ones I’m aware of!

In addition to the splendid singing, the location of the Concert and Gymanfa Ganu was superb.  Thanks to Rev Dr Cerwyn Davies, who now lives in Stratford, Avondale United Church hosted us during the weekend.  The church is quite, quite beautiful and  the acoustics and invaluable help from Billy, their AV guru, made it a truly memorable event.  The church was full, both on Saturday evening for the concert and on Sunday morning for the first Gymanfa session. (Fewer attended the afternoon session, but the singing was still excellent.)

Since 2011 (the 50th anniversary of our Festival) it has become traditional to honour a member of the Ontario Welsh community for their hard work and commitment.  This year’s Gold Award was presented to Betty Cullingworth, a person who has given of herself tirelessly to all things Welsh, not only in Ontario but also generally in North America.  No-one deserves the Award more than she does.  Llongyfarchiadau, Betty.  As director of Merched Dewi it was appropriate that she be serenaded by her choir!

Llanddarog’s visit to Ontario began on Easter Sunday when they attended Dewi Sant Welsh church.  Llanddarog agreed to sing at the service and one of their bass singers, Rev Emyr Gwyn Evans, gave the homily.  Yes, of course they could have a practice at the church after the service – which gave us all an extra thrill and an introduction to the musical feast that awaited us.

P.S.  Despite having stocked up on pre-Festival sleep, I was still exhausted by Sunday evening and don’t remember much of Monday or Tuesday either!!  Poor Llanddarog – they flew out on Sunday evening and most of them had to go to work on Monday.

Diolch o galon i bawb.

And now we start preparing for 2018.  See you all in Kingston, April 27-29, when the visiting choir will be Côr y  Gleision, from Cardiff.