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Men of Harlech, as sung in America ...


Dear Data Wales:

Thank you for posting some of the early lyrics for the song 'Men of
Harlech.' I had no idea that the 1860 lyrics existed, having sung the song
with (apparently) much later ones.

I'm one of the many in the U.S. who first became acquainted with 'Men of
Harlech' through the movie 'Zulu.' I was 15 when I saw the film in a
theater in southern California, and found the story of the siege of
Rorke's Drift very stirring indeed, especially the vocal duel between the
defenders and the Zulus in which the song figures (however improbably).

In the 1970s, while attending Pomona College near Los Angeles, I joined the
college glee club, and much to my delight, found that among the repertoire
for my first year with the group was a set of three Welsh songs -- and
among those was 'Men of Harlech.'

As it turned out, the song got us high-spirited singers out of a little
scrape during our mid-year performance tour to northern California. The
group stopped at Hearst Castle, an enormous romanesque mansion overlooking
the Pacific built by a newpaper magnate around 1900, and took the standard
guided tour of the grounds and buildings. They're very beautiful, but as
will happen with a mob of teenagers, I'm afraid many of us became a bit
bored with the slow pace and stopped paying quite as much attention to our
guide as he seemed to expect to receive. By the time we reached the formal
dining room, he had had enough of us and was ready to send us packing. But
this room, known as The Refectory, had been imported straight from a real
castle and was hung with dozens of heraldic banners; one could easily feel
one had stepped back in time... and in a burst of embarrassed but inspired
desperation, our group's president saved the situation by calling on us to
sing 'Men of Harlech.' So we twenty-four young men sang it a capella, all
four verses we knew from memory ( I think we were afraid to stop), in
eight-part harmony, in the most perfect setting available outside of a
Hollywood set -- or Wales itself. When we had finished and the echoes had
died away, there was a moment of silence, and then our guide said, "Well,
perhaps I misjudged you boys a little. Let's get on with the rest of the
tour." We were a (slightly) chastened bunch the rest of the way, and there
were no further mishaps. (See the Data Wales note on Hearst and Gwydir Castle in north Wales.)

So there's a small band of now middle-aged Americans who owe a least a
small debt of gratitude to Dafydd ap Ieuan and to the song his exploits
inspired!

Sincerely,

B. M.
California
 
 

 

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