Cwrs Cymraeg Bro Boston, 1989
On Sunday, July 30, 1989, about 100 students of all ages (well, from age 6 to 86 or so) gathered on the pleasant campus of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts to start our thirteenth Cwrs Cymraeg. Two of those attending, Tom Reilly of New York and Larry Williams of Baltimore, had been to every one but the first, rounding out a substantial dozen. In all, students came from over 20 states and 2 Canadian provinces.
Our classrooms, luckily, were air-conditioned. Our sleeping quarters were not. But we managed very well, for the activities of each day brought a benevolent fatigue conducive to gentle sluber on confortable beds. We were treated very well by the staff in the dining room, who served good food with a smile.
There seemed to be an especially good spirit - ysbryd - this year, marked by harmony and lack of tension. There was plenty of work, almost too much, but it was no arduous chore to tackle it. Our teachers are a special breed - a happy breed who like their work. It was my own good fortune to be yn nosbarth Robert Owen Jones, and I learned many new things, revived some dormant knowledge and recharged the batteries of Cymric enthusiasm. I also marvelled at the talent of the young students who had not been studying Welsh very long, but had learned a lot. Professor Jones gave evidence of possessing a vast store of knowledge and wisdom, and we were fortunate to have contact with him every day, even for a brief week.
It was a pleasure to have Nesta Jones, Robert Owen's wife, on the teaching staff. In addition to her work in the dosbarth, she conducted an afternoon workshop for a reading group. We were also delighted by the presence of three of the Jones children, Lowri, Luned and Dafydd; two others, of university age, were away.
Cefin Campbell, in addition to all his other commitments, was the lead teacher of the course, and he was a very capable and efficient one. His pedagogical skill is something I have long admired.
In choosing an afternoon workshop to attend, I was faced with an embarassment of riches, for all were tempting: drama, penillion singing, papur bro, linguistics, etc., etc. But I chose Hefina Phillips' advanced reading group and am happy to have done so. Hefina can read complicated literature at several levels almost instinctively, revealing to her students the art of a creative author and, in her close reading, underlining the marks of his or her genius. She is priceless.
Our teachers were doubtless overworked. They gave us more in a week than some professors I have known dispense in a term. Robert Owen Jones, for instance, in addition to the daily class and afternoon workshops, gave a fascinating lecture on the Welsh language and culture in Patagonia, based on his successive stays there. He also participated in the gwasanaeth, our chapel service on Sunday.
Delyth Campbell, wife of Cefin, was another asset to our teaching staff and contributed an interesting lecture on Welsh courting customs to the dosbarth ar y cyd, as well as gracing many of the events of the week, including the panel discussion on Wales - a sobering occasion to those concerned about the language.
Greville James, a man whose versatilitiy knows no bounds, had, besides his class, more functions than one can reasonably expect from one person. He was the skilled "caller" at the twmpath dawns; he spoke effectively on the Welsh folktale at the dosbarth ar y cyd; and he was an incomparable master of ceremonies at the eisteddfod.
Another participant of tremendous versatility was the Rev. Gwyn Walters, who led a mini-cymanfa ganu on the first night (on which occasion the Harvard University Celtic Department gave us a hospitable reception). His dosbarthiadau were conducted with great skill and care; I know this from my wife Angela, who was in his class. His lecture on types of Welsh preaching, together with a demonstration of the hwyl, was a classic. He also added instrumental music, as he did at the eisteddfod and on other occasiona. On bore Sul he preached a sermon and directed some of our singing when we showed we were in dire need of direction.
Paul Birt of Hull, Quebec, of whom I unfortunately saw all too little, proved to be a fluent speaker of Welsh and several other languages. His interesting experiences in Poland were alluded to, as well as the increadible revallation that certain courses of study at Lublin University require the Welsh language. Past President Alun Hughes, well-known for years of service to Cymdeithas Madog (like Tom Reilly and Larry Williams, this was his twelfth course), was in charge of astudio preifat. Dic Driver and Marta Weingartner had the important role of teaching assistants.
An optional event was the harp concert by Robin Huw Bowen on the Tuesday. Almost everyone elected to attend, and all were glad they did. Robin is an outstanding master of the triple harp. He enlightened us on the nature of the instrument (on the hottest night of the week), and he played music of various centures. The medieval selections were captivating, although the applause indicated that "Clychau Aberdyfi" was the audience's favourite; I found "Morfa Rhuddlan" especially good.
I must mention the boat trip around Boston Harbor. It was a delight, but we froze until we warmed up in song. The next day, keeping to the theme of boats on a smaller scale, we had a presentation of the history of the coracle, together with discussions of its construction. After an enlightening discourse replete with "coracology," coracle-maker George O'Bryan of Stony Bottom, West Virginia and Rod Bowen, one of the Cwrs organizers, invited intrepid students to try a hands-on approach on the Charles River. Several did so, and nobody fell into the water, as far as I could see. (These coracles can be bought, incidentally.)
Leaving out many of the myriad details of a great week, I must say a word or two in praise of Leslie Evans, the chief organizer. A top-flight artist in her own right, she showed that she is also an able administrator. She contributed the lino's - or dragon's - share to running the course and making things work smoothly. They surely did.