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

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  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 hymnody.

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.

Draig Cymdeithas Madog

© Cymdeithas Madog
23 Mawrth/March 2000

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