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A four-day, three-night house party for early music-making fans, between Christmas and the New Year, has been happening for years and years, I’m told, but this had been the first time I’d heard of it, and this was the first time they allowed someone in who only sang, with no other string to her bow, as it were.

To quote Wikipedia, “Trefeca (also Trefecca, Trevecca, and Trevecka), located between Talgarth and Llangorse Lake in what is now south Powys in Wales, was the birthplace and home of the 18th-century Methodist leader Howel Harris (English: Howell Harris). It was also the site of two Calvinistic Methodist colleges at different times; the first sponsored by the Countess of Huntingdon (an English methodist leader) in the late eighteenth century; the second supported by the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Connexion in the later nineteenth century.” Coleg Trefeca is now the conference centre and retreat house of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, with 14 twin-bedded rooms and several meeting rooms of various sizes. It is a Grade II listed building, and includes the Howell Harris Museum. It welcomes not only religious groups – evidently.

I arrived with a friend in her car (mine would not have taken all her many viols) late afternoon on the 27th, and found that some, after a quick cup of tea, were already planning to make music. We waited until the first official session after dinner, and I sang at that session with five viol players. I was not really intending to take photos during the stay, so have no photograph of that group as I was not with it again.

But my camera finger got itchy the next day, when I realised just how many interesting things there were around the place. First to catch my eye was this clock.

and its explanation, which, as with every other label, was also given in Welsh.

… though it stood at 11.40 throughout our stay.

Behind it was a display cabinet.

including these objects:

Baptismal bowl, presented in 1901
When I saw these cups I thought they were pure 1960s, but they’re 18th century.
“Scissors and keys owned by the tailor and novelist Daniel Owen, (1836-95) of Mold, who depicted Methodist life in his works”

We occupied the place fully. So manifestations of our own lives were all around.

Three viols in their cases, and a cushion

An unlit showcase in another room included these:

“It was the custom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to present a commemorative silver trowel and sometimes a gavel to those who laid foundation stones of chapels. Seen here are some examples.”
“Chopsticks presented to John Ellis Jones (1875-1968) of Ffynnongroyw by Miss S. A. Jones of the China Inland Mission”

When I walked into the library during this free/informal playing time, I was inveigled into singing one verse of the piece they were playing (it had optional words) in return for being allowed to take their photo.

The dining room and part of the kitchen. Very good food was served, with no tempting cooked breakfasts, and light lunches. Just right.

Also found around the place were carriers for wind instruments and bags of music.

The weather did not tempt me outside on day two, so this was taken through glass.
Beverage station. The excellent and cost-saving system at Trefeca means that, on a rota, we took it in turns to make drinks during the breaks, and to serve and clear up after meals. Many hands, and all that.
I sang with recorders

I just happened to look out of my window at 8 a.m. on day three.

This presaged much nicer weather, and later in the day I was tempted outside.

The Coleg with its twentieth century accommodation block, very recently refurbished.
The ‘Strawberry Hill gothic‘ original buildings
(‘The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord’, if my schoolgirl Latin is correct.)
They said I must go and find the weather-vane. This is the best angle I could get on it.

This being the setting where you could try things, I asked, to the organiser’s surprise, if I might have a session with the ‘loud wind’ (as against recorders) though I’m told I must now refer to it as ‘renaissance wind’. I took out the loud version of my voice, and I was pleased to say that the general consensus was that it had worked. These loud instruments are banished to the chapel (the small one if I read the Welsh correctly).

Cornett, kirtle, and three sackbuts of various sizes

Just a couple more pictures of items in the house:

From near to far: an eisteddfod chair won by Sarah Jane Rees (1839-1916), peot and temperance advocate; a chair owned by William Williams (1717-91) ‘Wales’s’ foremost hymnwriter’; a blacksmith’s anvil owned by Thomas Lewis (1759- 1842), another hymnwriter, and, furthest, if I remember correctly, a chair owned by Howell Harris himself.
When I first saw this, I was just reminded of the dock in a court, but in fact it is a pulpit, made of oak and wrought iron, used at Trefeca from 1768 to 1791.

As we travelled across the beautiful South Wales countryside on day one it had been smothered in mist and fog. As we returned on the afternoon of day four it was glorious in low sunshine – but of course my camera was in my suitcase.