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Singing The Praises Of Wales
By Mike Thiel

I couldn't understand a word of their songs, but it didn't matter. As the powerful, mellow voices of the Penybont Men's Choir rang out an evocative rendition of "Yfory," my thoughts floated off to the west coast of Wales, the moody Irish Sea, and the haunting gray shell of Harlech Castle overlooking Tremadog Bay. By the time the men broke into the rousing chorus of "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau," the national anthem, my imagination had wandered to the tranquil blue lakes, peaceful green glades, and the barren, wind-swept, sheep-speckled moors of mid-Wales' Elan Valley, where just that afternoon we had been picnicking.

This stirring singing, for which Welshmen—be they farmers, bankers, ministers, or mechanics—are famous, surely has its inspiration in the beauty and grandeur of the land that surrounds them.

When business called us to London for a few days this past November, I decided to rent a cottage in nearby Wales and use it as a base for exploring this less-traveled, and to me unknown, part of the British Isles.

Wales, like England and Scotland, is officially part of Great Britain, but in an historically complex, not-easily-understood way, Wales is a world apart—at least in spirit. Just ask any Welshman.

Spring/Summer 1998

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