December 2013 - Rhagfyr 2013

Please mark on your calendar the following events

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Edmonton St David’s Welsh Male Voice Choir

Christmas Concert

St Timothy’s Anglican Church, 8420 - 145 St. Edmonton.

2:00 p.m.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Annual Christmas Carols and Tea

The Lounge, Knox Metropolitan United Church

8307-109 Street, Edmonton

2:00 p.m.

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January 24 , 2014

St Dwynwen’s Day celebration

6:30 p.m. Location TBA

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February 5, 2014

Harp Competition Concert.

Muttart Hall, Alberta College

10050 MacDonald Drive, Edmonton

7.00 p.m.

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Saturday, March 1, 2014

St David’s Day Banquet

Faculty Club, University of Alberta

Cash bar 6.00 p.m. Dinner 7.00 p.m.

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April 25, 2014

Annual General Meeting

Park Towers, 9908 - 114 Street, Edmonton

7:00 p.m.

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June 2014, date TBA

St David’s Welsh Society/ Strathcona Druids Rugby event

Lynn Davies Field 524 A Highway 14X Sherwood Park

Time TBA

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August 2-4, 2014

Heritage Festival Hawreluk Park

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Good wishes

We learned with alarm that Marilyn Isitt had suffered broken bones in a nasty fall. We send good wishes for a speedy and painless recovery!

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President’s Corner - December 2013

The snow is on the ground and Christmas is around the corner. It is time to think of presents and Christmas Carols, I have three suggestions for you to hear wonderful music that was written especially for this season: St David’s Welsh Choir on December 1, the Cantilon Choirs on December 8 and our own carols on December 15. Attending any or all of these events will get you into the Christmas spirit.

Speaking of the Cantilon Choirs, if you attended our spring concert, A Celebration of Wales, you heard a sample of the music produced by the Cantilon Choitrs.

On December 8 at 2 p.m. in the Winspear Centre, the concert “A Ceremony of Carols” will offer you the experience of hearing all five choirs: KinderSingers, Primary Choir, Children’s Choir, the Chamber Choir and the Bel Canto. “A Ceremony of Carols” features an adapted version of Susan Hammond’s ‘A Classical Kids’ Christmas’. Three new pieces composed for Cantilon Choirs by Canadian composer Will Zworzdesky, and Benjamin Britten’s “A Ceremony of Carols”, featuring harpist Nora Bumanis. This concert provides the opportunity to listen to the development of the choral voice from children age 4 years to the mature voices of the Bel Canto and is an occasion well worth the admission price of $27.

Our own Christmas Carols and Tea allows us to take time from our hectic schedule of preparing for Christmas to raise our voices to the spirit of Christmas and to partake of great baking, delicious sandwiches and tea (or maybe coffee). Once again I am pleased that Vivien Bosley will lead us and Eryl Jones will play our favourite carols. Do join us for a very pleasant afternoon.

The Wine and Cheese and the Potluck were a lot of fun with great food and great company. Although only a few of us attended the potluck, we overate and listened to readings of excerpts from Dylan Thomas’s work. I had not realised how ‘steamy ‘ some of his writing is! 

We had a full room at the annual appreciation brunch. The support and help the St David’s Welsh Society receives from so many people: members of the society, members of the St David’s Welsh Male Voice Choir and our many friends, are really appreciated. We could not function without their support.

We are having some difficulties arranging for pub space for a Friday. Apparently Friday night is a favourite night for indulging in an evening of beer. We may have to change our date to the Saturday. Our quiz this year is on Dylan Thomas - so search the internet for information to prepare for the questions.

I’m looking forward to the 2014 St. Dwynwen’s Day, the Harp Competition and evening concert, the St David’s Day Annual Banquet. The evening concert for the Harp competition will be held at 7 p.m. on February 8 at McEwan Alberta College, MacDonald Drive. All members of the society and their families are invited to attend the concert to hear the participants of the competition. In addition we are hoping to include a harpist and fiddlers in the evening performance. Last year it was a great evening.

Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!

Eluned Smith

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More Music

Let me add to Eluned’s possible music list performances of Handel’s Messiah on December 6 and 7 in the Winspear Centre.

The soprano soloist is Shannon Mercer, who is of Welsh background. I reviewed her recording of Welsh songs in these pages some time ago.

Ed

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News from Wales by Miriam Roberts

I recently received an envelope from my sister in North Wales. It contained my cousin Gwyneth Mair Williams’s funeral pamphlet and numerous newspaper clippings. On the cover of the pamphlet was a poem (englyn) by her son, Dewi Prysor Williams, who is the author of Welsh books; he takes after his grandfather who wrote many poems, composing the last one just before he died at 100 years of age. On the first page of the pamphlet was the poem Cleddu Mam (Burying Mam) written by Hedd Wyn, famous poet from Trawsfynydd where the funeral was held. Ellis Humphrey Evans (Hedd Wyn) was killed in Passchendaele in the First World War on July 31, 1917. He was awarded the bardic chair at the National Eisteddfod in Birkenhead, England in September 1917. It was called the black chair, as the Archdruid draped a black cloth over the empty seat.

One of the newspaper clippings had an article called “Let’s Honour our World War Heroes”. A memorial is to be erected at Langemark near Ypres, Belgium, to honour the soldiers who died as well as those who survived and were wounded in WWI.

Coincidentally, Hedd Wyn was one of the soldiers who was mentioned in the article. My father-in-law also fought at Paschendaele and received schrapnel wounds in his fractured leg. He also suffered what would now be probably be called post traumatic stress disorder; he was known to wake up during the night from nightmares of his war experience. 

Another article sent was about Bryn Terfel, with good news and bad news. The good news was that he has recorded a new album called “Homeward Bound” just weeks after the break-up of his marriage, which he calls ‘an emotional experience’. Bryn does give his ex-wife credit for his success. He says his career would not be where it is now, if it had not been for her. The new album was recorded on his way back from Australia; it contains British and American songs and was recorded as a result of his involvement with the 400-strong Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I received an album of the Mormon choir from a lady who was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. That album mentions the humble beginnings of the choir, which was started by John Parry of Trelawnyd (Newmarket) North Wales, as the Mormon pioneers were travelling from Wales to the Great Salt Lake in mid-1849.

There were other articles about farming; one showed photos of grain being cut with a binder and the sheaves being made into stooks; it brought back memories of my childhood.

The article “We can help you climb your own personal Everest” was about Tori James, the first Welsh woman to climb to the summit of Mount Everest at 25 years of age, and the youngest ever British woman to reach the summit. She and Elaine Rees Jones, who is said ‘to have lived and breathed agriculture since being in her pram’ were giving presentations in two North Wales venues about their connections with farming to motivate woman in agriculture.

Miriam Roberts

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Book review

Gerbrand Bakker. Ten White Geese, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer. Penguin Books, 2013. 230 pages.

If you’re looking for an unusual experience for a reader on your Christmas gift list, you might give this a try. A book translated from the Dutch about a discredited academic in a Dutch university who’s writing a thesis on the American poet, Emily Dickinson may not seem an obvious choice for Welsh readers.

Ah, but it takes place almost exclusively in a farmhouse in Gwynedd within sight of Snowden on the one side and the Menai Strait and Anglesey on the other. The academic in question has been dismissed from her position as lecturer in translation studies for improper behaviour with a young man in one of her classes. She flees, planning to drive to the western extremity of Europe - Ireland - to escape into solitude, but as she heads for the Holyhead ferry, she realises, that, seriously ill as she is, she can’t face another sea voyage, so she rents the farmhouse in Wales by default, as it were.

It’s an odd, haunting story. The ten geese of the story are gradually reduced to seven, five, four as a fox - or so we are meant to presume - makes regular nocturnal raids, during one of which he leaves only a feather and a yellow webbed foot. The protagonist is consumed by guilt throughout the story at having failed to protect them, and in the end identifies completely with them She will be billed for the missing ones.

Geese are not the only animals present in the novel, which is a bit like a guide to the wild life of North Wales: also of the avian persuasion are a red kite and rooks; in the water there are small fish and on land there is a badger (very prominent; someone calls the protagonist ‘the badger lady’ at one point), sheep, cattle - some pale, some black - a dog, lambs, and the latter seem to have particular significance; at a critical point towards the end of the novel, the young man who has come to join her in the farmhouse is likened to a lamb; Rhys Jones, the farmer who is renting out the house brings the meat of a lamb he has slaughtered, and right at the very end - and only then, we learn that the name of the protagonist is ‘Agnes’ - got it - although she has been posing as Emilie throughout.

In fact, she has been trying to divest herself of any name; the adoption of the name of her thesis subject erases her own identity.

When she takes a prescription for painkillers to the pharmacist in Caernarfon, he looks at her suspiciously because there is no name on the prescription, and when she gets home, she tears up the prescription, so that there will be no record of her at all. Because names are very important; it is mentioned several times that the English translation of the Welsh name for Snowden- Yr Wyddfa - is the Burial Place.

The boy who takes up residence with her in the farmhouse reflects on three women buried in the area. The boy’s name is Bradwen, and ‘brad’ is Welsh for ‘traitor’. Does his name mean, then that he is a purveyor of white lies or is he innocent of the act of betrayal?

The language of the novel is apparently straightforward and transparent, and the conversations utterly banal; when Emilie/Agnes says she has to go to Caernarfon, Bradwen speaks to her as if to a child: “When you get back from Caernarfon.. The Christmas tree will be done and the stove will be lit in the living room;...This afternoon at quarter past five, you’ll sit on the sofa and turn the telly on and watch Escape to the Country and while you’re doing that, I’ll cook. Fish. You’ll eat it and drink two or three glasses of wine to go with it and maybe after tea we’ll plan a garden together or watch a film.” yet we discover that they conceal as much as they reveal. What is the source of ‘the old woman smell’ that Emilie can’t get rid of, however many times she takes a herbscented bath? What is her sickness? Why did she keep it from her husband? Why did she refuse treatment for it? Why does she take against Rhys Jones? Why does Bradwen not tell her of his connection with Rhys? And so on. One puzzle that is resolved at the end is that we learn the importance of the poem she has been fretting over.

I can’t pretend it’s a cheerful holiday read, but the apotheosis does take place around Christmas day and the novel does transport us to the beautiful countryside of North Wales. I’ve often thought that the illustrations on the covers of books have been made by people who haven’t read the book itself - and that’s certainly the case here.

Those flying geese on the cover look more like Chinese cranes than the very earthbound domestic geese of the story.

And having just had an argument with a publisher about a book I translated, I’m rather suspicious of the title changes of translations. The original title was The Detour. I can’t for the life of me see what’s wrong with that. Emilie/Agnes lands in the farmhouse because of a detour she made from her original Ireland plan. Bradwen similarly ends up there because he’s made a detour in the path he’s following to map a long-distance walk. I think the book is about the curious things that happen when life takes an unexpected turn - but I could be quite wrong.

Vivien Bosley

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A Child’s Christmas in Wales

One of the (many) advantages of being Welsh is that we can scarcely turn on the radio over the Christmas season without hearing the marvellous voice of Dylan Thomas reading his iconic story. I’m sure we’ll hear it this year as the season ushers in the centenary of his birth.

We probably all turn towards our own memories of Christmases past, and time will have gilded the years of our childhood. I don’t remember my first Christmases, of course.

Apparently we spent them with my paternal grandmother in Cardiff. In those days the bus trip from Swansea to Cardiff was an all-day affair, stopping at every imaginable town and hamlet on the way. When we got there, I slept in a dresser drawer.

The ones I remember were spent at home in Swansea, and memories are not totally gilded. A neighbour used to drop in for a sherry. My father couldn’t stand her, but there was no getting rid of her. My grandparents were always with us. Somehow, my grandfather (who worked at Lewis Lewis) had retained his rural connections, and always managed to spirit up a gigantic turkey, even in the blackest years of the war. No-one ever knew how many pairs of precious nylons were handed over in the exchange.

My grand mother was in charge of the carving (to my father’s chagrin). Slices were always cut paper thin, because, of course, it had to last till New Year’s Day. Everyone joined in my annual wail of “Is this all I’m having” when the pudding was served, and everyone smiled as I confessed I couldn’t finish it. One memorable year, I dropped a cigarette down the side of the sofa, where it smouldered for some time before the alarm was given. No firemen, no Auntie descending the stairs, no water damage, just heated words and smoky memories!

Vivien Bosley

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Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newwydd Dda!

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