What is an Eisteddfod!??
An Eisteddfod (pronounced i-steth-vod) is a Welsh festival of literature, music and performance, dating back to at least the 7th century. The word is derived from the Welsh word “eistedd” meaning “a sitting of the learned”. The principal focus of the event was competition among the participants with adjudicators awarding prizes donated by local sponsors or drawn from funds accumulated through admission fees. Test pieces were prescribed in advance and there were contests in singing, musical and literary composition, spelling bees, drawing, penmanship and even the raising and display of house plants.
(an Eisteddfod opening ceremony)
The most important Eisteddfod is the National Eisteddfod of Wales, the largest festival of competitive music and poetry in Europe. It's eight days of competitions and performances, entirely in the Welsh language. Competitors typically number 6,000 or more, and overall attendances generally exceed 150,000 visitors.
Anothe important Eisteddfod each year is the Eisteddfod yr Urdd, or the Youth Eisteddfod. It involves Welsh youth aged 7-24 in a week of competition in singing, recitation, dancing, acting and musicianship during the summer half-term school holiday.
The International Eisteddfod is held annually in Llangollen, Denbighshire, each year in July. choirs, singing groups, folk dancers and other groups attend from all over the world, sharing their national folk traditions in one of the world's great festival of the arts.
The Jackson Eisteddfod
Whether farmers or miners, the Welsh immigrants to this area sang as an outlet and the first documented event in Jackson County was held in 1875 in a large tent in Oak Hill. Prior to that alternating Welsh churches had held “Jubliees” to celebrate singing. Eisteddfodau were also held in Centerville and at Rio Grande College during this time period. In 1897 the 1st Grand Eisteddfod was held in a large pavilion at the old fair grounds in Jackson and adjudicated by Daniel Protheroe, a well-known Welsh composer and vocalist. The Southern Ohio Eisteddfod Association was formed in 1922 and Jackson quickly became a hotbed for Welsh musical activity with the 1st Annual Eisteddfod was being held. R. R. Thomas was brought to Jackson in 1924 to establish the school Eisteddfod and the event had grown so popular that a special building, the Eisteddfod Auditorium was constructed in 1928. Jackson had the only building dedicated to holding Eisteddfodau in the country. This huge building could hold 4,000 spectators and accommodate choruses of up to 500 on the stage. Jackson attracted the National Eisteddfod in 1930 and 10,000 people are said to have attended. The last Eisteddfod was held in the auditorium in the fall of 1940 and the building was destroyed by fire in the early 1970’s. But the Eisteddfod has continued to live on in the Jackson City Schools, giving young children in all grades the chance to perform and display their musical talent. To our knowledge this is the only school Eisteddfod still held in this country.
A web site was developed by Sherry DiBari that documents the history, timeline and personal stories of the Eisteddfod in Jackson, Ohio. Visit her site at http://www.jacksoneisteddfod.com.
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