The Archbishop of Wales joined hundreds of people from all over the country at a Rhondda church on Sunday to celebrate the revival of community hymn singing.
Dr Barry Morgan was at the Music in the Community / Archbishop of Wales’ Hymn Singing Opportunity initiative at Ynyshir, organised by local vicar, Father Paul Bigmore, who wants to give the traditional “Cymanfa Ganu” a modern make-over with stirring services to be held in North and South Wales every year.
St Anne’s Church was packed for the inaugural one and people from as far afield as London, Manchester, Liverpool and Taunton as well as the Rhondda were expertly guided through a range of Welsh and English traditional and modern hymns by two of Wales’ most experienced musicians – organist Huw Tregelles Williams and conductor Alwyn Humphries. Also taking part were children of the local choir, Cor Y Cwm (see photo attached).
During the service a minute’s silence was held to remember the miners killed at the Gleison Collergy and their families.
The event was the latest development of the Music in the Community initiative, which was set up by Father Paul 13 years ago to bring music back into people’s lives by encouraging them to perform and by bringing concerts to their doorsteps. It has been hugely successful – reaching out to an estimated 30,000 people over the years and establishing links between the Rhondda and professional musicians at Canterbury Cathedral.
Following the launch, Fr Paul plans to stage two Cymanfa Ganu’s every year – one in North Wales (in Bangor Cathedral next Spring) and one in the South. There will also be a training day for young conductors and organists to pass on the skill of conducting this particular form of community singing.
The Archbishop said, “This was a wonderful occasion and it goes to show just how much people still enjoy coming together and singing hymns. There is a wonderful warmth and joy when people come together to sing hymns that have resonated down the generations and are now so much more than just words and music.
“The Cymanfa Ganu was a real festival of singing which brought the community together. There is still very much a place in Wales for that and I hope this make-over by Fr Paul will give it a new lease of life.”
Father Paul, a keen hymn writer himself, said, “For myself, the singing and atmosphere on the day can only be described as the wonders of creation. The seeds have been sown for the revival of hymn singing and I am sure it will grow across Wales. Music brings people together. When we hear great hymns our spines tingle – whether they are sung in Sunday services or performed with a modern twist by artists such as Only Men Aloud. They are part of our identity and culture and we need to rekindle that spirit before it dies out.
“This I hope is the beginning of a revival of Cymanfa Ganu’s in Wales – a celebration of our treasure trove of hymns in both Welsh and English and a chance to discover and provide a platform for new talent and modern hymns.”
During the service on Sunday, Archbishop Barry launched a CD compilation of hymns composed by Father Paul.
Songs From the Heart is a collection of 12 new traditional hymns and includes three with special dedications – one to the Archbishop of Canterbury, one to the Archbishop of Wales and one to Michael Sheen’s grandfather, Charlie, a former choirmaster and lay reader of St Paul’s Church, Aberavon , who inspired Father Paul when he was growing up in Aberavon.
Peace Perfect Peace, dedicated to Dr Rowan Williams, has been arranged as an anthem by Dr David Flood, choirmaster and organist at Canterbury Cathedral. Body of Christ, dedicated to Dr Barry Morgan and his wife Hilary, has been arranged by the award-winning composer, Thomas Hewitt Jones.
The photos attached shows Fr Paul Bigmore and the Archbishop, Dr Barry Morgan and the choir Cor Y Cwm, at St Anne’s Church, Ynyshir.