By Emily Cutts | Correspondent.
POULTNEY — When the Penrhyn Welsh Male Voice Choir made their last visit to Poultney, they missed their own parade. This year, there was no parade, but the choir arrived early for their welcoming ceremony.
The Côr y Penrhyn made its third visit to the town Tuesday in advance of their concert in Queensbury, N.Y.
On their last visit in 1999, the choir made a detour to Putney when the hired bus drivers didn’t know where they were going.
“At the end of the day, (the town was) still waiting for us,” choir member Dafydd Jones-Morris said.
Tuesday morning, a crowd gathered outside the town offices in anticipation of the choir’s arrival. Chairs were set up on the lawn, and Welsh and American flags lined portions of the sidewalk along Main Street.
Although they were far from home, for many of the visiting choir members, the area surrounding Poultney is reminiscent of Wales.
The choir comes from Bethesda in North West Wales, an area with three valleys or dyffryn in Welsh.
“It does feel like home. The surroundings feel so familiar” said Gerry Baker, a member of the choir for 10 years. “The first thing that struck me was coming around the corner and seeing all the slate roofs.”
Baker said he had heard talk of red slate from the area and wanted to bring a piece home as a souvenir.
“The slate valley here is reminiscent of the slate valley in Wales because the mountains, lakes and valleys,” said Krista Rupe, executive director of the Slate Valley Museum in Granville, N.Y.
During the ceremony, the Welsh flag was raised with the American flag outside the town offices and was flown the rest of the day.
“It’s tight-knit. Slate is in our veins,” Rep. Patricia McCoy said. “It runs through our veins here.”
The youngest member of the choir, Caleb Rhys, 18, said he was recruited by his music teacher Owain Arwel Davies.
Davies also serves as the conductor of the choir.
Rhys said he and a few of the younger members joined so they could sing at a rugby match.
“To sing in front of thousands of people, it was quite something,” Rhys said.
The choir was given a key to the Slate Valley, carved in slate with the dates of the three visits and the message “Welcome back to the Vermont, New York Slate Valley.”
Members of the Poultney community and the Poultney Area St. David’s Society were on hand to greet the male choir and share a pint with them.
As the afternoon progressed, a portion of the choir gathered on the patio at Taps Tavern broke into the song, “Moliannwn.”
The folk song was written by Welshman Benjamin Thomas, who lived in the Slate Valley, and celebrates the coming of spring.
Fair Haven resident Thom Bruso shared a beer with his friend of 20 years, Jones-Morris. Bruso said the two met when the choir visited back in the 1990s and have kept in touch ever since, including a visit to Wales.
“I think it’s important just to know our roots, know where we came from, who we are and why were are” said Bruso, who is half Welsh. “America is the land of immigrants.”