BY JESS CARRASCALAO HEARD
‘Competitor number 21 is performing…’
Countless times have I sat in the wings at eisteddfods and sent a fervent, telepathic apology to the poor volunteer who has drawn the short straw of having to attempt the title of my definitely-not-in-English, swapped-in-at-the-last-minute song.
On a microphone. In front of people.
I think we can all agree, that’s a tough gig. I’m just grateful that I’ve never received the side-eye from any volunteer, because with some of those song names, I completely deserved it.
Having performed at eisteddfods and competitions on and off for the best part of the past decade, I’ve come to realise that emerging performers have so much to be thankful for in the army of eisteddfod volunteers.
There are many paths to musical greatness, and one way of achieving career success is to work your way through the eisteddfod circuit. Start small, and go up from there.
There are lots of benefits to doing it this way. Each eisteddfod offers the opportunity to perform and network, receive feedback from an industry professional, and a chance to win some cold, hard cash along with other prizes to advance your career.
For the most part, these opportunities are made possible by hundreds of volunteers in dozens of eisteddfods across the country.
The volunteers involved aren’t just those you meet at the registration desk, or on stage announcing your pesky song title just before you perform. Eisteddfods are months in the planning.
Long before eager performers jump on the Stardom website to register for their sections, volunteers on eisteddfod committees have already spent many hours working out the puzzle of fitting those sections together, and lining up even more volunteers to ensure they each section runs smoothly.
They’ve also spent countless hours ensuring that their eisteddfod is one that a performer would be proud to have competed in. They’ve gone to great lengths to get the best adjudicators, sponsors for prizes, good venues, and fabulous accompanists.
And then someone has to publicise the eisteddfod so that performers flock to it. Someone has to be on social media. Someone has to be in charge of publicity emails. Volunteers have to be recruited to mail out hundreds of entrance forms, and again to mail out all the programs once they’ve been finalised. And speaking of programs, someone has put that little booklet together; a fiddly task in and of itself.
Then there are the minutiae. What flowers should be presented? What should be served at supper for a late-running section? What’s an appropriate amount of prize money for each section? What should the certificates look like? Which trophies look best? All of these tiny details, and countless more, need to be decided.
In every eisteddfod, from the earliest planning stages to the moment that last prize is given in the final section, the volunteers are there, unpaid, giving up hours of their time to help advance emerging performers’ careers.
Why do they do it?
It’s quite simple. They love it. They love the music, they love the performances, and they love – and see the importance of – doing their part to foster new talent so that good music may be heard in years to come.
In an age where it seems that fewer people appreciate the arts, and in a time-pressed climate where volunteers can be more difficult to find, it’s a special thing to know that people are giving up their time, unpaid, so that one day in the future you might be paid and acclaimed as a performer to do what you do best.
Thank you eisteddfod volunteers, for all you do. I am extremely grateful.
And I swear that from hereon in, I will notify you well in advance of any not-in-English songs with tricky titles I might want to perform.
Image Garry Knight via Flickr CC By 2.0.