Singing in Welsh

Amongst the press of responsibilities and anxieties of the last couple of months, I had rather lost the fact that I had agreed to sing with a choir from my Welsh class at the Learners’ Eisteddfod in Flint last Friday.  An Eisteddfod, for those who don’t know, is an ancient Welsh tradition where people come together for song, poetry, literature and music.  It is a competition but it is also a social event, a cultural high and a community occasion.  The National Eisteddfod for Wales is a huge deal.  It moves between North and South Wales and this year it will be held in Wrexham.  Just in case anyone is reading who might be intending to come, we are about half an hour’s easy drive from Wrexham, and the holiday cottage is still free for the Eisteddfod dates.  Do have a look at the link alongside and come and stay.

The Learners’ Eisteddfod, by contrast, is not such a big deal.  I’m not sure how our Welsh tutor got us all to agree to sing.  His wife and son in law and best friend are in the class and he and his wife are good friends of ours too.  That might have helped. It seemed churlish to say no.  And besides I like singing.  I have an adequate rather than a good voice and in order to sound ok I need to be surrounded by others, singing with gusto and in tune.  In those circumstances, I can just about hold a tune myself, most of the time.

We were singing Lleucu Llwyd, which translates as Lucy Grey.  Our tutor was a learner himself, Welsh and proud of it but not a native speaker (mam iaith, mother tongue they call it here) so he was allowed to be part of our little choir of six.  He and his best friend have good voices and easily carried the rest of us along.   This, I should make clear, is not us!  I hope we sounded something like this.

We had rehearsed on and off at the end of class for a few weeks but still I felt stupidly under-rehearsed when we rolled up on Friday.  It was only that week that I had finally got all the words by heart and agreed to abandon the security blanket of holding on tight to the music.  Cornist Hall was heaving with people.  We could hardly get inside the room and there was no chance of a seat.

The choral singing was the last competition of the evening.  By that stage beer and wine had been drunk, someone had played the bagpipes – oddly Scottish in such a Welsh gathering but warmly received – and one of our choir had won first prize in the solo unaccompanied singing.  We had spoken a lot of Welsh and got cheerful and careless and switched back to English again. 

Our name was called.  We trooped up.  One, two and off we went.  There is nothing like a glass of wine to loosen the tongue.  We romped through it, hitting all the notes, remembering all the words, smiling and singing and loving it.  It was good.  We knew it was.  We even thought for ten minutes or so that we might have won until the last contestants came on and sang, in Welsh, a selection of Abba songs.  There is something about Abba songs, isn’t there?  We just couldn’t compete.

We were second, an honourable performance.  The taxi came.  We wobbled out and sang our way home. 


  1. Second is fab! You seriously can't compete with Abba, 'specially in Welsh. Well done you.

  2. Sounds like great fun. I love singing, too.

  3. Second place is not bad. I can't carry a tune at all. Not even in a choir. Congratulations.

  4. That sounds a wonderful evening! Congratulations on coming second. I am trying to imagine Abba songs in Welsh.......

  5. Was the link to you singing - unfortunately,I got nothing. Oh how I love the sound of Welsh being spoken. our grandfather's first language was Welsh but as our mother didn't learn neither did we - one day perhaps.

    I just love talking to my cousins and hearing that wonderful accent.

    Congratulations on coming second.

  6. All good fun - the best kind of fun as a matter of fact!...good company, music, drink - it just doesn't get much better.

  7. Contrary to what Susan Heather wrote above, our mother did speak some Welsh. The very first words I remember from her knee were 'Mochyn Budr'; which I believe translates as 'dirty pig'. I expect she was right!

  8. p.s. My mother's cousin, Islwyn Ffowc-Elis, won the Eisteddfod poetry crown in 1947.

  9. How utterly fabulous. There is nothing quite like singing in a group for putting a smile on one's face. I never got beyond the "I am a parrot" stage in my Welsh lessons, so I am in awe that you could sing in Welsh. Congrats on second place - I'm sure singing Abba was somehow cheating...

  10. Sounds like an uplifting experience!


  11. What larks! And well done. Abba in Welsh - there's an image to conjure with!

  12. Bravo, sounds fab and I bet you were pleased with yourselves.

    The idea of Abba being sung in Welsh has amused me greatly and you are right there would have been no competition

  13. Fantastic and very well done on coming second. In Scotland we have the Mod which sounds like a similar event.

  14. Fantastic and very well done on coming second. In Scotland we have the Mod which sounds like a similar event.

  15. Loved the singing - I was born in Wales & lived there for 15 yrs. This brought back great memories of eisteddford - sounds as though you all had a great time together as well!

  16. I love to hear Welsh, both spoken and sung. It is a beautiful language. Second is a brilliant achievement. Well done to you!

  17. Lou - you are so right. Abba was just unbeatable!
    Fran - I didn't know how much I liked to sing until I came here. In Wales you are allowed to sing whenever you like.
    Nora - Maybe you can find a noisier choir?

  18. Dartford Warbler - it helps with the imagining if you know that all the women had red feather boas!
    Susan Heather - so sorry the link didn't work. Hope it is ok now.
    Pondside - I couldn't agree with you more!

  19. Can I offer an alternative to Abba? We bought the house down with 'Delilah' at a choir festival last year. And there were choirs singing Abba too!

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun - there's something about performing that's really life enhancing isn't there? Especially when things aren't going so well elesewhere.

    Hope that life is starting to be less fraught for you and that your brother has started on his road to recovery

  20. Cro - yes, "mochyn budr" is indeed dirty pig. I wonder what you were doing?
    Janet - Funnily enough one of our choir was outraged at the Abba songs winning and definitely felt it was cheating! You must have done the same course as me. I remember Parot dw'i!
    Celia - It was, the kind of experience that takes you out of yourself.

  21. At school a Welsh mother came to sing for us once. Loved it. Her daughter was MORTIFIED! The Eistedfodd flourishes in South Africa. 2 little girls from our town proudly won prizes last year ;~)

  22. Congratulations on coming second, that's great.

  23. Rachel - Abba in Welsh is as fabulous as it is in English!
    Helen - it was great fun. I am thinking of taking up VP's suggestion that singing Delilah is the answer!
    Posie - I have never heard of the Mod but like the idea of another Celtic form of this.

  24. I think singing in public is a pretty scary prospect - to do it in Welsh is even more impressive. Well done.

    I went to the Llangollen Eisteddford once and enjoyed it much more than I thought I would. Maybe one day I'll go back with my banjo - ha.

  25. Now, don't get me wrong - Abba have a special place in my heart but I'm with Plantaliscious. Definitely cheating!! Congratulations on second place! I'd love to see a video of your performance.
    Eisteddfod was a big deal in the small town where I grew up. We performed plays and played instruments, sang, recited poetry. This is in rural Australia in the 70's mind you. A good friend there still competes and has her kids perform every year. It's a great juxtaposition of cultures.

  26. Very well done. And bully for taking part! It's all good fun. When I was learning Welsh (which I have since forgotten) we learnt to sing the dwarves' song from Snow White

    Hi Ho, Hi He,
    I ffordd y'r gwaith ar ni
    Gyda chaib a rhaw a ffon gerlaw
    Hi Ho Hi He Hi He Hi Ho Hi He
    Yn nol y'r gwaith etc

    Great fun but watch the hi ho's and hi he's

  27. Hey, congrats! Glad you had a good time, and, for my part, bagpipes only makes any gathering better! 8-)

    Listening to that video brought home how much alike folk music is the world over... besides the words, of course. You could take that tune and put the words of many American folk songs to it, and it would work as well. There's nothing like a good three-chord grouping!

  28. Ohhhhh, I love the sound of an evening mixing pipes and Welsh singing! My father's Welsh and has been in choirs all his life, and I play the pipes, so this sounds home from home for me. Good for you with the singing, it sounds a lot of fun!

    As Posie said, we have the Mòd up here in Scotland ... That sounds the same sort idea as an Eisteddfod, I guess.

    One great thing about the Mòd (amongst many) is, whatever town hosts it has its road signs made bi-lingual. Gaelic unfortunately doesn't have official language status like Welsh does, so we're sadly lacking on this front and any little Gaelic language promotion helps!

  29. I'm told on good authority that bagpipes were originally Welsh, and harps, Scottish. Never trust ideas of tradition!

  30. I love singing and have your Welsh anthem down pat!!
    I once had an old Weshman come up to me and tell me I had a beautiful Welsh voice!!!
    I'm Australian. But my husband makes sure my singing accent is ok.
    I would love to join a welsh choir here!!
    When we come to Wales in September I'm going to visit the Chepstow male choir. Was too shy last time!

  31. Playing with your dynamic views I was delighted to find this again. That young woman's voice and expressive face and wonderful smile stay with me.


Post a Comment

Comments are the best thing and the conversations they produce are the whole purpose of blogging for me. Do tell me what you think!