Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod

The Early Competitors


The Esperantists

In January 1947 J. Scott Archer, who was a keen local worker for the festival, introduced his friend R.M. Rossetti of Rhosllanerchrugog, a leading international figure in the Esperantist movement (attempting to establish Esperanto as a common European language).

Publicity material was prepared for use in Esperantist journals and by correspondents of the movement in various countries – but time was short and little response was expected for the first Eisteddfod in that year. However, Harold Tudor recalls; “I misjudged the Esperantists. The two overseas groups which crowned the success of the 1947 Eisteddfod, one by the sweeping range of its singing, the other by its gaiety and colour, were a choir of Hungarian railway workers and a team of Spanish girl dancers. It was through the Esperantists that both came to know of the festival. Indeed, after the Esperantist publicity had circulated, seven choirs in Hungary and four in Spain wanted to compete. All, however, except one, found the time too short in which to rehearse the test pieces and to find the money for their travel.”

Although it was strictly a choral festival, the group of Spanish dancers arrived, mistakenly hoping to compete! They were given the stage during an evening concert, and were such an outstanding success that Folk Dancing was added to the Syllabus for 1948 and that competition since then has been one of the highlights every year.

The Luebeck Story

It was July, 1949, when a Welshman named Hywel Roberts found himself compere of the International Mixed Choir Competition – a difficult situation for the young man because, on the last day of World War Two, his brother was killed in action on German soil. And, about to mount the stage to hear his introduction, was the Luebeck Choir from West Germany – the first Germans seen in Llangollen since the war had ended.

Aware of Hywel Robert’s dilemma, the audience waited anxiously to see how he would cope with his personal tragedy.
They were electrified to hear him make a moving appeal for the Luebeck Choir to be greeted as “our friends from West Germany”.
It was a sensational moment in the history of the International Eisteddfod, and one which will never be forgotten. A member of that audience recalls, “There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was several minutes before the Luebeck Choir – aware of the delicate situation – recovered sufficiently to perform”. The spirit of that moment has lived on. The people of Luebeck took Hywel Roberts – who died in 1989 – to their hearts, and began a continuing friendship with him and the International Eisteddfod. The climax of their affection for Hywel was demonstrated in 1988 in a special civic ceremony when Luebeck made him a Freeman of the city.

Erika Fischer, one of the original choir members here in 1949, returned with the Choir to perform in the Saturday Evening Concert in 1984 and said then that she still had vivid memories of nervously arriving in Britain after struggling to get passports and foreign money on the black market. They did not know what to expect when they pulled up at the Railway Station, Erika said, “Everyone had ‘afraid faces’ but the ladies kissed us and we were crying for joy. It was the greatest experience of our lives to be here”

Beti Gwyn Williams

Mrs. Beti Gwynn Williams comes from Abergele and met her husband in the early thirties. An accomplished professional singer, her beautiful contralto voice was heard in the Thursday Concert of the first Eisteddfod.

During the years her husband was Music Director their home “Plas Hafod” in Llangollen’s Abbey Road was a hive of activity

 


Reproduced from the book ‘Fifty Glorious Weeks 1947 – 1996’
ISBN 0 9528296 06 – Compiler and Art Editor Robert B. Attenburrow M.B.E
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