Vancouver Celebration of Wales 28-31 October 2010

Over the weekend of 28-31 October 2010 the Vancouver Welsh Society held its annual Vancouver Celebration of Wales.  During the last two years Grace and I have become more involved with the Welsh Society of Vancouver, an experience which has been very rewarding in many ways.

People of Welsh origin have been part of the fabric of the population of Vancouver and the province of British Columbia for well over a century.  These expatriates celebrated their cultural background together and preserved the Welsh language.  In 1907 Arthur and Ella Morgan and their three children, Hilda, Arthur Leslie and Cyril, arrived in Vancouver from Wales and found an organization of local Welsh inhabitants already in existence here.  They added two more children to their family in Vancouver.  Their youngest,  a girl they named Phyllis, was born in 1912.  Phyllis (who, when she married became Phyllis Owens) has lived all her life in Vancouver and is still with us at the youthful age of 98, very alert and remarkably fit for her age.  She is, of course, a valuable encyclopaedia of memories.  Her husband passed away earlier this year.

In 1929 the Welsh Society of Vancouver erected a building which has been the Society’s home to this day.  Known as the Cambrian Hall, it is now classified as a “B” heritage building.  The land on which the building stands was sold to the Cambrian Society (as the Welsh Society was then known) for one dollar by Joseph Jones, the owner of a Vancouver dairy and a school trustee who emigrated to Vancouver from Prestatyn.  The names of some of the major donors and helpers are listed on a cornerstone of the building. The Cambrian Hall was officially opened on September 1st 1929.  Today there is only one surviving person who was present on that occasion – Phyllis (Morgan) Owens who was 17 years of age at the time.

The activities of the Society are diverse and well supported.  There are regular classes for those who wish to learn the Welsh language.  The Dylan Thomas Circle meets to explore and study the works of Dylan Thomas, one of Wales’s most famous poets.  The Cambrian Circle Singers is a ladies choir.  Two male voice choirs are offshoots of the Welsh Society.  They are the Vancouver Welshmen’s Choir and the Vancouver Orpheus Male Voice Choir.  On the second Sunday of each month there is a bilingual Church Service followed by “Tê Bach,” a light lunch.  The main hall of the building is also used by some local musical and theatrical groups for rehearsals and performances.

Each year during the autumn there is a weekend of special celebration of Wales, its culture and music.  This year’s event took place a few days ago and consisted of the following:

Thursday 28th October 2010 – Noson Lawen.

Noson Lawen can be roughly translated as a fun evening and takes the form of a variety show of musical items, dance, poetry readings and recitations as well as comedy items etc.

Friday 29th October 2010 – Anniversary Banquet.

A delicious meal was followed by a musical programme.  Special guests at the weekend were Eifion Thomas, director of the Llanelli Male Voice Choir and a fine tenor soloist, and soprano Joy Cornock from Pembrokeshire who has twice won 1st prize at the Welsh Eisteddfod for female vocalist in the 19-25 years of age category.

Saturday 30th October 2010

There was a daytime meeting of the Dylan Thomas Circle and, in the evening, a Grand Concert at the Michael J. Fox Theatre in Vancouver.  This concert featured the Orpheus Male Voice Choir and the Vancouver Welshmen’s Choir, as well as soloists Joy Cornock and Eifion Thomas, who also conducted the combined choirs in two pieces.

Sunday 31st October 2010

In the morning there was a bilingual Church Service followed by Tê Bach.  At this point we were joined by a party of about 50 students from a high school in Wales named Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe, Abertawe (Swansea) where the language vehicle of instruction is Welsh.  They had been touring for ten days in SW British Columbia giving concerts in a number of places.  Following lunch they performed a short concert of singing, dancing and drama.  They were delightful young people, very talented and great ambassadors of their school and Wales.  They were able to be with us for the first part of the Gymanfa Ganu but then had to leave to go to Vancouver International Airport for their flight home.

Gymanfa Ganu is a festival of the singing of traditional Welsh hymns.  Eifion Thomas was the leader and conductor and Joy Cornock again sang some beautiful solos.  I must also mention the accompanying pianist Barry Yamanouchi, a very able Vancouver musician and teacher who has become a fixture for these annual events.  The singing was glorious, literally bringing tears to one’s eyes at times.  Welsh hymns, almost all of which are set in the minor key are emotionally very moving.

Over the weekend I took a lot of pictures and recorded quite a number of videos on my digital camera.  Actually, I completely filled my camera’s 2Gig memory card!  I present below a selection of pictures and videos.  The videos have been uploaded to YouTube and the links will take you to them.  The videos, not having been made using professional standard equipment have their shortcomings, but I hope they will still give you pleasure.  Incidentally, the cellphone heard in one of the videos did not belong to us!

I hope you get a small taste of a weekend that we found to be truly wonderful.  We also give our sincere thanks to all the volunteers who put it all together.  (Click on the pictures to enlarge them)

Cambrian Hall, Vancouver. Home of the Welsh Society of Vancouver.

The picture speaks for itself

The commemorative cornerstone

Phyllis (Morgan) Owens - picture taken in September 2010

This tapestry/banner was made by Phyllis Owens

Some pictures taken at the Noson Lawen 28th October 2010

The Cambrian Circle Singers - led by Nerys Haaq

Soprano soloist and special guest Joy Cornock

A Welsh Mummers Play

Tenor soloist, conductor and special guest Eifion Thomas

The Cambrian Cuties!

Video links:

Grand Concert – Michael J. Fox Theatre, Vancouver, BC Canada October 30th 2010

Click on the links to view the videos

Eli Jenkins’s Prayer – Soloist Jonathan Quick with Vancouver Welshmen’s Choir

Bugail Aberdyfi – Soloist Eifion Thomas with accompanist Barry Yamanouchi

Cymru Fach – Soloist Joy Cornock with accompanist Barry Yamanouchi

Gwahoddiad – Combined Vancouver Welshmen’s and Vancouver Orpheus Choirs conducted by Eifion Thomas

Morte Christe – Combined Vancouver Welshmen’s and Vancouver Orpheus Choirs conducted by Eifion Thomas with soloist Joy Cornock

Sunday Afternoon Concert and Gwmanfa Ganu at the Cambrian Hall, Vancouver, BC, Canada October 31st 2010. Visiting guests were students of Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe, Abertawe (Swansea)

Song by Girls Choral Ensemble – Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe

Ar Lan y Môr – soloist Kate Harwood of Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe

Grasshopper Dance – Students of Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe

Girls sing to the “best boy dancer” – Students of Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe

Calon Lan – The full touring choir of Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bryn Tawe

Pantyfedwen – Joy Cornock sings her “favourite Welsh hymn.”

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About mgouldth

Retired pastor and schoolteacher.
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