The Welsh sing 4 part harmony

The following is from my Minnesota Farmer Blog

I’m just back from Calgary in Canada where I was attending the North American Festival of Wales.  That’s Wales without an H.  Wales is an area of Britain.  It’s on the west side of the island.  Welsh folk were there before the Romans, Saxons or the Normans.  Their language is more ancient than most in Europe and has given few words to the modern English language.  It very nearly was a dead language since the rest of England tried to outlaw the language, but it and it’s people still survive.

Many Welsh people emigrated to the Americas where they became miners, teachers, farmers and businessmen.  If you see someone named Jones, Roberts, Williams and a host of other names, you can probably trace their roots back to Wales.

I go to Welsh/American events for the singing. It’s the only reason I go, well maybe not since I married into a Welsh/American family that has been, and continues to be very active in Gymanfa Ganu’s (or more properly Cymanfa Canu) and many other things Welsh. It is only half a joke when I tell folks that I had to audition to join the family.

I’m of German/Prussian/Norwegian decent. When I was growing up I remember my dad’s family singing German and American songs at family gatherings. There were violinists, pianists, accordion players and guitar players, and that was just the men. One uncle had a polka band. On my mothers side we had a great aunt who had run off to Hollywood to join the music scene then came home to work in a music store and give piano lessons. Holiday gatherings there were filled with Norwegian and American songs. Music was part of my growing up years.

School years also contained music. I took piano lessons, studied the clarinet and bass violin, those things never took with me, but singing did. I joined a barbershop chorus and the church choir and continued singing harmony when I settled into my own place, I still do. That tells you why I love to sing with the Welsh, it’s for the harmony.

The Welsh have a joy of harmony that is hard to contain. You will be just as likely to find them bellowing out a hymn at a rugby game or a pub as you would in church. Music seems to fill them. They will let anyone with a similar joy of harmony join in. The most difficult part of singing with the Welsh is learning to sing Welsh.

For those of you unfamiliar with the language, it contains 28 letters, and leaves out about 6 or 7 letters usually found in English. DD and LL are actual letters of the alphabet for them. The rules for the differences between F and FF give you a hint as to why English is at times so hard to pronounce and spell.  Their list of vowels also includes W, and has some interesting sounds for the rest of the more common English vowels.

After 40 years of attending Minnesota based Gymanfa’s and a few national festivals I can almost pronounce the words, there is no way I can understand more than a few of them.  The Welsh joke that it is a language in which you cannot buy a vowel.  Their words seem to be all consonants.  Much of the time I will just sing on a oh or keep singing the same English verse over and over.  I’m not the only one.  There are many a Welsh descendant that is doing the same.

It is perhaps the habit of singing in harmony that most draws me to Welsh music.  Yes, you can find songs that have only the melody line, but most are 4-part harmony.  Many Welsh enclaves in the America’s have a habit of holding Gymanfa’s at least once a year locally and a “National” or North American event annually also.  In Wales there have been Gymanfa’s going on for over 1000 years.

So if you have a hankering for singing in harmony and hear about a Gymanfa Ganu, Cymanfa Canu or Welsh Festival of Song, check it out.  Join in as they sing out those hymns and folk songs.  I know you’ll have a great time.

Published in: on September 7, 2016 at 10:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Singing at Utschtallung 2016


We’re on the list of entertainment for the 2016 Utschtallung.

Published in: on August 18, 2016 at 6:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Revival Reunion

We be singing at the Revival Reunion at the BARC in Windom on August 27th.

We will need to bring our risers. The evenings events start at 5:00 and we will sing around 5:30. We will need to be there to set up the risers and warm up probably around 4:00.

We will be singing:           Praise Ye the Lord

I Believe

Swing Down Chariot

Beautiful Savior

Chordhustlers do not have to stay after we sing, but you are encouraged to.

Published in: on August 9, 2016 at 9:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

Summer picnic coming

Next Monday, August 15, there will be no practice, we will be having our annual picnic.  This year it will be held at the Jeffers City Park.  We will start gathering at 6:30, serving will begin at 7:00.

Members and their families are invited to attend, guests are encouraged.  There will be pork on the grill and you are to bring a dish to pass and your own plates and eating utensils.  If you wish more than water or coffee bring it along.  If the weather is bad we’ll move to the Lutheran church next to the park.

Yes, there will be singing.  This will be a chance for us to show our families what we have been up to.

Published in: on August 9, 2016 at 9:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Service Club that Sings

Last night our chapter had a visit from the Executive Director/CEO of the Barbershop Harmony Society, Marty Monson.  We thought it was a big deal, but we did not realize how big of a deal it was until we had a chance to talk to him.  Marty just doesn’t have time to drop in on chapters of our society, he has too many things to do to go chapter hopping.  So why did he choose to come visit us?


Marty stopped by to visit some friends of his from the days when he sang in the Great Northern Union Chorus.  Two of our member sang for several years with him, and he wanted to touch bases with them, visiting our chapter was a chance to see what his friends were doing in their home chapter.

Marty got a chance to talk to our officers and find out what we have been up to as a chapter before practice.  Then he got to meet the guys and sing a bit.  Our director had picked some of the songs he knew Marty had sung from our last show.  It gave him a chance to sing with us.  We also had Marty tell us bit  about his job and he told us about the Society.  One phrase struck me, he called us a “service club that sings.”

Young folks now days seem to be searching for a place to serve, and if you can have fun, learn a bit and also serve the community it is a win for all.  I like being part of a service club that sings.  Come on over and see what we are all about.

Published in: on May 4, 2016 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  

Practice change and a concert

Monday, July 27 practice has been changed to Sunborn Methodist church.  Benson Family singers will be performing at Watermelon Days and we will practice after the show.  Pete Benson, former director of the Great Northern Union chorus, will be performing with his very talented family.  The performance is at 6:30, practice at 7:30.  Come enjoy the concert and then come to practice afterwards.


Published in: on July 27, 2015 at 3:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

Is yours a singing church? What are you doing to make it more comfortable to sing?

Holy Soup

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to…

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Published in: on May 29, 2015 at 7:39 pm  Leave a Comment