Music, mountains and memories….in Wales. Part 1.

Music…..

It seems that I’ve known about the Llangollen international musical Eisteddfod forever. A niece’s choir had once competed there, others had talked of it, and so when I knew that I was visiting Wales, I searched for dates for this year’s Eisteddfod and wonderfully it was when I was going to be around, yippee!! I bought a day pass for the Wednesday, as that was when I left Shropshire to move onto Wales, thinking, I’ll leave about 5 pmish and then drive on to my Airbnb 1.5 hours north of Llangollen, arriving in daylight. Well, at least that was the plan…!! Once I arrived at the beautifully situated car parkI was entranced! There were so many people from so many places!! There was a splendiferous choice of food and beverages with friendly and helpful people serving it. Music was everywhere, on little stages placed all around the extensive grounds. Small groups, large groups, adults, children and youth, some singing, some dancing and some playing instruments, classical, jazz, modern and traditional. And this was all before I entered the huge pavilion where the countless categories of competitions took place! It was music heaven! To top it off, when I first sat down in the Pavilion, I was pleased to see the current event was Primary school choirs! Perfect!

The day’s programme in the Pavilion had reached an end by 4 pm but I was reluctant to leave this musical feast. I went and enquired about cost and availability for a ticket for that night’s concert, found out it was within my budget! I quickly sent a text to my Airbnb host telling him that I wouldn’t be arriving until late at night, not to wait up and went back in and continued the party! I found a high school band from Brisbane playing on a side stage, followed by an excellent jazz quintet and then some folk singing Opera excerpts! Wow! And then the concert….. 2 world class pianists ( a man from Sweden and a woman from Wales) played amazing works for 4hands…brilliant! ( On impressive looking/sounding grand pianos!) They were followed by the 3 finalists in the under 28(?) solo vocal competition. Wow!

To end a thoroughly stupendous day, we, the audience, along with many on stage sang an old Beatles song ( we’ll get by with a little help from our friends) in unison with other “choir’s” around the UK, to help celebrate the NHS turning 70!

This is my little hire car at 10:19 pm as I reluctantly left Llangollen and ventured on to my Airbnb. It’s very interesting driving through a country you don’t know, to a place you don’t know, at night! But thanks to Google maps I got there, safely, with only 1 unplanned detour! I quietly tiptoed up to my clearly labelled room, with only PJs and toothbrush, and was in bed by 1 am! What a day!!! 😊

The next few days I had a marvellous time exploring North Wales and it’s beauty, and I’ll share this in future posts; but on Saturday, the final day of the Llangollen international musical Eisteddfod, I found myself wending my way through the very scenic country side ( at least I could see it this time!!) back to Llangollen for a second helping of my music feast!!

Saturday held promise of yet more musical goodness! First off, I watched 6 different cultural groups perform songs, dances and instrumentals which told a story about their particular culture. Great performances from India ( x2), Ireland, Indonesia, Scotland and Zimbabwe. Sadly, my programme book is not here with me so you’re spared great details of the performers, their marks from the judges, and who won the prizes!! And also, the above 6 photos do not do the groups any justice. Sorry!

Next up, was the open choir competition…there were 17 competing choirs, from around the globe, each singing up to 12 minutes ( or was it 8?) of songs; 2 songs or 3, depending on the song! It was a long time to sit and listen, and I did miss 1 choir for a toilet and tea break, but it was wonderful, nevertheless! There was an amazing array of music sung…some presented dramatically, some traditional in presentation, whilst others had intricate moves that complimented their songs. Although a lot were in English, many were sung in that country’s own language, or in the composer’s language, or a mixture of them all. The costumes, too, were many and varied; sombre, bright, thick or thin, we saw them all! Oh what fun! I’m not sure how the adjudicators got through it, but they did! Funnily enough, I often agreed with their choices!

But to finish it off on a high note ( figuratively speaking, that is!) , we were entertained with the male voice choirs, and superb they were!! The winners of this section happened to be one of the Welsh choirs…well deserved indeed!

Sadly, without my programme, I am unable to remember how many choirs exactly, but around 6 or 7. They , too, had a time constraint and most choirs sang 2 or 3 songs. If you’re thinking that it would have been a programme of sameness..it was anything but! The men came from around the world, were in different sized choirs, sang a variety of music, stood still or did actions, wore suits, or did not; but the quality of the presentations was superb.

By the time we heard the judges’ scores and comments, the prizes were handed out, and we were quickly “guided” out of the huge pavilion, it was getting close to 7 pm. That night’s grand finale concert started at 7:30 pm, so organizers were quickly setting up for that, but this time I did not stay…time to drive back to my bnb in daylight and flop into bed.

I was privileged to have had 2 days of wonderful, world class music. But in addition to that, the organisation was world class, too! I have never seen such constantly clean & tidy toilets at an event with so many people. With beautiful fresh flowers, too! So, too, the whole grounds. The whole Llangollen community participated in some way , including school children of all ages. They sold programmes, picked up litter, worked as ushers, collected tickets, answered questions, parked cars, looked after guests and more! All with smiles! It was most impressive! Thank you, Llangollen, it was a wonderful Eisteddfod! A wonderful, once-off experience!!

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