Firstly, I want to thank the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Project for giving me the opportunity to listen to and give my opinions on this sound recording and all future ones. I believe this is an integral part of retaining Welsh history and culture for future generations and I am honoured to be able to help out with this wonderful work.
Starting out, I am impressed with the sound quality of this recording, considering it is from 18th July 1974. I listened to the recording with headphones and there wasn’t any form of crackling or feedback, which proved to me that the interviewer cared about getting an authentic listening experience for the listener. It felt as if I was in the room with Lydia. As for my listening experience, it was my first time listening to such a recording and I was pleasantly surprised. There were really personal feels to the song, as if we were in an intimate setting. The gentle, soft timbre of Mrs Watkins’ voice was soothing and it really made me feel at ease listening to it.
It was interesting to hear that Mrs Lydia Watkins, from Ontario, Canada, was originally from Merthyr Tydfil. She has retained her Welsh childhood memory of the songs she sang, which proves how connected she is to her Welsh identity. There is also a sense that she can have a dual identity – she can be both Canadian and Welsh, with neither part of them cancelling out the other. Both can co-exist in the same space for her, and both can be honoured just as much as the other. In light of this, it was intriguing to hear her clear, lilting Welsh dialect as she sang. The songs she sang were Anwylaf Lecyn Byd imi yw Cymru fechan lon (My favourite place in the world is Wales), Tra Bo Dau (While There’s Two) and Y Gelynen (The Holly). Her decision to sing them in Welsh shows how she has further kept hold of her Welsh heritage and roots, even though she was situated at the time of the recording in Ontario. It’s a wonderful melding together of cultures, and connects future generations of Welsh children to the cultural songs of Wales.
She talks of a music teacher giving voice training to one of her pupils, who threw up his hands in despair and said an interesting statement: ‘you sing in the cracks.’ The cracks indicate the gaps, the small fissures in a larger structure, where things are easily lost and forgotten about. Singing in the cracks, therefore, heavily implies that the teacher’s voice is so powerful and important that they manage to penetrate the cracks of the world, yet still be impactful. It was a brilliant statement and really made me think about the idea of being able to extend a voice into the places we don’t think they can go. It reminds me that the cracks are still places, even if we don’t value them, and that they will always be filled with sound if we remember to include them. Singing, then, never leaves anyone out in being able to reach the cracks. It’s kind of poetic, no?
Another quote stuck with me: ‘singing, and sitting beside someone you thought could sing anyway.’ The idea of community was established, and the trickle of laughter that accompanied it before Mrs Watkins launched into song again make it personable, relatable. The rest of the clip was her continuing to sing the songs I mentioned above, and it was a nice reprieve from the hustle and bustle of life. A quiet moment to reflect, to bask in the beauty of Welsh folk songs carried over from childhood, and even though I didn’t understand the full meaning behind the words, I still felt included as an English speaker. They spoke to me in the universal language of music. It was wonderful.
Overall, I loved listening to the audio and I highly recommend everyone else does so too. You will feel nostalgic for the memories these songs bring, especially if you have grown up or are familiar with these songs. I am looking forward to seeing what else I can discover about Wales’ traditions and histories.
Until next time, dear readers.
Alice Tucker, Unlocking Our Sound Heritage Volunteer