POULTNEY - The Green Mountain College choir is the only American college choir to perform Welsh hymns and folksongs at each of its performances, according to music director and associate professor of music James Cassarino. Next month, the choir gets its biggest test of all-singing traditional Welsh music for audiences in Wales. Forty-four members of the GMC Choir and Cantorion are going on a six concert tour of North Wales from March 8 through March 13.
"We have a standing repertoire of Welsh language music," says Cassarino. "We've been fortunate to have so many friends of Welsh descent right here in the Poultney area to help us with pronunciation, not to mention our friends from Wales."
The choir and Cantorion make annual tours to perform for Welsh communities across the United States, and visit Wales every four years.
A special event will be a benefit concert March 11 with the Ruthin Choir at Tabernacle Church in Ruthin. The concert will raise money for Haiti victims and is expected to be broadcast by the BBC. On March 12 the GMC choir will receive a special tour of the National Slate Museum at Llanberis and will give a lunchtime performance there.
Musical highlights of the tour will include works that were popular at 19th century Welsh-American music festivals. Welsh hymns to be performed will include such favorites as "Rachie," "Mae D'Eisiau" and "Calon Lan"-the latter hymn was adapted for the College's anthem "This Green Place." Hilary Tann's "Wales, Our Land," commissioned by Green Mountain College, will receive its first Welsh performance during the tour. Other selections will include music by American composers and English madrigals.
Many Welsh immigrants, attracted by the local slate industry, settled in and around Poultney, producing one of the strongest Welsh-American communities in the country. The Green Mountain College Welsh Heritage Program seeks to maintain and cultivate that cultural legacy. The Griswold Library at GMC houses a special collection related to Wales and Welsh culture. Each October, the College holds the GMC Welsh Festival, and a Welsh artist typically visits campus during the festival to give talks and workshops, with their work displayed in the college's Feick Arts Center. Green Mountain College also offers an exchange program with its sister college the University of Wales in Aberystwyth.