A week to remember for Aelwyd JMJ at the 2018 Brecon and Radnorshire Urdd National Eisteddfod

Aelwyd JMJ, the Urdd Aelwyd of Bangor University’s Welsh-medium Halls of Residence, have experienced an excellent Eisteddfod yr Urdd this year, with the Chair, Crown and awards in the main choral competitions being won by the Aelwyd and its members.

Thursday saw the chairing of Afallon, the nom-de-plume of Osian Owen, for a poem written in stric metre on the theme of ‘Bannau’ (‘Beacons’). A native of Y Felinheli, Osian also won the Chair-Crown double at the Inter-Collegiate Eisteddfod earlier in the year. The competition judges this year were Gruffudd Antur and Mari Lisa and in their adjudication from the main stage, they praised Osian for his ability to ‘express himself and touch us effectively with images and comparisons’.

On Friday, the main event was the Crown competition, awarded for prose and it was another member of Aelwyd JMJ that came to the fore, Erin Hughes from Pen Llŷn. The awarding ceremony was tinged with some sadness this year however, as Erin herself couldn’t be there in person to be presented with her crown. She suffers from Myasthenia Gravis, a rare condition that affects the connections between the nerves and the muscles. The ceremony was, naturally, emotional but also deeply dignified and it was Erin’s wish that reference was made to her condition, so that some awareness could be raised of it. In her absence, the crown was presented to Professor Gerwyn Wiliams, Head of the School of Welsh at Bangor, and Erin’s inspirational personal tutor. The Urdd will arrange a special ceremony to celebrate Erin’s win in the near future.

The final Saturday is known for its high-level competitions between various aelwydydd and Aelwyd JMJ’s presence was evident as they managed to win medals in all of the voice competitions for groups, parties or choirs. The first success came in the Cerdd Dant group category, with the Aelwyd gaining a well-deserved second place. The performed piece was arranged by one of the Aelwyd’s freshers and School of Music student, Elain Rhys, from Ynys Môn.

In the voice ensemble competition, Steffan Dafydd, Elain Rhys, Elin Angharad, Branwen Roberts and Ioan Rees (all first-year students in either the School of Welsh or School of Music) performed an arrangement of Neil Rosser’s ‘Merch o Port’. Arranged by Ioan Rees, the group gained came second in a very tight competition.

The Parti Cerdd Dant, under the exeptional guidance of Huw Harvey, claimed the top spot for their rendition of Gerallt Lloyd Owen’s poem, ‘Fy Ngwlad’.

The preliminaries saw the women’s parties, led by Liam John Evans, a third-year Welsh and History student, perform ‘Angor’ by Tudur Huws Jones and claim second with a heartfelt performance. The men’s party, under Welsh and Music student Rebeca Thomas’ tutelage, came third with a rousing rendition of Dafydd Iwan’s ‘Cerddwn Ymlaen’.

This year’s choirmaster is Huw Harvey from Llanfairpwll. A recent graduate of Welsh with Popular Music, he is currently undertaking his teacher training. During the Eisteddfod week, he scored numerous wins in the choral competitions, with the 40-voice choir and the over-40-voices choir. Both choirs performed exciting and heartfelt interpretations of the pieces, winning both competitions. They managed to do so in the company of some of the best choirs and masters in Wales, which compounds their victory even further.

Following these stunning victories, Huw said: ‘I have no words to express my happiness at winning the double. The choir has worked incredibly hard for months and I must thank them for their commitment. We should also thank our accompanists, Catrin Llewelyn, Manon Gwynant and Alistair Mahoney. They make our work as choirmasters far easier.’

Responding to Aelwyd JMJ’s numerous victories at this year’s Urdd National Esiteddfod, Bangor University Pro Vice-chancellor (Welsh Medium and Civic Engagement), Professor Jerry Hunter, said: ‘We’re incredibly proud of Aelwyd JMJ’s successes at the Urdd National Eisteddfod this year. The fact that the Aelwyd’s members have experienced success in such a wide variety of competitions is a testament to their hard work and dedication, in addition to their incredible talents. This splendid expression of culture is an important aspect of Bangor University’s lively Welsh community.’

Publication date: 5 June 2018