Sunday, 30 June 2002

Singing at Wesley Methodist Church

After all the trekking we've done recently, today was a relatively calm day for us in Cardiff. A day of rest, one might say. In the morning we sang during the service at Wesley Methodist Church; we sang one of our usual introits, plus "Rise And Shine," "Mary, Did You Know?", and "Order My Steps." My wife Cheryl, still out of (singing) action with a cold, took this photo during the service.

Lee at the organ

In addition, Lee Lasseter played the prelude and postlude on the organ, and we all sang some familiar and some unfamiliar hymns. If you look in the "Index of Tunes" of the hymnal we use at MBCC, you'll see that some of our favorite hymns are set to traditional Welsh tunes; as you might expect for a Methodist church, and specifically one named for Wesley, they also make use of a lot of his hymns there. (This time Lee remembered her piano/organ glasses; during our informal concert Friday she left them on the bus, so she played with her regular bifocal glasses on her face upside down! Resourceful...) Toward the end of the service, the minister gave Pat a copy of a small book of meditations on September 11th written by the Anglican Archbishop of Wales, who was present and barely escaped when the towers fell; this gesture of sympathy and solidarity moved us all greatly. (Several choir members expressed interest in obtaining copies; the book is "Writing in the Dust: Reflections on 11th September and Its Aftermath," by Rowan Williams; published by Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-78719-8.)

St. Fagans castle

After the service, the people of the church gave us lunch (including some particularly delicious desserts for which a number of us wanted the recipes!), and then we drove to St. Fagans Museum of Welsh Life. This is a "living museum" of traditional Welsh crafts, trades, and lifestyle; it is on the grounds of St. Fagans castle, in the town of St. Fagans, site of the last major battle of the Civil War (1648). The guidebook describes the castle as "one of the finest Elizabethan manor houses in Wales" (built in 1580), and though it was closed for repairs so we couldn't get a close look, many of us went for a walk in the castle gardens.

Abernodwydd farmhouse

The majority of the museum consists of characteristic structures from all around Wales; this picture shows a thatched-roof farmhouse, built in 1678, and moved here from the midsection of the country (we're still in South Wales). Also present were working corn and woolen mills, powered by water wheels, and various barns, haysheds, bee shelters, you name it. There were also shops where coopers, saddlemakers, and other traditional craftsmen demonstrated their trades, though I didn't see any at work today. We have tomorrow free to explore Cardiff and vicinity, and I heard several people say they plan to go back to St. Fagans.

Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir

After we returned from St. Fagans, we had a few hours to rest and then ate a delicious dinner in the hotel restaurant. As we were finishing dessert, the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir arrived, set up, and began to sing for us in a "clearing" between the hotel bar and the restaurant. They sang some traditional songs, some contemporary, and the "American Trilogy" of (U.S.) Civil War songs that we've performed on occasion. They had a powerful sound when they "pulled out the stops" in some of the songs, and made very enjoyable music throughout.

Singing at the Holiday Inn

Afterward we crammed ourselves into the same small space (with some overflow onto the stairs!) and sang for them. As in the service this morning, we found that some of our spirituals went over particularly well. After we sang, the Welsh choir took the space again for another few songs, including a rugby fight song set to the tune of one of the traditional songs they'd performed earlier, and an arrangement of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" that brought tears to a lot of eyes (mine included...). They finished with "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau," or "Land of My Fathers," the Welsh national anthem; having been taught the song (in Welsh) by David Evans, we stood up and joined them! Then the proceedings moved into the hotel bar, where we sang our 1940's medley, and everybody was still singing when I went up to my room to post this journal page.

MBCCers at the Red Lion

And just to let you know that not everybody has been retiring early to his or her room, here's a photo from Friday night of some of our gang at the Red Lion pub near Oxford. (I wasn't there; I downloaded this photo from the Edwards' digital camera!) The usual suspects, yes?

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new 30 June 2002, revised 12 July 2002