“Dylan Thomas and Dunvant” – (Published to celebrate the Seventh International Dylan Thomas Day – 14th May 2021).
International Dylan Thomas Day
“An international day to celebrate the life and work of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, held each year on 14th May, the anniversary of the date when Under Milk Wood was first read on stage at 92Y The Poetry Center, New York in 1953.
International Dylan Thomas Day gives us a chance each year to celebrate Dylan Thomas’s achievements. There is still the enthusiasm for a national day to mark my grandfather’s life and legacy and we want to keep May 14th as a prominent date on the literary calendar.” Hannah Ellis 2021
Dylan Thomas and Dunvant
Dunvant, on the hip of a hill. toward the northernmost reaches of the Swansea area, is a typical Welsh village, with precisely the same mixture of whimsy, pathos, drollery and an affection which Dylan Marlais Thomas crystallised in the immortal Llareggub of his ‘Under Milk Wood”.
But it is a Llareggub constantly changed and re-activated with breezy transfusions of oxygenated blood from the rumbling sprawling irreverent town at the mouth of the river Tawe.
The Rev. Eli Jenkins presides over his colourful and wayward Llareggub congregation with love and Christian charity. His immortal Divine supplication “Eli Jenkins Prayer’ sung to Troyte’s chant is closely identified with the Arwyn Walters interpretation and the beautifully controlled intoning of the Dunvant Male Choir. In a televised programme about Swansea, broadcast on national television, the choir is seen, and the Rev Eli Jenkins prayer heard against the spectacular backcloth of the Worms Head and Rhosilli Bay.
Dylan was that most potent of hybrids, an English-speaking Welshman. Passionately motivated. not only by words, but by the sounds they make and the rhythms they set up. He wrote English as a Welshman speaks Welsh, as those who do, will tell you is a form of singing. His genius lay in his ability to synthesise these two disparate languages into a single intellectual experience.
It is not generally known that Dylan occasionally called upon No. 2 Bridge Terrace (now 285 Dunvant Road)—the home of John Ormond – to renew a friendship which was forged and developed by their mutual love of poetry and common experience at Swansea Grammar School and the Evening Post office. Both were destined to become poets of international repute. Many of the older generation and there are some in the choir with some knowledge of the great man, find it difficult to associate the new respectability which embraces his name. with his free-ranging three-more for-the-road style of living.
The shade of Swansea’s brilliant son will find its most natural haven, in the ‘Heron priested shores’ of Carmarthenshire’s River Taf – or in the numerous atmospheric pubs in and around his native town where he was known to declaim Shakespeare and the Bible standing upon a table amongst the tankards and gesturing with a pint measure.
The Welsh may not comprehend his verses, but they react instinctively to their sound and sentiment. The shadow dappled nostalgia of past boyhood which Dylan celebrates in his beautiful poem ‘Fernhill’ tells them more about themselves and the passage of time than words are normally able to do:
And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman
And herdsman. The calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked
Clear and cold.
And the Sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.
J.C. Evans (Crwys) 1980
The choir have produced two double CDs as a permanent record of this most famous Swansea man.
(Both CDs are currently available via the recordings section of the choir website (www.dunvantchoir.wales)).
“Harmony and Humour”
Recorded at the Arts Hall, University College, Swansea in 1980, enhanced for “Dylan 100” in 2013. Directed by John Rhys Tomas and performed by Anne Bowen, Sian Roberts, Gareth Hughes and Glanffrwyd James. A double CD recording totalling 94 mins of Harmony and Humour.
“Prince of the Apple Towns”
Recorded at Bishop Gore Hall in 2015. Featuring the Dylan Thomas Society and members of the Theatre Cadair. A double CD recording totalling 100 mins, a celebration of Dylan Thomas through words and music.