A couple of months have flown by since my last blog…………………henaint ni ddaw ei hunan…….old age comes not on its own! It has been a very busy time though and you’ve not been far from my thoughts!
Not so long ago I was at my parents’ and playing football (soccer) on their lawn with my sons when I noticed a man walk by with his wife. They looked vaguely familiar and when I saw his shirt I realised who he was. It was the Rev. Martin Jones-Evans and his wife who’d been for a stroll in the hills above my parents’ home – they’d been to see Bryn Gwyn, a deserted homestead, which was once the home of Abraham Lincoln’s great-grandmother. The American link did not end there as the Reverend recently had been a pastor in Granville for a few years and he was at that very moment wearing a sports shirt bearing the G for Granville as a memento of his Little League days in the Slate Valley. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I’m sure he was as surprised as I was in meeting someone who recognised the shirt too!
Sport has had a strong presence in Wales during the past two months. The rugby world cup was held in New Zealand and Wales shone throughout the tournament. The magnificent performances by the Welsh team really made Wales very popular and there was a buzz in the country as a result. It was a public-relations disaster for England as they performed badly on the field and disgraced themselves in pubs and clubs off the pitch; none more than the husband of the Queen’s granddaughter! Wales became everyone’s second favourites and it was a great time to be Welsh!
A visit to Cardiff, our capital, last weekend was a must therefore – Wales was playing its first match since the return from New Zealand, but it was also the last game in which the legendary Shane Williams was going to play for Wales before retiring. I had to go down. And it was an ideal opportunity for me to take my eldest to see his first ever match at the Millennium Stadium, the home of Welsh rugby. Rugby is a real man’s game, mind you, not a soft one like your American football when players wear pads and helmets! Nothing like that for rugby players!!
Now it seems that we Welsh are fond of a sing-song…………and I can’t deny there is some considerable validity to that claim. When we visited a few pubs in Cardiff town centre the establishments reverberated to the sounds of folk singing hymns and various Welsh melodies. There was a hwyl (pron. WHO-ill), a buzz generated by emotion and occasion, to the whole city. Iolo, my son was soon swept up by the hwyl too and there was nowhere else to be on that afternoon.
Once inside the stadium, the crowd, even a full hour before kick-off and with the place a quarter full, would burst into song spontaneously – singing melodies and hymns so beloved to my nation. Suddenly, I became aware of an old favourite, Gwahoddiad (pron. gooah-HOTH-yad) being sung in the stadium and my mind drifted immediately to a red-bricked home in Middle Granville where I’d experienced a surreal event some sixteen years earlier.
It was at the home of the late Evelyn Williams, a Welsh-speaking inhabitant of the village, who had invited us over for a paned (pron. PANN-ed), a Welsh cup of tea, when she’d learnt of our arrival during my first visit to the area. During the tea Evelyn and a few of us started to sing Gwahoddiad, the Welsh word for “invitation” and I can recall being struck dumb by the whole experience. Hearing her sing this song in perfect Welsh, but with a hint of an American accent. Her invitation for us to visit her home will always be one of my fondest memories of the Slate Valley.
Now Gwahoddiad is one of our most loved songs. It is a huge song in Wales. It tells of a person hearing the Lord calling out to them to join him and the tune is a lovely melody. It is considered by one and all as an archetypal Welsh hymn. But, it is an American song – its composer was Lewis Hartsough, who wrote the tune and its original English words in 1872 in Epworth, Iowa. I think its original title was “I hear Thy beloved voice” and the tune was called Zara. I’m virtually certain that not many folk are aware of that fact by now. In 1875, the Rev. John Roberts (otherwise known as Ieuan Gwyllt) translated the words into Welsh and the song very rapidly became a great favourite here in Wales. The tune is now known everywhere as Gwahoddiad, and the words, “Mi Glywaf Dyner Lais” (I hear a tender voice) or “Arglwydd, Dyma Fi” (Lord, Here I am).
This is a version of the song by Cerys Matthews, a pop-singer from Wales who lived in Nashville for a while.
Isn’t it lovely? You can hear Evelyn Williams sing it if you visit the Slate Valley Museum and ask to see the copy, which was filmed by a crew from Wales when I visited in 1996.
I’ve tried to download film I took from the stadium here, but seem unable to do so……..I must ask my son later to do so………..therefore I include a link to the old favourite youtube, where you can have a multitude of recitals of this classic song. The one I’ve posted is that of a concert of massed Welsh choirs several years ago at the very stadium I visited on Saturday last.
Hearing this song makes me proud to be Welsh……but it also reminds me of a kind-hearted Welsh-American lady who once gave an invitation to a group of strangers to her house and made them feel at home in the Slate Valley.
Tan tro nesa’!