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Cwrs Cymraeg Dyffryn Shenandoah


Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia was the site of our 35th annual Cwrs Cymraeg Dyffryn Shenandoah, this year organized with the help of Jaque Lyman, head of the local committee. Great thanks to Jaque for doing a wonderful job and for making everyone feel welcome and at home.

We are grateful for the kind support from NAFOW, as well as some generous donations from the Edmonton Welsh Society, the Calgary Welsh Society and a number of anonymous donors who sponsored the attendance of several students. We were pleased this year to award the Barckley Scholarship to Sarah Stevenson and the Mergenthal Scholarship to Marjorie Stump. Several bursaries were also awarded to Bill Roberts, Mary Ann O'Brien, Ceri Jones, Maegan Langer, Nicole Evans, Howard Evans (Nicole's grandfather) and Celyn Pratt.

The weather was fine for the whole week though quite hot. Thankfully, the facilities and dormitory areas on campus were air-conditioned. The food was exceptionally good with choice and variety to suit everyone's needs and the kitchen staff were very kind and helpful.

We were fortunate to have Geraint Wilson-Price return again to the Cwrs, this year as lead tutor. Geraint has taught on the Cwrs for many years and his easy and engaging manner make for a very friendly and relaxed atmosphere. Fellow tutors included Angharad Devonald, Chris Reynolds and Mark Stonelake from Wales, and Marta Diaz, John Otley and Kevin Rottet from North America. As well as running Welsh classes for levels 1 to 7, this fantastic team put on workshops for Breton, Welsh Reading for Beginners, Opera Sebon, History of the Language, Introduction to Contemporary Welsh Music, Five Important Dates in Welsh History, and oversaw production of Drych Dyffryn, the Cwrs newspaper, an excellent record of the week's excitements.

Every evening, course participants were given the opportunity to practice their Welsh in a relaxed environment with plenty of social activities. Film night was particularly special this year as we were lent the Welsh language film Patagonia by Gren Thomas, one of its producers and a past Cwrs participant. The film follows the journey of an old Patagonian woman trying to find her roots in Wales with the help of her grandson and tracked the parallel journey of a young Welsh couple losing and finding their way in Patagonia. Look out for this film at next year's Oscars, as it is Britain's entry for Best Foreign Language Film. Chris led us enthusiastically on the dance floor for a twmpath, a Welsh traditional barn dance, testing our counting skills. He was aided by Brooks Jones and his wonderful banjo playing. Later in the week we held an impromptu games night where Scrabble was played in Welsh (and Wenglish). Pub Quiz night was designed by Geraint, testing our Welsh geography and popular culture. It was boisterously competitive yet friendly and, naturally, the evening ended in song.

We made our way to Harpers Ferry, an historic town in Jefferson County, for our mid-week field trip. The town is best known for its role in the American Civil War and for John Brown's raid on the armoury. We were impressed by the costumed guides who wore their eighteenth-century frocks in intense heat.

There were three levels of competition for our Eisteddfod entries. There were several entries at the highest level this year. In an excellent repeat performance, the Chair was awarded to Rob Davis for his poem, "Gwreiddyn a chrag". Llongyfarchiadau!

The Cwrs week culminated in a banquet. For Paul Batty this meant feasting with three generations of Welsh-speaking family - with his grandparents & Mam there too. Being all together, this was the perfect time to remember Tom Reilly, a great friend and supporter of the Cwrs, and to announce the first recipient of the Tom Reilly Memorial Scholarship, eighteen-year old Trisha Thomas, on her third time on the Cwrs. Trisha is a talented linguist, as was Tom, and has already begun her studies in languages at the University of Chicago.

Maegan Langer spoke for all declaring this year's Noson Lawen 'exceptional'. It truly was an evening to remember. Individual performances were given by both Cwrs veterans and greenhorns, with a number of wonderfully entertaining and hilarious class skits (ahoy there, Level 1 pirates!). There was also a performance by the Cwrs choir, accompanied by Timothy Doughty on piano and directed by myself, of a Welsh hymn, 'Tydi a Roddaist' and a folk song, 'Mae'r Ddaear Yn Glasu', learnt after only four practices. A memorable evening!

It was a great joy to see Cwrs friends again and to meet so many new people. Thank you to all the Cymdeithas Madog Board members for their hard work during the year; to Jaque Lyman for her organizational skills; Cheryl Mitchell for making such thoughtful gift bags; the tutors for their patience and expertise; and to all of you, Cwrs Dysgyblion, who made it such an amazing week.

Special thanks are due to Sarah Stevenson for her nine years spent working for the Board. Sarah's one of the hardest working and most reliable people I've ever met and she's earned a well-deserved rest. And please remember to buy her book, "Latte Rebellion", available at fine bookshops everywhere.

Hope to see you all in Salt Lake City next summer for Cwrs Halen y Ddaear! / Gobeitho gwela i chi i gyd yn Ninas Llyn Halen yr haf nesa!