The Cymdeithas Madog Guide To Welsh Hymn Lyrics
gan/by Robert A. Fowkes
Bob Fowkes is a long time attendee of Cymdeithas Madog's
annual Welsh language weeks. Here is his review of the Cymdeithas Madog Guide To Welsh Hymn Lyrics tape.
For more details on this tape (or for information on how
to order), visit the Cymdeithas Madog Tapes page.
Nol I Dudalen Gartref Darlleniadau Yn Saesneg
Back To The Readings Home Page
||The third audio tape in the series produced by Cymdeithas Madog is a
treasure that you should hasten to acquire, if you do not have it already. The modestly worded credit tag laconically
says "read by." But "read" both implies and conceals a wealth of experience, planning and performance.
If you were fortunate enough to attend Hefina's seminar on the pronunciation
of Welsh hymn lyrics at the National Gymanfa Ganu in Pittsburgh you glimpsed, in an all too brief session, her
superb pedagogical skill in imparting to those present the essence of the texts of some of the giants of Welsh
Now we can listen to those words over and over again, thanks to the tape, and
relying upon its inexhaustible store, build up our knowledge and buttress our confidence on any occasion when we
sing Welsh hymns. I share the belief of those who maintain that Welsh hymns should be sung in Welsh, and I deplore
the frequently overwhelming use of English.
There are obvious advantages to this tape. One is the possiblity of hearing
Hefina's renditions as often as we want, without tiring her. Another is the comfortable tempo that makes it possible
to hear the words. Most language tapes and record known to me are simply too fast. A friend who is an enthusiast
for everything Welsh and who has been to Wales several times, while not being blessed with Welsh ancestry, listens
to Welsh tapes every day as he drives to and from work. These are tapes intended for learning the language. He
tells me, however, that he could listen to some of them a million times and still understand almost nothing. They
are just too fast. Those recording them cannot realise this. I am sure that they believe they are speaking at a
very slow pace.
Those preparing such lessons sometimes answer such objectsion by stating that
it is important to speak at a "natural" tempo. For what purpose? To elicit the praise or escape the blame
of experts? But the tapes are made for those whose classification as "expert" is still far in the future.
Hefina has the uncanny faculty of reading at a sufficiently slow pace while
not making the words sound like the utterances of Dracula. It must, granted, be a great strain on the nerves of
a fluent speaker, but it is a godsend for the learner.
At the same time, she adds a bonus. She subtly inculcates a sense of the powerful
force of the "little" words, words sometimes conveying contrast, sometimes conveying connotations, sometimes
reflecting some profundity of the author. But she does not do this by over-emphasis or shouting from the rooftop.
We do not even need to know that she is doing this. We merely need to listen, to acquire, and, as far as possible,
reproduce the pleasant sounds on the tape. Fortunately, hymns relieve the learner of one difficult task: that of
mastering intonation. That is automatically taken care of by the music.
The 33 hymns (if we include the national anthem as a hymn) on this valuable
tape are provided with title and number corresponding to those in the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu hymnal; the numbers
are sequential and in ascending order, the lowest being No. 1 ("Rachie"),
the highest No. 106 ("Côr Caersalem").
Hefina also pronounces each title (a dozen or so are Welsh). She goes astray
only once and uses an original pronunciation of Wilkes-Barre not yet employed by our friends in that Pennsylvania
town. The name is not Welsh, hence we cannot complain too much. But the town has a very Welsh history.
Yr ydym ni mewn dyled fawr i Hefina - nid yn unig am y tap gwerthfawr yma,
ond hefyd am ei holl ymroddiad i'r achos Cymraeg. Diolch yn fawr, Hefina.
For more details on the tapes that Cymdeithas Madog has available for sale (or for information on how to order
a copy), visit the Cymdeithas Madog Tapes page.