Cerdd Dant Ache

It's that time of year again. S4C shelves the farming programmes for a week and dedicates its entire airtime to that festival of over-exaggerated facial expressions otherwise known as the Urdd Eisteddfod.

Tune in on Monday for seven year-olds straining their cheekbones to convey some hackneyed emotion or other through speech or song.

Tune in on Saturday and all that's changed is the trouser measurements.

But worst of all must be the bloody Cerdd Dant. We Welsh are enormously proud of this unique art form. Unique, that is, because the rest of the world wouldn't go near the idea (except for this website in Japan, which as far as I can make out seems unusually keen on it).

Cerdd Dant is a performance for harp and voice (or voices - equally bad). And this is how it works: The harp plays a 'cainc' - a traditional melody. The voice sings a counter-melody. Literally. This is about as contrary to the notion of melody as you will ever hear.

It is completely musically backwards and about as tuneful as a Lembit Opik and Gabrielle Irminia mouth organ session.

Worse still, the Urdd is somehow of the opinion that eight year-olds are capable of singing it. Well, they aren't.

I've watched that 'gwyl' on TV and I can tell you that those cute little kids can barely hold a normal melody, let alone an upside down and back to front melody with harp non-accompaniment.

Back in the studio they heap on the praise, deliberately ignoring shots of audience members tearing their hair out and stuffing it desperately into their ears. Bloody hell, they've just starting clog dancing. Time to sign out...

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posted by Blamerbell @ 3:40 pm,

48 Comments:

At 4:27 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stick to politics Ciaran - you've set yourself a great standard for which we are all grateful. I'm afraid that last post was just 6th form sneering at of the worst kind.

 
At 4:42 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

Hehe. The problem is that in 6th form I was singing along with them.

It's taken years of academic training for me to be able to reach that level of criticism.

 
At 4:49 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Blamer may have reached out and touched the blog's Labour readership with that post, though.

 
At 4:54 pm, Blogger Tegwared ap Seion said...

"a Lembit Opik and Gabrielle Irminia mouth organ session."

When the new tld comes into force, will this blog become politics.xxx?? Only me?!

Cerdd Dant, when done good, is beautiful. None of this over-rehearsed face-pulling and rubbish. Listen to someone of the calibre of Arfon Gwilym do it - that's what it's all about!

Without what makes us Welsh we are merely a carbon copy of the English.

 
At 5:08 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"I think Blamer may have reached out and touched the blog's Labour readership with that post, though."

Nah, I'm just bitter because they didn't put me on the stage in the under-15s. The judges said there was some technical problem with the 'arrangement'.

Tegwared, I think Wales would still have a cultural identity without Cerdd Dant. It's not like the sound of harps and counter-melodies is positively spilling out of Welsh pubs on a Satruday night, is it?

 
At 5:11 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are different kinds of Welshness. The Eisteddfods are great, but you don't have to be a fan of all that to qualify as Welsh.

Wales is full of people who have grown up outside the Eisteddfod tradition but are proud to be Welsh all the same.

Is an English-speaking monoglot from Chepstow who works in Bristol but is a passionate Welsh rugby fan any less Welsh than a Welsh-speaker from Caernarfon who plays the harp and performs at the Eisteddfod?

 
At 5:13 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

Rugby. There's something else I can't stand.

 
At 5:23 pm, Blogger Tegwared ap Seion said...

Yes, of course Wales would have a cultural identity without Cerdd Dant, but it wouldn't be the same identity as it is with CD and so wouldn't be Welsh as we know it.

I've been to a few pubs with the sound of harps and counter melody, but that's beside the point. "What happens in a pub on Saturday night" isn't the epitome of our culture and identity.

About the question of one person being "more Welsh" than another; there isn't a measure of "Welshness" so it is a silly question. But a harp-playing welsh-speaking person from C'narfon can understand the Welsh culture, whilst an Englishman from Cas-gwent can appreciate and perhaps identify with it. There is a difference.

 
At 5:26 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blamerbell said:

"The harp plays a 'cainc' - a traditional melody. The voice sings a counter-melody. Literally. This is about as contrary to the notion of melody as you will ever hear."

Absolutely Beautiful :-) The best introduction to Music any child could have. All three of mine sang in cerdd dant groups, sometimes reaching the Llwyfan.

You can take a welshman out of Cymru but you can't take the cerdd dant from out of him. My three say it still haunts them, but they are very accomplished musicians too:-)

 
At 5:33 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love cerdd dant myself, love cynghanedd as well, just wish it was a bit more spontanious and less rehearsed.

I would ban the Gorsedd though.

 
At 5:34 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tegwared - are you saying (as you appear to be) that an English-speaker from Chepstow is 'an Englishman from Cas-Gwent' and is thereby excluded from anything but an outsider's view of the Eisteddfod...?

 
At 5:43 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon said:
/I would ban the Gorsedd though. /

Once seen never forgotten.
Especcially if you are from the far East. The National museum in Madras portrays Wales and welshmen as druids in a forest.

 
At 5:44 pm, Blogger dowlais twp said...

No more painful than a recitation of Y gwiwer or Ar lan Y Mor.
best part was unching crips loudly during thh eAct

 
At 5:45 pm, Blogger Tegwared ap Seion said...

Sorry, I didn't read your(?) first message thoroughly enough. As an english-speaking Welshman from Cas-gwent, Welsh culture is as much his as it is mine, but a language barrier exists which prohibits him from fully understanding that culture 'though he may well appreciate it.

In a way it is an outsider's view, looking in and not being able to understand.

 
At 6:08 pm, Blogger Wierdo said...

I personally like cerdd dant. I agree with Tegwared; not the silly faces, fake smiles, overacting kind but the idea of it. It's differnent and when done well wonderful. In my opinion anyway.

I also like watching the eisteddfod!

 
At 6:14 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see kids doing something constructive and not just taking drugs and smashing up the neighbourhood.

 
At 6:32 pm, Anonymous cyfarthfa lass said...

cynghanedd
shivers I remeber that from school
Hated it didnt I , but alway put in cos I could the voice and earnest face

 
At 6:40 pm, Blogger Bugail Aberdyfi said...

I went to the Eisteddfod today with my girlfriend.

I hear you blamerbell, I was never a part of the Eisteddfod thing either. I couldn't sing,dance,act or recite to say my life. The Schools can be pretty ruthless when competing in the Eisteddfod. Any ideas about encouraging children to participate in competitions is forgotten and they go about selecting the talented pupils and dump the rest of us.

On the other hand I did go around the Art section of the Eisteddfod and some of the work the kids/teens created was amazing. Some over did it on the patriotism but some example was quite impressive and made you think that we have some talent in this country.

 
At 6:44 pm, Anonymous Cymraes Heolgerrig said...

but a language barrier exists which prohibits him from fully understanding that culture though he may well appreciate it.
In a way it is an outsider's view, looking in and not being able to understand.
What a load of caci. I really don't get it when one Welsh person attacks another on our, yes our culture
I would ban language nationalists.

 
At 6:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well done, Blamerbell.

I am Welsh to the core, yet absolutely hate eisteddfodau. Repetitious, boring and positively embarrassing.

We will never be a proper 21st century country untill we rid ourselves of this appaling annual crapfest.

Kill it dead!

 
At 7:14 pm, Blogger dowlais twp said...

Surely the Urdd and any other Welsh cultural event is meant to foster the language? I agreet the whole Urdd thing is rather sick making in its sincerity - knock it if you must but if the welsh language and its culture were to die out what would you say then?

 
At 7:30 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

Hang about! I'm not calling for the abolition of the eisteddfod.

I wouldn't want to deprive others of the opportunity to win as many medals as me:)

Let's just liven it up, take out the shit over-acting, the cerdd dant and that terrible woman from Maenclochog and see how it goes!

 
At 7:33 pm, Anonymous johnny foreigner said...

I knew it was there somewhere.

This must be part of Welsh culture. I love a good sing song but some of this is dreadful.

If this be the case why don't we see if Simon Cowell would care to come along and help us to judge it.

Presumably this activity is supposed to encourage da Yoof to stick with the Welsh language.

It's enough to put anyone off.

A nonny says...."You can take a welshman out of Cymru but you can't take the cerdd dant from out of him."

Well, I'm a Cymro from Cymru and I've looked everywhere. I can't find mine.

I've found a bit of Rock'n'Roll and some Blues even a bit of BlueBeat from back a yard but no cerdd dant.

Maybe I'm looking in the wrong place. According to my dictionary 'cerdd dant' is something to do with 'tooth poetry or song'.

Oh well here goes:-

Hey, I'm just a Rock'n'Roller
Long in fang but short in molar
I've dished the dirt
I've chewed the fat
I've sometimes done even more than that
But after all is said and done
My tooth song's just a bit of fun.

Presumably, cerdd dant is too
Although it appeals to just a few
To many of us it's completely irrelevant
And S4C are completely benevolent
By spending my hard earned cash on this
They surely must be taking the thing just a little far.

Your poetic pal.

johnny.

 
At 7:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

JF said:

...Well, I'm a Cymro from Cymru and I've looked everywhere. I can't find mine.....

A training in cerdd dant ensures we'll be good at multi-tasking and abstract thought.
Can't you see how well we have coped with dealing with the Rainbow/Lib Dems and all other discussions this last week amongst you expressing your thoughts all over the screen at the same time? ;-) You became the cainc while we sang the important melody.
Someone has to be the cainc as that can be read from a book...

 
At 8:26 pm, Anonymous johnny foreigner said...

Well, I've called worse.

Still, plenty of abstract thought around here. Quite refreshing.

Your caincish comrade.

johnny.

 
At 8:35 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

johnny foreigner said...
Well, I've called worse.

Of that there is no doubt

 
At 8:40 pm, Anonymous der said...

Don't you think though Blamerbell that the Eisteddfod competitions etc are the foundations on which several later stars have been nurtured. I know Terfel was one and I am sure Katherine Jenkins too. I also know that our Charlotte graced the llwyfan too. Like you, I was made to recite and indeed sing on the stage when I was at school.....I was pretty shy and I hated it. Still, I will say that it did put me in good shape when I have had to stand up in front of many people to talk or whatever during adulthood. The dawns y glocsen is an excellent way to improve agility, co-ordination etc etc. It could be spiced up a little though as I once saw it done.

 
At 8:55 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's easy enough to mock these kids and their competitions but look at the alternative......kids tormenting OAPs, smashing windows, vandalising cars, driving other kids to suicide, zonked out on drugs.......or maybe you live in the posh part of town where sneering is de rigeur.

 
At 9:07 pm, Blogger gwe said...

Yes, the reciting is excrutiating. Yes, there are other bits which are naff. But it brings together 15,000 young finalists from all over Wales, from Welsh and English medium schools. It's totally unique and its the biggest festival of its kind in Europe.

So let's celebrate something for once!


P.S. 'tant' = string, as in harp string.

 
At 9:16 pm, Blogger sarah said...

just flicked through the channels and witnessed a thoroughly disturbing 'can actol' on the Urdd Eisteddfod highlights... kids under 11 doing a faux musical theatre piece on 'y mor/ afon'. The winning school (only 2 made it to the stage) did little to dent the 'Welsh Hitler youth' tag...[ NOT my phrase and i use this term purely in jest - i competed in many an Urdd eisteddfod, but never had the Llangrannog experience!] At the end of their performance they unfurled a banner stating "Cofiwch Dryweryn"... it's sad, and frankly disturbing, that a teacher somewhere along the line though it a good idea to politicise young children - and use them to emote an issue that they little or no concept of.
I'm as angry etc as the next person (but maybe not RS Thomas) regarding Tryweryn, but this was utterly misguided

 
At 9:40 pm, Blogger Blamerbell said...

I saw that too Sarah.

Anyway, I think you're all taking this a little too seriously!

I know what Cerdd Dant means, thanks anon. I just think it's a bit shit.

As for most of the rest of the Eisteddfod - I'm almost all for it. I spent 10 years of my life doing the bloody things and having a jolly good time.

There's some great footage out there somewhere of an innocent looking eight year old from Merthyr singing 'yr haul sydd yn tywynnu' and only losing out by a whisker to a sobbing gog girl in a sailor suit (who won with the sympathy vote).

 
At 10:13 pm, Blogger Der said...

I see that you are no stranger to "y cythraul canu" then blamerbell!

 
At 10:24 pm, Blogger seiriol said...

http://urdd.s4c.co.uk/cystadlu/c_pafiliwn_7.shtml

A dozen 10 year old children don't need a conductor.

And even if they did, they shouldn't be windmilling a la Owain Arwel.

And even if they were windmilling, they don't need the bloody music - it's only two verses long and it's in unison!

And the song's about Christmas - it's Whitsun! Jesus had got to heaven the second time before the Urdd got round to singing about him going up the first time.

 
At 10:54 pm, Anonymous johnny foreigner said...

Having struggled to watch half of this dreadful display of contrived and totally false Welsh culture I am in despair.

Those poor innocent children cruelly exploited for someone's Nationalistic ego.

These children will have to face the embarrassment of meeting their school pals soon and will probably suffer cruel mockery.

No doubt their devoted parents have recorded the event and will probably show it for generations to come, much to the chagrin of their long suffering children.

Fortunately, at 9 o-clock on BBC2 they were showing The Zimmers and the making of 'Talking 'bout my Generation'. What a relief!

Entertainment, yet with a more subtle political point than the same old Urdd stuff.

Rwy'n siradwch am f'yng Heneration........Yeah.

Your poptastic pal.

johnny.

 
At 11:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I'd have put you down as a Lita Rosa fan myself Johnny

 
At 11:51 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

seirol said:
//And the song's about Christmas - it's Whitsun! Jesus had got to heaven the second time before the Urdd got round to singing about him going up the first time.//

What you are forgetting is that they Urdd competitions start early in the year. The Whitsun National Eisteddfod is the final of several competitions that were held at local level.

 
At 11:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blamerbell said...
""Hehe. The problem is that in 6th form I was singing along with them.

It's taken years of academic training for me to be able to reach that level of criticism. ""

We all go through that depressing phase of realising that the world does not go around the Urdd :-( Never mind, when you have children you'll be as keen as anyone to get them on that stage. My sisters who went to live in England always regretted that their childen missed
out on culture of the Urdd.

 
At 12:12 am, Anonymous johnny foreigner said...

Anonymous said...
Now I'd have put you down as a Lita Rosa fan myself Johnny

11:50 PM

johnny says....

Nah, not really. More like Nellie Lutcher but I do enjoy a nice Ruby Murray.

Your popadomic pal.

johnny.

 
At 12:14 am, Blogger ianjamesjohnson said...

Perhaps the wonderful world of Welsh culture was best illustrated by S4C's showing of Urdd highlights tonight at the same time as BBC1 Wales showed the Full Ponty - both crucially important parts of Welsh culture that should be celebrated

 
At 12:39 am, Blogger Geraint said...

Okay, this is off topic I know, but some of you might be interested to know that there is a petition on the 10 Downing Street website to get a "Living Wage"

http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/living-wage-2007/

 
At 12:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

johnny foreigner said...
I do enjoy a nice Ruby Murray.

Down the Indo-Cymru no doubt.

 
At 11:43 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

rubish post blamerbell, stick to the politics.
like most things in life if you don't like it turn it off or walk away, why criticise something others may like? just say its ot for you?
its nothing t do with culture either, wales has numerous things that make up a "welsh" culture if such a thing exists.

 
At 11:51 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geraint said...
"Okay, this is off topic I know, but some of you might be interested to know that there is a petition on the 10 Downing Street website to get a "Living Wage" "

What's the point? New Labour brought in a minimum wage then the chancellor is taxing the working class *more* than the minimum wage!

The more we earn the more New Labour will punish us and make us pay for not being part of the rich.

 
At 11:58 am, Blogger Blamerbell said...

"rubish post blamerbell, stick to the politics.
like most things in life if you don't like it turn it off or walk away, why criticise something others may like?"

Pot.

Kettle.

 
At 12:30 pm, Blogger Penddu said...

Reminds me of a very old 2 Ronnies sketch about Wales which said something like:

'The Esiteddfod - which comes from the Welsh word to sit - Eistedd - and Bored'

Not politically correct, but made me snigger.

 
At 6:40 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely hate eisteddfods. Spent years doing them as a child.

It wasn't so much the competitions, rather the self-important pompous old gits who used to do the judging. And they are still at it!

Would sooner have my molars removed without gas than go to another eisteddfod.

 
At 10:44 am, Anonymous Bil said...

Obviously one of your more controversial comments Blamerbell. Undoubtedly there is a lot of crap linked to Cerdd Dant ( the discussions on S4C during their transmission of the Cerdd Dant festival testify to this) and the fact that some young children are cajoled to perform histrionics while singing Cerdd Dant should not be used as a stick to beat this particular art-form. However your referance to the "terrible woman from Maenclochog" should not go unchallenged. I doubt if any of her activities are paid for from any public purse as I presume most of her cultural activities are voluntary. Let's have your wit and humour by all means as well as your insightful comments on politicians but leave out the sneers on those who voluntarily share their talent.

 
At 11:04 am, Blogger Blamerbell said...

It's only a bit of fun, Bil.

Which is what the Eisteddfod should be.

Shame some people take it too seriously. It's the kids wot suffer.

 

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