Mountaintop children and adults contributed to making the 124th “
Cynonfardd” Eisteddfod held at Dr. Edwards Memorial Congregational Church
in Edwardsville a success. Nuangola’s Sally Morgan DiRico has
been a long-term supporter and organizer of the singing, piano and poetry
competition, modeled after the Welsh National Eisteddfod, and she
says that this cultural tradition is ancient, remarking, “In Wales, this goes back to the days of the Bards.”
In this country, she reminds, 124 years is still a time-honored event, one
that she and her husband John, and her parents before her, helped to
organize over many years. “Next year
will be a big one – the 125th, that’s a big, big step.” She adds that the
music festival at Dr. Edwards Church missed only one year of celebration of the arts, “There was one
year during World War II when it was held in abeyance.”
The event is always held on the last
Saturday of April and as tradition requires, the children shall lead the way.
The youngest start at the age of 5 and the afternoon session allows for performers of up to 18 years of age.
“In the afternoon we have First, Second and Third prizes and then we have
prizes for everybody else who enters. Every child goes home with a
hand-made gift bag with some monetary prize in it.” The children are
separated into four age groups for the competitions.
Mountaintop area residents who participated in the “Cynonfardd” Eisteddfod
included Caroline Jones in the 16-18 age group who performed
a vocal solo, piano solo, and
Bible reading; in the 13-15 age category, Alice Novatnak performed a solo and Andrew Alday performed on
the piano. In the 5-7 age category, Jean
Bohn and Jordan Ceklosky competed in recitation and Sarah Bohn
competed in recitation in the 8 to 10 age category.
After a buffet dinner, Sally says, “ We go into a Gymanfa Ganu, which is a Welsh hymn sing. And then we start
the adult competition.” The evening includes vocal performances
of solos, duets, quartets, choruses and also recitations. Each participant
is again eligible for the First and Second Place awards.
As the Secretary for the day-long event, DiRico is responsible for all registrations
and tracking the songs and poems that participants will feature.
She said that the entries number 110 for this year, and people come
from all over to take part. “I just got something from a gentleman in
Lancaster, and he can’t come this year, but he sent me an article from his
aunt who regularly attended that National Eisteddfod in Wales. She said
in the Eisteddfod in Wales in 1955 a chorus from Modena, Italy won First Prize and in that chorus was Luciano Pavarotti!”
Dr. Edwards brought the Eisteddfod to America as a way to introduce
the Welsh immigrants to the English language by teaching them
hymns and poetry. His mission here in the U. S. evolved to launching the
Eisteddfod, Sally explained. “It was named ‘Cynonfardd’ after Dr. Edwards
because he was from the Cynon Valley and he won the Bardic Chair
when he performed in Wales.” She admits that the Eisteddfod makes
for a long, but very, very satisfying day for herself, the other volunteers and the performers. But it
is also one that brings the arts into people’s lives, and keeps the rich and valued
history of Wales and pride in the Welsh heritage alive.
“This is my history and it’s very important to continue this within my church.
And this is our connection with Wales.”