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Learning to Sing in Welsh

38 Favorite Hymns in Welsh and English
by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.
Published by Red Dragon Press
21 Murray Rd. Newark, DE, 19711 USA
US $16.25, UK 10

Reviewed by Beth Phillips Brown for "Ninnau" (Oct. 1, 1996, p.6)

Dr. Peter N. Williams' new book, "38 Favorite Hymns in Welsh and English," is small, but it's a powerhouse of practical and useful information to anyone wanting to sing in Welsh.

The book includes transliterations of the most popular hymns. Every learner or non-Welsh speaker will tell you it's the exact thing he needed when attending his first Cymanfa. It's the kind of book that the Welsh-American community needs to help keep the tradition of singing Welsh hymns in Welsh alive. In a way, the book will also support the struggle to keep the Welsh language alive here in the United States.

In addition to the hymns (which were selected for their popularity), Dr. Williams includes sections that help the novice not only sing in Welsh, but also create a context for the tradition of hymn singing as part of the Welsh-American heritage. One section contains information on the Welsh language and mutations. Another section explains the transliterations, the phonetic system used to pronounce the Welsh words by non-Welsh speakers.

The section on mutations will be especially helpful to those who do not speak Welsh. Another helpful feature of the book is its Appendix, actually a dictionary which includes all the hymn words in all their forms so that a word mutated in a hymn can be found by someone not familiar with the complexities of mutation. A section on the Cymanfa ganu gives some history of the tradition of congregational singing and how it came to be a Welsh tradition. In addition to hymns, The Lord's Prayer, the Doxology and Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau are included.

Dr. Williams' experience as a teacher of the Welsh language is evident as he has taken care to explain the most confusing aspects of Welsh. His extensive experience takes every obstacle faced by the novice or non-Welsh speaker and makes those obstacles solvable problems. The book is like having a personal Welsh instructor stand by your side as you sing. He includes information on each hymn and gives literal translations of the Welsh words which often do not match the English words.

Additionally, he has taken every care to make sure the various components are correct. That will give the book's user a great deal of confidence and support approaching singing in Welsh. Perhaps the most important aspect of the book will be its encouragement to learners and non-Welsh speakers as they can confidently participate in a Cymanfa ganu. For many, it will give them their first successful experience in communicating in Welsh and that is no small feat. Within a year, this slim book will be as dogeared as older hymn books and just as loved for the positive experiences it will give many in singing in Welsh.

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