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Catriona 
Posted: 30-Mar-2003, 06:06 PM
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I know that WelshGuy is busy, but this might tempt him to post!

The National Eisteddfod in Wales is an amazing concept. There are 'druids', poets and people from all around the globe who bring their national 'wares' to the event.

I remember attending one, many years ago - my group of dancers from Edinburgh took part.

C'mon Welshguy - give me a hand here! After all, it IS your national forum!

Yakki Dah! :cool:
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Catriona 
Posted: 03-Jul-2003, 05:29 AM
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Welsh Guy is still tied up with his business at the moment - and is not posting... soooooo, for those who are interested in Wales, here's a site re the Eisteddfod. It takes place at the beginning of August every year - and is a great event to visit - even for those of us who are not Welsh and do not speak the language....!

Here's a site which gives history and what happens during the Eisteddfod.

I have bought a number of carved Welsh 'love spoons' whilst on holidays there, as well as a beautifully carved child's chair, which is just looking better and better with every year's polishing and loving attention.

The experience of being in a Welsh pub and hearing local men singing some of their national songs cannot be described.... Brings a lump to the throat of this die-hard Scottish national, I can tell you wink.gif

http://www.eisteddfod.org.uk/english/about...ut/history.html

I've used the English translation of the above site - but if anyone speaks Welsh, there is obviously a Welsh version on that site!
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Catriona 
Posted: 09-Aug-2003, 05:20 PM
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The Eisteddfod opened today...

Where are you, WelshGuy?! cool.gif
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CelticRadio 
Posted: 10-Aug-2003, 12:26 AM
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We will hold his spot indefinitely! Welsh Guy, please come back! rolleyes.gif


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WizardofOwls 
Posted: 11-Aug-2004, 08:12 PM
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Hello!

Here is some interesting information I found about the Eisteddfod in the archives for the radio show Thistle & Shamrock. The article is about the 2000 event, but I thought you might enjoy reading it nonetheless. Other interesting articles can be found at the followin addy:
http://www.npr.org/programs/thistle/featur...breton_art.html

Hope you enjoy it!

Wales Celebrates Bardic Heritage With Eisteddfod 2000
This article first appeared in the September 2000 Thistle & Shamrock Newsletter.

In 1176, according to a manuscript from the time, Lord Rys ap Gruffudd held a seated gathering (an eisteddfod) at his castle in Cardigan, Wales. A 12th century patron of the arts, he invited poets and musicians from all over the country, and awarded the best poet and musician a chair at his head table. In the years which followed, many cisteddfodau were held throughout Wales, under the patronage of Welsh gentry and noblemen.

Today, an Eisteddfod is a series of music and poetry competitions, and there are hundreds of small local and school eisteddfodau held throughout Wales all year round. It is a particular tradition that St. David?s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi Sant on March 1st), be celebrated with an Eisteddfod, especially in Welsh schools.

On a national level, 1880 saw the formation of an association to ensure that a grand scale Welsh music festival, based around the traditions of ancient bardic competition, was staged every year. With the exception of the war years of 1914 and 1940, the National Eisteddfod has succeeded in reaching this impressive goal.

The main festival takes place on a different site each year, to ensure that it visits every part of the country. In keeping with tradition, the most prestigious competition at "the National" is still poetry based, with the main award being the Chair, a specially-commissioned piece of fine furniture, which harks back to the days of the first bardic gatherings in ancient courts.

The prize for poetry in "free metres," (not following the traditional poetic pattern) is a crown, and it is considered a great honor to win either prize. Indeed, prizes are only awarded when the entries are deemed to have reached the high standard set by previous years' winners.

The Royal National Eisteddfod, Yr Eisteddfod Genedlacthol, was held this year from August 5-12 in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire. As ever, the ceremonies for the chairing and the crowning of the bards were filled with tradition and color. The winners were escorted from the audience to the stage to receive their prizes amidst a pageant of dancing flower girls and great applause. At the Wales International ceremony, expatriates from all over the world came home to join in the festivities.

Many traditional Welsh musicians have criticized the Eisteddfod organization for stifling true Welsh traditions, in favor of a classical approach to Welsh music. They also maintain that the competitive atmosphere inhibits young people from embracing traditional music in a natural, informal atmosphere.

In response, the Eisteddfod has attempted to cater for younger tastes with live rock bands of today. It has also grown to include competitions in crafts, dancing, folk singing, choral, drama, theater and many other arts.

But the festival will always be associated with a more classical interpretation of Welsh culture: Famous Welsh singers who began their careers at "the National" include Sir Geraint Evans and the internationally renowned bass baritone Bryn Terfel. He performed this year with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, offering new Welsh works by Pwyll ap Sion, and Iwan Llwyd.

Keeping the fold traditions alive at Eisteddfod 2000 were singer songwriter Dafydd Iwan, with special guests Ar Log, the first band from Wales to record traditional Welsh folk song and dance in 1978, and the Llanelli Male Voice Choir.

If your name is Jones, Griffiths, Williams, or Morgan; if you love choral singing, and pageantry; if you thrill to the sound of an ancient Celtic language spoken everywhere you turn, be sure to mark your calendar for the first week in August, 2001.

Copyright 2004 NPR and Fiona Ritchie


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susieq76 
Posted: 31-Jan-2005, 10:56 AM
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The giving of hand-made wooden love-spoons to one's sweetheart (or intended lover) seems to be a peculiarly Welsh custom, though the custom of presenting various wooden articles as gifts was widespread in many countries of Europe from the end of the 17th century. In Wales, the wooden articles took the form of intricately decorated spoons, given by the suitor as a prelude to courtship and a token of his interest. Like the making of the rush candles on Pilnos, the carving of love spoons from a single piece of wood became a special pastime enjoyed by the peasantry in the long, idle winter months. As in many other customs, the eating of food seems to have a lot to do with the choice of a spoon as a gift. The practice of using a particular utensil to eat led perhaps to the spoon's being chosen, first for its utilitarian use, but then as a symbol of a desire to help one's lover. No longer to be used for eating, the spoons were given long handles and could be hung on the wall as reminders or as decorations. Elaborate patterns and intricate designs began to proliferate, and Welsh love spoons began to appear in every conceivable size and shape, and in different kinds of wood. Many produced today are made by a number of craftsmen anxious to show off their skills and imagination. Some of the designs can be interpreted as follows: two bowls sprouting from one handle signifies "we two are united;" keys or keyholes mean "my house is also yours;" an anchor signifies that the donor has found "a place to stay and settle down" and so on. Many spoons are carved with a swivel or chain attachment with the number of links showing the number of children desired. Naturally, many spoons were given as Valentines, and have the heart or entwined hearts motif; some have initials of the lovers. Some were made as puzzle spoons, with captive spheres or balls being carved in the handles. The finest display of love-spoons is now on permanent display, along with their history and areas of manufacture, at the Welsh Folk Museum, St. Ffagan.

Birth Customs
Expectant mothers in many parts of Wales had to be very careful what they did before the baby was born. For example, if she stepped over a grave, it was believed that the baby would die soon after birth or would be still-born. If she dipped her hands into dirty water, the child would grow up having coarse hands. If the child was born under a new moon, it would grow up to be eloquent in speech. If born at night, it would be able to see visions, ghosts and phantom funerals. During the christening ceremony, if the baby held up its head, it would live to be very old. If, however, it allowed its head to fall back or to rest on the arm of the person holding it, the child would die an early death. At some christening ceremonies, specially designed drinking glasses were used to consume prodigious amounts of liquor in toasts to the newly baptized infant. (to be fair, it has to be remembered that it is only in this century that most of the water supplies in Wales have become fit to drink, and beer was always not only considered a safe drink, but was also thought to confer strength).

There are many great traditions of Wales, but three stand out that make it culturally distinct from its neighbors: the Eisteddfod, the Noson Lawen and the Cymanfa Ganu. Of these, the Eisteddfod is probably the most ancient and certainly the most popular. Most towns and villages conduct an annual Eisteddfod in one way or another. It is simply a competition, but the word translates as a "Chairing," with the winner being awarded a chair upon which he is ceremoniously crowned to great acclaim. Winners of local eisteddfodau (pl) go on to compete on a county or regional level, eventually reaching the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales (Eisteddfod Genedlaethol Cymru ) in which they compete with others from all parts of the country. The "National" is the largest folk festival in Europe: held in a different town the first week in August each year. Alternating between a venue in South Wales one year and North Wales the next, it draws vast crowds to enjoy its week-long activities.

Eisteddfod: A Cultural Competition
The idea of the Eisteddfod is very ancient. It began, as did many Welsh institutions, as a challenge from outside. This was the Norman invasion of Britain and the consequent subjugation of much of the population of Wales to Norman rule. In Wales proper, the coming of the Normans had the paradoxical effect of bringing about a brilliant new literary culture that was both Welsh and European in its outlook. There was an explosion of literary activity mainly made possible through the proliferation, throughout Wales, of monasteries and friaries, with their reverence for historical and literary traditions and their expertise in strengthening and preserving those traditions. Of great significance for Welsh culture was the revival of the bardic orders, indeed, the expansion of those orders led to the first eisteddfod, for the bards were anxious to come together in the spirit of competition. It is this era, too, that saw the blossoming of the Arthurian tradition, in which the Welsh people thought of themselves as the true British people, the heirs to Arthur and the glorious heroic age attributed to his time.

A "sitting" of bards, or poets, took place as early as 1176, when the Lord Rhys convened the people of Wales to Cardigan (Aberteifi). Rhys (Rhys ap Grufffudd) had been appointed justice of South Wales by Henry II, and his rights to the territories he controlled were recognized by the king. The purpose of this meeting, apart from demonstrating the position of preeminence held by Lord Rhys among the Welsh princes, was to regulate the business of the bardic orders. Metrical rules were set up, and licenses were given to those who had completed their apprenticeship. The event is described by an anonymous writer in the historical document, "Brut y Tywysogion":
At Christmas in that year the Lord Rhys ap Gruffudd
held court in splendour at Cardigan, in the castle.
And he set two kinds of contests there; one between
bards and poets, another between harpists and crowders
and pipers and various classes of music-craft.
And he had two chairs set for the victors.

Other noteworthy eisteddfodau were held at Carmarthen in 1451, and at Caerwys in 1523 and 1567, when further rules were drawn up and licenses granted. After Caerwys, with the gradual break-up or anglicization of some of the great families of Wales and the loss of their patronage, the tradition of the early Eisteddfod, for all practical purposes, became extinct, and it was only thanks to the vivid imagination of an 18th century London Welshman that it survived and flourished anew.

There is a Welsh expression that translates as "The best Welshmen live outside of Wales," and it is noticeable that most advocates of Welsh nationhood in the late 18th century lived in London. It was there that the visionary Edward Williams, better known to posterity by his bardic title Iolo Morganwg, in a stirring speech to the London Welsh Society, gave his spellbound listeners a sense of what it meant to belong to the ancient Celtic race and what they could do to ensure that the ancient Welsh traditions became better known and handed down to posterity. In 1792, a dramatic address by another London Welshman, Sir William Jones had announced the discovery of North America three hundred years before Columbus by Prince Madoc. Jones spoke of the so-called Welsh Indians, descendants of Madoc's explorers, whom he praised as "a free and distinct people, who have preserved their liberty, language, and some trace of their religion to this very day." Though Jones' discoveries were later discounted, the myth of the founding of America by Madoc and a group of fellow Welsh explorers has persisted; it plays a great part in much Welsh literature written subsequent to the late 18th century. It was Jones, too, working in India, who discovered the link between the Celtic languages and Sanskrit, in which the sacred writings of India were written, and this connection gave to the Welsh language a long and proud ancestry of which the nation could be rightly proud.

In the winning of their independence by the Americans, the writings of Welshman Richard Price had been most influential. When the French Revolution helped spread ideas of liberty throughout Europe, the London Welsh, in a state we can only now describe as euphoria, saw hopes of a revival of Welsh nationhood, if not that of independence from the British Crown. Their first gesture was reestablish the moribund Eisteddfod. The centuries old festival of poetry was to be given a national affirmation, but first it needed a sense of dignity and a clothing of pageantry. Both were provided by the vivid imagination of Iolo Morgannwg. As there was a sad lack of a coherent body of Welsh cultural traditions, Iolo invented them, along with an elaborate and fancy ceremony. Most of these were entirely unknown to the Welsh people, but have since been expanded and elaborated to become a much-loved part of the Eisteddfod ever since. It was Iolo, a stonemason from the Vale of Glamorgan, who invented the Gorsedd (circle), the guild of bards that today plays such a prominent role in Welsh cultural affairs today and which, in their colorful "druids" robes, provides much of the pageantry and excitement attending the events of the Eisteddfod once a year.

In the 1860's the National Eisteddfod Society was founded, and the modern era of the competitions began. The chief contest is still that of poetry, being separated into two categories: for the Chair, and for the Crown. It is still a marvel that thousands of people gather together to hear the adjudications of the entries in the poetry competition and give their applause and admiration to the winning bard. The Eisteddfod, with its modern competitions expanded to include the arts and crafts, country dancing, folk singing, choral competitions of all kinds and drama and prose contests has, over the years, provided a tremendous impetus to the fostering of Welsh as a living, breathing language. No English is allowed on the stage of the huge pavilion. The Eisteddfod even caters to the younger crowd with concerts by modern Welsh Rock groups, and on the Eisteddfod grounds,the Maes (meadow) one can meet old friends, listen to music, browse through hundreds of pavilions that sell Welsh books and records, arts and crafts, goods made of Welsh coal or slate or wool, music and musical instruments, food and drink of all kinds (though alcohol is still forbidden); or catch up with the latest happenings at the various society tents. We must not forget, too, the yearly gathering of the Welsh Youth League (Urdd Gobaith Cymru), second in importance only to the National Eisteddfod of Wales, which also helps keeps the language and cultural traditions of the Welsh people alive by fostering competitions in singing, dancing, poetry, prose and drama, all conducted through the medium of the Welsh language among the nation's youth.

In addition to the National, there is another important Eisteddfod in Wales with, for many, a much broader appeal. After World War II, with its shocking waste of life and disruption of much that had been held dear for so long, a brilliant idea came to the mind of an official of the British Council, Welshman Harold Tudor of Coedpoeth, a little town near Wrexham, Clwyd. Harold conceived the idea of an international folk festival, conducted very much along the lines of the Welsh National Eisteddfod, but open to competitors from all parts of the world. The music organizer of the National, W.S. Gwynn Williams, was very receptive to the idea, especially as it entailed the desire of the Welsh people to contribute in their own unique manner to the healing of the terrible scars left by the War. The site chosen for the new festival was along the banks of the River Dee, in a meadow under the ancient castle of Dinas Bran, and the first Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod duly took place in the summer of 1947, with fourteen different nationalities represented. It has been held each year since, attracting many thousands of spectators and hundreds of competitors, whose colorful native costumes and delightful singing and dancing fill the streets of Llangollen for one whole week every July. (One of the early competitors was the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who came with his father to sing in a choir from Italy in the early years of the festival and who returned to give a goodwill concert in 1995).

Cymanfa Ganu: Hymn Singing
The next Welsh cultural tradition of importance is that of the Cymanfa Ganu. We would expect this to be an ancient custom for a writer as early as Geraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) noted in 1193 that the Welsh people:
". . .in their musical concerts do not sing in
unison like the inhabitants of other
countries, but in many different parts...
You will hear as many different parts as
there are performers who all at length
unite with organic melody."
Yet the Cymanfa Ganu with its emphasis on hymn singing in parts is not an ancient event at all, for it grew out of the Temperance Movement in the mid-nineteenth century. In South Wales, Choral societies were founded as one solution to the grave problem of drink. Because of the unsanitary conditions in the rapidly-growing and hurriedly-thrown together housing developments, water was unsafe to drink and beer was drunk in prodigious quantities. This was one of the worst consequences of the industrialization that was rapidly changing the face of the valleys. To help the workers occupy their time and keep them away from the taverns, the choral movement reflected the social aspirations of the proponents of temperance. On Christmas Day, 1837, a temperance procession marched through the streets of Dowlais, joined by choirs from neighboring towns. Inspired by the success of the day's events, the Gwent and Glamorgan Temperance Movement decided to hold an annual festival of choirs and at the Eisteddfod at Aberdare of 1846, choral competition was added to the list of events. It has remained ever since as one of the most popular and best attended events. Many hymns have been written expressly for the Cymanfa. In the chapels of Wales, choral singing of the beautiful, stirring hymns went hand-in-hand with the temperance movement. In areas of increasing anglicization, the chapels offered a refuge for the besieged language, and in the great religious revivals of the late 19th century, it was inevitable that certain days a year be set aside purely for the singing of hymns. These occasions became the Cymanfaoedd Ganu,(pl) or Hymn Meetings. Conducted entirely in Welsh, they were led by conductors specially trained in bringing forth from their congregations the Welsh hwyl or emotion. Following months of rehearsals in four-part singing, the meetings often lasted all day long. With the decline of attendance in chapel going, especially over the last quarter of a century, many towns in Wales no longer hold the annual Cymanfa, but the tradition has experienced a great revival in North America, where, in a different city each year, thousands of Welsh Americans and Canadians get together to sing their beloved hymns in what has now become a four-day festival.


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Siarls 
Posted: 23-Apr-2005, 09:49 AM
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Just to let you know... I work at the National Eisteddfod!


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Siarls 
Posted: 23-Apr-2005, 09:51 AM
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In fact, it'll be in Swansea for 2007. I can NOT wait!!! It'll be held next door to the university. biggrin.gif
Apart from studying there, it's only half an hour away from my home. Plus my mother works at the uni and will probably be able to see the Eisteddfod from her office... she has beautiful views of Swansea, the Brecon Beacons, Mor Hafren and England from her office.
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susieq76 
Posted: 25-Apr-2005, 12:08 PM
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*sigh* if I get any more jealous my head is going to explode, lol! That is so awesome, Siarls!! Maybe I can get over there then. I am supposed to do a study abroad in the summer of 2006, but maybe the next summer if it possible. That would be so wonderful to see. I was thinking of going to study in Wales, since I could continue my Welsh lessons there (the ideal place, obviously!). They may make me go to London, but that is still sort of closeby.....you will have to post all about it here, and any preparations you are making, as well as anything else you can think of!
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Siarls 
Posted: 25-Apr-2005, 02:23 PM
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OH MY GOSH! I AM COMPLETELY MISTAKEN. The National Eisteddfod is in Swansea next summer as in 2006!! I am even more excited now! Sorry for the earlier mistake.
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susieq76 
Posted: 25-Apr-2005, 02:28 PM
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Now that is awesome! Then I could possibly be there! *SQUEAL* You should be excited! How cool is that!?!
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Siarls 
Posted: 26-Apr-2005, 06:42 AM
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It's great. I have friends that enter the competitions. One of my lecturers wanted me to enter a poetry competition, but I'll wait a few more years - maybe when it's back in Swansea, or in Carmarthenshire.
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gwenynen 
Posted: 27-Apr-2005, 10:12 AM
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Siarls, do you know if the Eisteddfod will go to Liverpool after all? Or will it go to Porthmadog?


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Siarls 
Posted: 27-Apr-2005, 01:19 PM
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I don't think they've decided. The Eisteddfod (or steddfod as we tend to call it) is in financial difficulty I believe. It won't be the first time it has been in Liverpool!!
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gwenynen 
Posted: 28-Apr-2005, 11:36 AM
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What do you think of steddfod crossing the border?

If you enter it, please post your poem at this forum (if it's OK with a copy right, etc.)
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