The Provincial Eisteddfodau 1819-1834

The Concert Culture

Another prominent element at the Carmarthen Eisteddfod of 1819 was the challenge posed by the English-influenced concert culture to traditional Welsh-language culture. The Reverend John Bowen brought a choir, part of the Bath Harmonic Society, down to Carmarthen and held two charity concerts, one in aid of the widows and children of deceased ministers, and the other, believe it or not, in aid of what was called in English 'decayed harpists', that is most probably, old harpists who had grown too frail to support themselves. Of course, the middle classes of Carmarthen and the surrounding areas flocked to these concerts, as they were so fashionable.

And really, from that moment on you see the beginning of the battle in the Eisteddfod between the two cultures. It's odd to think - there's Iolo Morgannwg on the lawn of the Ivy Bush, holding the Gorsedd of Bards, an institution whose sole raison d'être was to celebrate those features of Welsh culture that made it unique. You have that happening on the one hand, and on the other there's this fashionable concert being introduced. From 1819 onwards it would be a battle, a battle that was to cost the poets and Welsh-language culture within the Eisteddfod dear.