The original idea for a banner for every county in Wales was conceived by Gwenno Dafydd. Her vision was of hand-made banners the size of the coal mining lodge banners, based on the words and images of the Saint David’s Day Anthem (Lyrics: Gwenno Dafydd. Music: Heulwen Thomas) and elements of local county history with the aim that they be paraded every Saint David’s Day in their respective local communities.
The first of these banners was the Pembrokeshire Banner, which is on permanent display in the East Cloister, Saint David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire. Every year the Pembrokeshire Banner is paraded around the Cathedral in the Saint David’s Day Service by the Head Boy and Head Girl of Ysgol Dewi Sant whilst the children of Ysgol Bro Dewi Primary School sing the Saint David’s Day Anthem.
The truth behind the myth of Saint David has been revealed this week with the publishing of a book that will throw new light on the mysterious life of Wales’ patron saint.
In Pursuit of Saint David by historian Gerald Morgan follows the life of Saint David, looking at how the myths and traditions that surround the historical figure have come to be and how he eventually became such an important part of Welsh history.
‘His is a most remarkable story’ says Gerald Morgan, ‘Everyone in Wales knows something about Saint David, the patron saint of Wales – that he lived long ago, that Saint Davids was his home, and that the ground in Llanddewi Brefi rose up from under his feet so everyone could hear him’.
Click here or on the title above to find the St David's Day quiz. Links are provided in the questions to help you out if you're stuck. Alternatively you could take it straight and come back later to look up any that you had wrong. Dydd Gwyl Dewi Hapus / Happy St David's Day.
A SELECTION OF WELSH PIPES VIDEOS FROM JOHN TOSE YOUTUBE CHANNEL PIBYDD (CLICK TO PLAY)
The Welsh Pipes - An Interview With John Tose of 'Estron'
AmeriCymru: How did Estron come to be formed?
John: We're basically a family and friends band - I've been doing stuff with my daughters, Micky and Danny ever since they were quite small but in 2012 we started playing with Holly Robinson, a really talented and well known fiddler here in Pembrokeshire, and coined the name Estron for the band. Jess Ward joined us with her harp two years later. I suppose the band really got going after Micky and Danny moved on from the instruments they'd learned at school to things they wanted to play for themselves. Micky learned clarinet to begin with but took up the ukulele and now she plays both with Estron, while Danny abandoned the trombone for the Welsh pipes - she borrowed a spare set I had and taught herself how to play surprisingly quickly. I suppose it helped that she'd been exposed to my own playing her whole life!
AmeriCymru: What can you tell us about your most recent album 'Gwawr'?
John: We recorded Gwawr in May 2015. We wanted to capture the music we had been playing since we started and before we moved on to new material. I've been playing this music for a long time now and I guess the reason we're playing this stuff is mostly that the girls have been exposed to it all their lives so that to them this is what they associate with Welsh pipes, whereas for Holly and Jess it was all new and exciting. To Micky and Danny this music is just `normal' everyday stuff. I suppose that's what makes it `folk' music.
AmeriCymru: When did you first become interested in the Welsh pipes?
John: I started playing bagpipes in about 1990. The first set I had was a set of smallpipes from the Early Music Shop which I made from a kit. After putting it together I realised that I could make these things so I then went on to make a set of, I suppose you could describe them as `Border pipes' in G which I mostly played for the Morris team I was a member of. Then in '97 or '98 I met Ceri Rhys Matthews and became a member of Pibau Pencader, a Welsh piping club he'd started. There was something like ten people in it, a mixture of raw beginners and experienced pipers. There was a need for instruments and myself and John Glenydd started making pipes for the other members, and later to sell to other people as well. We were making all kinds of things from simple diatonic clarinets to bombardes and pibgorns, and bagpipes based either on the Breton veuze or ones which used a pibgorn as the chanter. Meanwhile Ceri was teaching us all his Welsh pipe music which by the nature of the instruments is quite a lot different from much other Welsh folk music. It was a great time and later I also played with Ceri in a pipes and drum band called Pibe Bach, playing both here in Wales and further afield. We even got touring work with the British Council in places like Oman, Palestine and Libya.
AmeriCymru: If someone wished to master the instrument, where would they go to acquire a set of Welsh pipes? How hard is it to learn to play the pipes?
John: Acquiring a set of Welsh pipes is not so easy at the moment. I don't know whether John Glenydd in Llanfihangel ar Arth in Carmarthenshire is still making pipes - I don't have his contact details but you could probably find out by contacting Ceri Matthews. I was making pipes myself until a few years ago but I went down with asthma which is very sensitive to wood dust so I've had to keep out of the workshop. Having said that, recently I've been teaching Danny how to make pipes and she's managed to acquire very good woodturning skills so we'll have to see how this develops. There are other people making pibgorns - Gavin Morgan in Merthyr Tydfil springs to mind. A lot of pipers here also play the Spanish Gaita which is pretty good for playing Welsh music on.
The pipes aren't particularly hard to play - they have open fingering much like a tin whistle which beginners find much easier than that of other pipes, such as Scottish ones. The hardest part is disassociating the blowing from playing the tune - with a bagpipe you play the instrument with a constant pressure on the bag with your arm and you only blow into the instrument when you need to keep it topped up with air.
AmeriCymru: Where can readers go online to buy or listen to your music?
John: Gwawr is available as a download (or as a CD) from Bandcamp. There's a link to it from our website (www.estronband.blogspot.co.uk). You can also find a solo album I made a few years ago, `Cerrig Dymuniad' on there as well as Jess's first solo harp album `The Mermaid's Lament'.
AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?
John: It's important that we keep this music going in this age of globalisation - otherwise we're going to lose it. Welsh culture has always been under a lot of pressure from across the border in England and it's important that we keep our cultural differences. We all need our roots, our differences.
A few years ago, our family started making St David’s Day about doing “the little things” by doing some volunteering, in addition to having a special dinner and/or pub night.
We did things like spend a couple hours on a walk picking up litter, get something needed by a homeless person (coat, sleeping bag, a meal or lift to a medical clinic), help an elderly person in our neighborhood run errands or do things like change lightbulbs or rake, walk a neighbor’s dog, etc.
There are probably lots of things we can all find to improve our communities or our immediate environments in small and simple ways to make things better, like even just picking up litter. We can do something alone or organize an activity with friends and family.
If you like animals, see if a rescue or shelter or even a zoo near you could use some help. A school or library may have a program to help refugees or other people in the community learn the language or customs or a group to provide company and conversation to the elderly. A local school may need help with a project.
If you’d like to find organized volunteer opportunities, Volunteer Match lists all kinds of organizations that need help around the world, including in Wales and the rest of the UK, in Canada, in the US, in Argentina and other countries. Check whether your city or country has a site like this with local volunteer opportunities.
If you’re in Canada, Volunteer Canada may list opportunities with organizations looking for help.
This year, for us, St David’s Day is on a school day and we’ve got two students in our house, so we’re looking for things to do after school, before going out to get some sausage rolls for all and beer for the adults!
In our city, Portland, Oregon USA, Hands On Greater Portland is looking for volunteers to help the elderly and disabled do grocery shopping in the morning.
Also in Portland, Kindred Hospice is looking for volunteers who can play an instrument or sing to share music with hospice residents at the end of their lives.
Of course, we can also all just look out our windows or walk out our doors and think about what we might want to do.
Croeso / welcome to St David's Day on AmeriCymru! On this page you will find everything you need to celebrate the national day of Wales on March 1st. Events, dinner recipes, activities, Welsh e-cards and more. If you have a suggestion for something that should be included here please let us know. Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus -- Happy St David's Day!