… I think the last two days have been two of the most interesting days I have ever spent. I have seen i Welsh Eisteddfod, a national gathering of an enormous crowd of people devoted to music and poetry. The Welsh are a nation of singers – Wherever pou gel a crowd of Welshmen, whether they’re down the mine, in the factory or watting on the platform for a train, they just can’t help bursting into song. “Anyone,” said Mr. Evans, ” who has heard a crowd of 50,000 Welshmen before a Rugby match at Cardiff singing ‘ Land of my Fathers’, will never forget it,” You could hardly find a town in.
Wales, however ttnall, that hasn’t a choir. Its conductor isn’t a trained musician; he may be only a miner, an agricultural labourer or “Jones the milk”; but the university lecturer or the doctor’s daughter will be happy to under his leadership. The choir will gather in little chapel almost every night for practice-for are preparing for the Eisteddfod, and the pieces for competition (this year they are two difficult works by Bach and Brahms) need a lot of practice to them to perfection. I should think the Welsh the only people m the woHd whose only national is devoted to music and poetry.
For that is what an Eisteddfod is. Their National Eisteddfod* is held every year in the first week in August, one year in the North of Wales, the next year m the South, and competitors come from all pans of Wales to compete in it. For twelve months thousands of Welsh people have been practising music; the shepherd on the hills, the teacher in the grammar school have been working at the poem that they hope will win the prize – Ahousewlfc may he a harpist, a parson a poet. During the week of the competition about a hundred thousand people will travel to the Eisteddfod to hear the competitors and listen to the judges* decisions. The Eisteddfod is one of the oldest of all Welsh customs; the first one of which we have any record waa held in ihe 6th century, and as early as A. D, 940 the prize for the winning ” bard ” (poet) was a chair or throne.
And that is still Ihe prise today. In medieval times every chieftain used to keep a bard, and there were other bards who wandered about the country singing songs and making poems. There must have been quite a lot of poor singing and bad poetry then, for Queen Elizabeth I ordered an Eisteddfod to be held every year with the object of raising the standard of music and getting rid of the lazy, worthless barda. By a stroke of great good fortune for Frieda and me, the Eisteddfod was due to take place this year at Caernarvon at the very time that we were in North Wales.
Mr. Evans has a brother who lives in Caernarvon and he invited us to stay at his house the night before ihe meeting opened.