The idea first came to me in Cardiff.
I was ringing a metal bell during the second ever National Saint David’s Day Parade in 2005, I had an idea to create a special anthem to celebrate our patron saint’s day. We were just walking past Cardiff Market when I felt like I had been hit by a bolt of lightning. I just thought, ‘Why haven’t we got an anthem?’ I wanted it to be sung by everyone – Welsh speaking people, non-Welsh speaking people, individuals and choirs. I feel passionately about equality and diversity so it was important that it was written in both Welsh and English.
So I got to work.
I went away and wrote the bilingual words for Cenwch y Clychau i Dewi (Ring Out The Bells For Saint David) and took them to Heulwen Thomas who composed some music to the words. She took the first few bars from another song which we’d previously worked on and then created a brand new chorus and verse from the words I’d given her. Heulwen and I performed the song for the first time during the 2006 St David’s Day Parade in Cardiff. The song was really well received.
Video: St David’s Day anthem
It’s been performed all over the world.
People have done it in places like Toronto, Los Angeles, Patagonia, Disneyland Paris and the Houses of Parliament. At home in Wales, Llandaff Cathedral, St Davds Cathedral in Pembrokeshire and the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea are among the places where it’s been sung. I want to get across that wherever in the world you are, if you are Welsh, Wales is the place which has nurtured you and it’s the place you often feel a need to return to, like bees to a hive. We may be a disparate nation with lots of people now living in various parts of the world but we are all carrying the same message of what Welshness is.
It has special resonance in Patagonia.
One school there has performed the song on St David’s Day during the last three years and I’ve been teaching one school in Los Angeles through Skype and phonetics how to sing the song. I was approached by the Welsh Choir of Southern California about the project. The school’s staging a Welsh concert because lots of Welsh people have moved there over the years and they want to start celebrating the nation.
Everyone can, of course, sing the Welsh National Anthem on St David’s Day.
But it’s not a song about the day. This is a song about St David, what he did and how he lived his life. It’s about inspiring people and promoting his message. He was a pacifist, as I am, and it’s about promoting peace. I don’t think many people know that much about St David, including the fact that he cured someone of blindness.
It’s perfect for children.
I have been involved with children’s groups in the past as a supply teacher and through theatre-in-education so I thought the song would be a good lever to get children on board for the St David’s Day Parade in Cardiff – it was a tremendous way of getting publicity. In 2007, the choir from Ysgol Treganna in Cardiff performed it at the start of the parade while children from Mount Stuart Primary School performed it at the end of the parade. I was immensely proud.
It’s now an official anthem.
It was launched as such at the St David’s Day Parade in Cardiff in 2008 during an event at the National Assembly hosted by Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas. Opera singer Bryn Terfel and Tim Rhys-Evans, musical director of Only Men Aloud, both supported it.
Three years ago I had another idea.
Back in 2009 I was thinking about how we could get even more people involved in the Cardiff parade and I came up with the idea of having county banners. These are prolific during the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in New York. The first of the Welsh county banners is now on permanent display in St Davids Cathedral in Pembrokeshire. It’s my vision that every school in Wales should create its own banner and learn the St David’s Day Anthem for its own St David’s Day Parade.
Copies of the manuscript for the St David’s Day Anthem are available from Y Lolfa
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