REPORTS of MEETINGS, EVENTS & ACTIVITIES

                                

 

 

 Report of the Meeting held on April 27th 2022

 

 

 Fifty members had assembled at the 27 April Monthly Meeting to hear the guest speaker, retired British diplomat Sir Emyr Jones Parry. He was welcomed by Liz Armishaw, who’s Presidential year of office was interrupted by the first Covid 19 lockdown in 2020, and Sir Emyr’s talk scheduled for April of that year had to be cancelled.

 

Sir Emyr has had a most interesting educational path and career. He was educated at: Gwendraeth Grammer School (where many of the greats of Welsh rugby were educated); a degree in Theoretical Physics at University College, Cardiff (where he was President of the Students’ Union); a PhD in Polymer Physics at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. There followed a distinguished career in the diplomatic service: senior roles connected with the EU, including as Director during the UK Presidancy;  Permanent  Representative to NATO; Permanent Representative of the UK on the UN Security Council in New York;  Deputy Political Director in the Foreign Office, with responsibility for the Balkans and Aegean. Elsewhere, he was chairman  of the body reviewing Wales’s constitutional arrangements, in a campaign to increase the powers of the Welsh Assembly to a full legislative parliament similar to the Scottish Parliament, and as Chairman of the London based human rights organisation, Redress.

 

The topic of his talk intended for the  April 2020 meeting was  O Gwm  Gwenendraeth i’r Efrog Newyth, a N’Ol i Gymru,  (from Cwm Gwendraeth To New York And Back To Wales). The two year delay meant that current political situations could be considered: UK /EU tensions;  the effects of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine, NATO’s response and the variable urgency and generosity of the response of neighbouring countries to the plight of the refugees; energy and food concerns.

 

From the style of Sir Emyr’s presentation it was obvious why he had  been such a successful ambassador, and during the question time at the end he addressed the questioner directly, rather than in the style of many politicians who choose to make a speech unrelated to the question. He pointed out that Margaret Thatcher had much influence on the EU, and in particular on its future eastwards expansion following the fall of the Berlin Wall. This had been a great achievement, eleven of the new members previously had communist governments, and five did not exist before 1974. In addition Spain, Portugal and Greece had been dictatorships. He was generally supportive of the EU- the wars in the Balkans were an indication of the chaos caused by nationalism. On NATO he considered that President Putin  has missed an opportunity in his early years of reaching an understanding. In answer to questions he said that: muddled  thinking on Afghanistan was to be regretted; the UN does not exist to create heaven on earth, but rather to prevent hell on earth; the world is grey with many hideous people, and cooperation is needed; tackling two issues at once is difficult, tackling three, impossible; rights are important but come with responsibilities, freedom is not “free”; Wales is the part of the UK which will be affected the most by Brexit, and west Wales is one of the most deprived parts of Europe with a GDP lower than Romania – but independence would not be a good choice.

 

At the conclusion Sue Almond, the Vice-president, congratulated Sir Emyr for delivering such a brilliant speech, a sentiment echoed by Gwil Williams, the President. The audience had certainly been spellbound throughout, and were left with much to mull over, distil, and certainly discuss among themselves later- always the sign of a great performance. The two year wait for this high spot had been well worthwhile.  

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

 

 

 

 Report of the Meeting held on February 23rd 2022

 

There was an audience of 48 at the February meeting to hear Jan The Story Teller weave interesting tales associated with her birth place, the village of Borth on the coast of west Wales. She was welcomed by Kay Bright, who had arranged the talk.  In a fascinating presentation we learned about Dylan (the god of the sea); the Walch (witch) who caused a shaking illness to those who forgot to shut their windows at night; why seagulls cry; of the prehistoric submerged forest where bells ring at night, reminding us of Cantre Gweld, the city beneath the sea; and much more.

 

After an interval for refreshments and a ‘sgwrs’ (chat) she continued with historical tales of the generations of master mariners and boat builders from around Borth. Her great grandfather, Rowland Evans, sailed between Cardiff and south America during the great days of sail. Sadly, his brig ‘The Rowland Evans’ sank off Bardsey Island.  Much of her information came from a medicine chest she discovered in her attic. She is the author of a book “Bells Across Old Cardigan Bay”.

 

Jim Armishaw

 

 

 

Report of the 'Noson Lawen' from January 26 2022.                                  

The President, Gwil Williams welcomed the 55 people attending the traditional Noson Lawen, on 26 January 2022. There was sadness and surprise at the news of Eileen Davey’s death.

The strong Welsh cultural tradition of competing in eisteddfodau from an early age, beginning with the Urdd and progressing to the National, ensures that there is never a shortage of willing performers with a variety of talents. The first half began with a presentation of some lovely poetry , each accompanied with stunning artwork, which Hilary Camp had composed for her grandchildren. She certainly deserves to be introduced to a suitable publisher! She was followed by Derrick Thomas, the Society’s well-loved story teller, comedian - sometimes straining to stay on the right side of the wind - and “classical” mouth organist - his smallest one was only about 4 cm long! Among other tales he conjured up the picture of the little boy who, on being told off for weeing in the swimming pool, used the excuse that everybody did. “Ah”, said the official, “but not from the high diving board”. The next act, the Black Sheep group have sung at the Noson Lawen for many years, and have grown from one of Derrick Thomas’ inspirations ( yes, him again!)  many moons ago. Derrick has retired from the group which is now led by John Taylor, who arranges the music. The current members are: Basses; John Taylor, Jim Armishaw, Brian Farmer, Peter Freeman, Gareth Williams; Tenors: Dave Almond, Stuart Anderson, Clive Bright, Simon Royce, Arthur Williams, Clive Williams, Peter Wright They began with the beloved “My Little Welsh Home” followed by a rousing Russian traditional song “Katyusha” , where a patriotic soldier on a battle field dreams of his girlfriend waiting for him at home, and ends with a great victory. Their third song, “The Black Sheep Shanty, was compose by John as a surprise for Derrick, (yes, him again), and tells the story of how the group was formed. The last act of the first half were two popular duets, “Forty Second Street “and “Putting On the Ritz”, sung by Peter Freeman and John Taylor, who began with a well-received unrehearsed sketch involving a collapsing music stand.

 

After a break for some delicious refreshments, the second half began with a traditional Canu Penillion by Arthur Williams, accompanied on the piano by Meinir Wynne Davies.  Arthur had used a search engine to discover the words to “Peintio’r Byd Yn Goch”, (Painting The World Red) which he remembered hearing in the days of his youth…..a long time ago. The Red refers to Christianity. Kim Brown was the next performer, and began with Bits And Pieces, the stories behind some popular expressions, including dead ringer  (quite creepy!)…. scratch marks found on many coffins in reused graves gave rise to burying bodies with a string attached to a bell, to avoid live burials. She read a moving letter she had composed for having her son accepted at schools and sang a sad song about penguins. Jamie Hacker Hughes, who is a Welsh learner, showed his amazing progress by singing two Welsh songs, both dedicated to his wife: “Ar Lan Y Mor” (By The Seashore); and the beautiful “Anfonaf Angel” (I will send an angel)…..but  called “Guardian Angel” in the English translation….which is not a true translation, and loses much of the magic as so often occurs when a song is translated from its original language. It was a pleasure to hear it sung in its original form.

Gwil then read an hilarious Pam Ayres Fifty Shades Of Grey, before introducing the final entertainer, Clive Williams. Clive began with a story from his youth in Lake Vernwy, he played the ukulele in a group of three young lads. One night after a gig, when both of his friends thought the other was driving Clive home, a distance by road of about 12 miles, he decided to take the path over the Berwyn mountains and through some woods and to walk the 4 miles. He felt quite scared in the mist and decided to play his ukulele, unaware that the sound could be heard over a long distance. A scary story has since developed that the devil’s music can often be heard as he drives his hounds in the mountain on foggy nights. This is what Clive says, anyway! Clive then impressed with tunes played on his ukulele.

 

What a grand evening, to lift the spirits during this sad time! Gwil thanked all the performers and the catering team. Sue Almond, the Vice-president, expanded on Gwil’s remarks, and reminisced about singing at home as a young child for various visitors, quite a common occurrence in Welsh homes… a kind of rehearsal for competing at an eisteddfod.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

 

 

Report of the Christmas Meeting December 15 2021

 

The thirty four members of Chelmsford and District Welsh Society attending  the Christmas celebrations of the Society on the evening of 15 December at the Cathedral Chapter House were welcomed by the President, Gwil Williams.  All the windows and curtains were open, social distancing was observed, hand sanitiser was provided, and no one reported a covid-19 infection later. The members were very saddened and shocked to hear of the death of David Brown. David was gentle and kind, and had served the Society so well over many years; a committee member, David was the Society’s audio organiser and the web site master; his very professional web site was surely the best among all the Welsh societies.

 

The celebrations  began with mulled wine to nourish the spirits. There followed a wonderful evening of entertainment given by great friends of the Society, the talented Bartells, the harpist, Rachel, and her flautist husband , Ken. They played an interesting selection of sacred and secular songs, interspersed with Rachel’s witty anecdotes and interesting news. Most of their engagements had been disrupted during the twenty one months of the pandemic restrictions, with a few Zoom interactions. We were impressed to learn that Ken had made the most of the hiatus by concentrating on honing his skills as an organist; he was richly rewarded by achieving the prestigious award of a FRCO. An interesting piece of information is that Ken shares his birthday with that other famous flautist James Galway, and it seemed appropriate that one of the tunes he played should be Danny Boy.

The concert began appropriately with Mary’s Boy Child, followed by  It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, Away In A Manger and We Three Kings.  The wonderful, sad ,haunting Myfanwy reminded us of lost friends. Sunny Side Of The Street reminded us of better days to come. The interval refreshments were arranged by Sue Almond’s and her catering team. There followed more music, ending with I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas (not really, but rather a sunny Christmas!)

At the conclusion, Sue, the Vice-president,  thanked Rachel and Ken for a wonderful concert. Then a heartfelt Unwaith Eto’N Nghymru Annwyl. How wonderful it had been to share Christmas celebrations with lovely friends once again!

Jim Armishaw

 

 

 

Report of the meeting held on November 24th 2021

 

About  50 members attended the 24 November monthly meeting.  In a change from the advertised programme, they were treated to the fascinating history of Copped Hall, a mid 18th century country house near Epping,  delivered by  Linda Stewart of the Copped Hall Trust. The site has a long history, stretching all the way back to the Iron Age, and including the Roman occupation and subsequently the site of a Saxon village. Henry 2nd had a hunting lodge built on the site, from the top floor of which he could shoot the deer herded into view, without the exertions of the hunt. Richard 1st bestowed the lands on Richard Fitz  Aucher to hold them in fee,  and hereditarily of the Abbey. They continued in the possession of the Aucher family until they came into the hands of the Abbot, where they remained until the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry 8th. The land then passed through several owners, the first of whom built an elaborate Tudor mansion with about 50 bedrooms. Guests included Elizabeth 1st, and the entertainment provided on one occasion included a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It was eventually purchased by Edward Conyers in 1739, whose son John later decided to demolish the then dilapidated Hall and to build a new house on a different site. This large Georgian house, in landscaped parkland, was described at the time as ”the premier house of Essex”. John’s son, who inherited next, altered the house extensively, and  unfortunately his son, Henry John, was so obsessed with hunting that  he neglected the house.

 

In 1869 George Wythes, a civil engineer who had made his fortune building railways around the world, purchased the now rather neglected house. In 1917  an accidental fire caused by an electrical fault  gutted the house, which was never inhabited again, and the family moved into another house on the estate. A period of total neglect followed the sale of the estate in 1950; the main 18th century house was stripped of useful building materials and left to  deteriorate. Mushrooms were grown in what had been the basements, which also housed pigs. Fortunately plans  by various developers to build a golf course, hotel,  conference centre, etcetera were  unsuccessful, and In 1995 the freehold of the house, ancillary buildings and gardens was acquired by a conservation group, the Copped Hall Trust, a charity run entirely by volunteers, with no lottery funding, and is slowly restoring  the hall and gardens, replicating the Georgian décor. The house can be visited on certain days, raising monies towards the restoration. The West Essex Archaeology Group (WEAT)  hold annual excavations at the site, focussing mainly on earthwork remains of the Tudor house which predates the Georgian house.

Linda Stewart proved to be an excellent speaker and received warm applause; she was  thanked by Sue Almond, the Vice –president.

 

Jim Armishaw.

 

Report of the meeting held on October 27, 2021

 

Welsh Society Report October 27 2021 On 27 October, the society welcomed back, Dafydd Wyn Jones, the tenor from North Wales, who had previously performed at the St. David’s Day Dinner back in February 2020. Despite being down in numbers on our initial September meeting, those present were very privileged to be in the company of such a talented young singer. After we had sung “Unwaith eto’n Nghymru Annwyl,“ it was Dafydd Wyn’s turn to sing. To say we were “entertained” would be an understatement! Dafydd’s opening song, a Welsh translation of Ivor Novello’s ”Shine through my Dreams” was performed with energy and exuberance and certainly gave us a taste of what was to come! In fact each song was introduced with a remarkable freshness from start to finish. Three English art songs followed: “O Waly, Waly” by Benjamin Britten, “Man is for the woman made” by Henry Purcell and “Silent Noon“ by Vaughan Williams. In the Britten the vocal line was accompanied by low and sombre chords in the piano and it was an obvious choice to succeed the song by Ivor Novello. In contrast the Purcell was a fast moving and rhythmic piece, full of dynamic contrast and articulation. However, it was Dafydd Wyn’s delivery of “Silent Noon” by Vaughan Williams which was the most captivating. Here the sensitivity expressed in the quieter passages was enough to reduce the most steely to a tear, whilst the fortissimo phrases were passionate and euphoric. Then, there followed two contrasting German songs (“Lieder”), “Nacht und Traume” by Schubert and “Morgen” by Richard Strauss. In the Schubert, the vocal phrases were long and expansive and the dark slow changing harmonies beneath in the piano accompaniment contributed to the passion of the text. “Morgen” however was delicately light in essence with the piano making arpeggiated declamations only. The first half of the recital concluded with two Welsh songs: “Elen Fwyn” by R.S. Hughes and “Anfonaf Angel” (Guardian Angel) by Robat Arwyn. It was such a pleasure to hear Dafydd Wyn sing the latter, a song which had been recorded by Bryn Terfel in 2011 to raise money for the Welsh Air Ambulance Service. After a “sgwrs,” a cup of tea, “bara brith” and Welsh cakes, Dafydd Wyn opened round two with a song in episodic form by Wilfrid Jones called “Y Bugail” (The Shepherd). Then, two operatic arias followed by Lalo and Gounod, both romantic in every sense of the word, displaying effortless power in the high tessitura and plenty of agility. It came as no surprise therefore that Dafydd Wyn received a standing ovation and returned with an encore of Westlife’s “You Raise Me Up.” Dafydd Wyn was accompanied by the pianist and society member, Meinir Wyn Davies and like Dafydd, she is a recipient of the prestigious “Blue Riband” Prize at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Our next meeting will be on 24 November. However due to unforeseen circumstances the Essex Chordsmen will not be performing. Instead, we shall be having a “Mystery Evening” given by our society members. I am sure those in attendance will not be disappointed!

 

Meinir Wyn Davies