Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 25, 2018

“Some Enchanted Evening”

I think we all wish for control in our lives and so believe - or perhaps wish - that the good things arise from how carefully we make plans and execute them. But I wouldn’t be here if there hadn’t been a teaching position vacant for my mother to fill in my father’s hometown. Husband Art’s father met his wife-to-be when he stopped by the phone office to talk to his sister, who was an operator, and met Art’s mother who was visiting another operator. I met Art because my neighbor made a comment about me to him when they were going out to eat.

Smaller events that brighten our days are just as likely to be served up by a big slice of serendipity. The day after we arrived in Wales was planned to be a slow one to help us recover from the flights and time change. We wandered the small village of Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant near our vacation place, stopping in the church and a couple of shops. In the window of the combination tea shop/post office, I spotted a flier for an upcoming performance by the Three Welsh Tenors. I excitedly told Art and our friend Deb that we had to go.

Art’s response was, “I was hoping you didn’t see it.” Then he laughed. He knows how much I love tenors. After all, we’ve seen live concerts with Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo, the Celtic Tenors, the Ten Tenors, Il Volo and the tenors in Kansas State University’s music department.

The next day, we invited our friend Jan to come along with us. We scurried to our place to get ready and then we met her for a quick supper before zipping over to Llanfair Caereinion, where the concert was to take place in the village’s leisure center.

The parking lot had only a few vehicles so Art joked that it probably meant the tenors weren’t that great. But as we walked to the entrance, we realized the main parking lot below was jam-packed. Although the hall was also nearly full, we got seats in the third row, with the first two rows being empty. Our seats were just fine until a man with thinning wispy, yet unusually tall, hair sat directly in front of us. Jan commented that she’d like to get a pair of scissors as his hair was blocking her view. That problem was solved when we moved to the front row during intermission. Those seats also gave us a good view of the pianist, who was described as one of the best in Wales.

The performance was a charity event to raise money for the Lingen Davies Cancer Fund. Jan also has been involved in many such fund-raising activities, and she was interested in booking the tenors herself.

Then the lights were lowered. The master of ceremonies welcomed everyone in Welsh and English, told a few jokes - some about Americans - and introduced the tenors. He said one of the tenors - Aled Hall - couldn’t be there because he is currently performing in an opera in Sweden. Small murmurs of disappointment rippled through the crowd. But he assured us we were in for a treat anyway.

From the time the other two tenors - Rhys Meirion and Aled Wyn Davies - took to the stage, I was completely captivated. Meirion, a former primary school head teacher, and Davies, a sheep farmer in the Cambrian Mountains of mid-Wales, sang classical songs and popular tunes - some in English and some in Welsh. Davies’ version of “Some Enchanted Evening” and Meirion’s rendition of “Tell My Father” had me nearly in tears. Both have performed professionally in venues all over the world.

Their singing was “treat” enough for me. But then, Elan, Meirion’s college-aged daughter who is working on a music performance degree from the university in Cardiff, came on stage in an elegant navy-blue gown. Her pure, sweet voice filled the hall. One of her numbers, sung in Welsh, was Eva Cassidy’s adaptation of “Over the Rainbow.” Cassidy, who died of cancer at the age of 33, was an American singer and guitarist known for her interpretations of jazz and blues. After her death, British audiences responded enthusiastically to her “Over the Rainbow” version. We loved it, too, and Deb even leaned over and whispered that she thought Elan sang the iconic “Wizard of Oz” song just for us.

But we were in for another surprise. Aria, Davies’ 7- or 8-year-old daughter, came out and immediately charmed us with her “take-no-prisoners” style. Dressed in a flowery dress and wearing black patent shoes with lace-topped ankle socks, she reminded me a bit of Shirley Temple. She looked right into the microphone and, as Jan described it, “sang her little heart out.” Aria had earlier qualified for the annual International Eisteddfod singing competition, which will be later this summer.

And so it went throughout the evening, the tenors and their daughters sometimes singing solos and sometimes duets. At the end, the four came together and the audience stood for a rousing rendition of the Welsh National Anthem. The title - “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” - means “Land of My Fathers”. The words were written by Evan James and the tune composed by his son, James James, in January 1856. I didn’t understand a word, but I could feel the patriotism and passion the people feel for their country.

Though it was nearly 10 p.m. when the evening concluded, it had seemed to pass by quickly. And our announcer was correct ... we had experienced a real treat.

And all because of the small flier in the corner of a window in a small shop in our small village. Not a speck of planning had led us to an evening of beautiful singing. It was an enchanted evening delivered by serendipity.

Top left: Aled Wyn Davies; top-middle: Davies' daughter Aria and Rhys Meirion; top-right: Meirion's daughter Elan; bottom: Jan, left, Gloria and Deb.

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