Ysbytty Ifan (1812)

1812/3 Ysbytty Ifan. John Ellis, Llanrwst. ‘We have another example of a revival breaking out unexpectedly and by unusual means. Many who are still alive remember one John Ellis, once of Llanrwst, author of many anthems, some forty years ago [thus about 1812-13] who used to go here and there wherever he was called upon to teach the people to sing. At the time, this part of the worship was undoubtedly very poor; and there is no doubting that the labour of the above man was the means, in connection with others, of bringing a degree of culture to the congregational singing. This man had been invited to Ysbyty Ifan, where in relation to the Monthly Meeting in Merionethshire, and obeyed the request. He went there together with his books and diligently led the young people to sing regularly and orderly. Belonging to the place there were three old elders, faithful and godly men; but there was one of them more fervent of spirit, and of a wilder temper than the others, but all three were all most rude and countrified/rustic men. These good men had already eyed the new way of singing and felt sad that the notation-book was being used, which had never been done in Ysbyty before. These three brethren talked together about this innovation and asked whether it was lawful to permit this strange thing to continue. Having to some degree discussed the matter, the elders unanimously came to the conclusion that it was their duty to stop it and afterwards informed the singers of their conclusion. On hearing this they asked permission to come together for one last time, as they needed to in order to send off their teacher honourably. The elders agreed to this and at the appointed time the teacher and singers came together, and the three men also; one of them went to the pulpit where he determined to remain until the end of the meeting. The singers went about their task of learning the tunes and anthems that they were in the middle of learning [lit. that were already afoot]; and sometime during that time, they sang the anthem composed by John Ellis on the 12th chapter of Isaiah; and as they came to one part of it, namely, ‘Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation, &c.’, one felt in his heart to go over the same line, once and again. The teacher asserted that it was better to go on, but the same line was sung over and over again. The feeling spread and increased in strength. They sang ‘Therefore with joy shall ye draw water &c.’, and it was pointless for the teacher to ask for the anthem to be finished; the line was sung again with greater and greater relish; and in the end the old elder in the pulpit could not stop himself but cried out with all his might – ‘Blessed be God for the wells of salvation, &c.’ The feeling became general and the learning of artistic [celfyddydol] singing ended in true heartfelt singing. The old elder went home praising and leaping, and there was not further mention of stopping the singing meeting. This was the start of a revival in those districts.’ [MC i. 268-9]

This information was kindly provided by Geraint Jones

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