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Cwrs Cymraeg Y Ddeilen Goch, 2004


The annual Cwrs Cymraeg, sponsored by Cymdeithas Madog and appropriately titled "Cwrs y Ddeilen Goch" (The Red Leaf course), was held at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, July 18­25, 2004. Pawl Birt, a well-known teacher from previous courses, was Chair of the Local Committee. Other members were Glenson Jones, Stephan Charbonneau , David Roberts, and Jean Howard. Pawl's experience showed, as the week seemed to flow along with perfect organization by these and other skilled professionals behind the scenes. Stephan Charbonneau designed an impressive green t-shirt for the course, incorporating Y Ddraig Goch and a Maple Leaf.

All 57 course attendees were brought together by their desire to learn or improve their Welsh, and in some cases, they did so with other family members! Significantly we had some 9 different family groups participating this year. But, in addition to our band of learners, the campus was host to several groups during the week, most notably a military ceremonial guard in red uniform coats and tall beaver hats often seen in marching formation in the early morning hours. Course participants were surprised at other times by their marching music, bagpipe playing, and kilts. What a delight to exit the cafeteria from lunch to the tune of John Phillip Sousa's "Liberty Bell March," probably better known as the theme from Monty Python! Young students from Japan and Mexico and a team of kayakers added to the diverse makeup of the campus during the week.

The course began with a reception, graciously hosted by the Ottawa Welsh Society. The participants were introduced to their teachers, including lead teacher Mark Stonelake from Abertawe, a veteran of previous cyrsiau and lead teacher for the second year running. Also from Wales were Siân Thomas and Robin Campbell. Familiar teachers from North America were Meredith Roberts, Kara Lewis, Kevin Rottet, and Hefina Phillips.

Welsh classes were held every morning Monday through Saturday, followed by an afternoon session, except on Wednesday, when participants were taking in the sights, fresh air, and sunshine of Ottawa, and on Saturday, when last minute plans for the noson lawen were foremost in the mind.

It was busy enough during the week with language classes and preparations, but there was still more! Before afternoon classes, we had a treat , with four interesting and informative lectures given by local experts, invited as guest speakers: Mark Abley on the battle to save minority languages, David Roberts on his job as an interpreter for the Canadian parliament, Pawl Birt on saints of Wales, and Charles Fisher on growing up with Dylan Thomas in Swansea. These plenary sessions stimulated lively discussions about language, Wales, and politics. The excellent speakers brought a broader focus to our week, reminding us that language and culture are inseparable.

At the end of the afternoons, students had their pick of workshops: Welsh literature, Welsh folk songs, Welsh folktales, two levels of reading groups (beginner and advanced), and the always entertaining course paper, which was distributed on Saturday much to everyone's delight. The teachers not only motivated and encouraged the participants in learning Welsh, but taught these workshops, held nightly study hall, and attended all the evening events. Rather than fading into the sunset after such a busy day, they were often the most spirited at the singalongs, where teacher Meredith’s song-leading and ever-present smile kept us all going.

Evening activities gave everyone an opportunity to get away from his or her studies and enjoy a variety of events: dancing at the twmpath dawns led by Robin Campbell; a quiz led by Quizmaster Siân Thomas with Welsh prizes; a Welsh movie (subtitled).A special movie, Dal: Yma/Nawr, was also shown, highlighting the centuries of Welsh poetry read by well-known Welsh personalities, including Ioan Gruffudd at the beach in Los Angeles and some of the poets themselves. The poetry was juxtaposed with scenes of the Eisteddfod in Ty Ddewi (St. David's), and for poetry lovers, the words were beautiful. Of course, no evening activity was ever complete until after the singing of Welsh songs and hymns!

A Friday evening eisteddfod celebrated the achievements of beginning, intermediate and advanced Welsh learners, with Sarah Stevenson winning the chair for her short story on the subject "Cymdogion" (neighbors), entitled "Chwedl Ddau Gymydog" (A Tale of Two Neighbors). Sarah will keep the beautifully carved and engraved wooden chair with her until next year, when it will be given to a new winner.

A wonderful banquet complete with Penillion singers, a local Ottawa group called Cantorion Cerdd Dant, preceded our last evening of skits, jokes, music and laughter, the noson lawen. It is always amazing how creative the groups can be . . . and the laughs never quit. There were a number of requests for the words to the "Sound of Cymraeg" song, which will teach us once and for all how to say YES and NO! The final event of the noson lawen was the heavenly sound of the cwrs choir.

Of special note were the participants who were helped by scholarship support to attend Cwrs Cymraeg 2004. In all, fifteen students of Welsh received full or partial scholarships to Cwrs y Ddeilen Goch. Generous grants from the National Welsh American Foundation (NWAF) and the Welsh National Gymanfa Ganu Association (WNGGA) funded many of those scholarships, and others were endowed by local Welsh societies—the Ottawa Welsh Society, the Welsh American Society of Northern California, and the Saint David's Welsh Society of Georgia. Cymdeithas Madog's own Scholarship Endowment Fund, contributions from other Welsh societies such as the Saint David's Society of Racine and Vicinity, and individual contributors supplemented the financial aid. By bringing to Ottawa many bright students who otherwise might not have been able to attend the course, the generosity of those Welsh organizations and individuals enriched the course for everyone who was there, and they earn the warm thanks of all. Diolch o galon!

It was a great week: beautiful city, pleasant campus, wonderful weather, dedicated teachers, informative lectures, entertainment, and a celebration of “all things Welsh." Our deepest thanks to all who helped make it possible.

Next year's Cwrs Cymraeg is planned for July 17­-24 in Rio Grande, Ohio, at the University of Rio Grande and the Madog Center for Welsh Studies.