A singer from Sennybridge travelled all the way to Nebraska to show off her vocal range by participating in the North American Festival of Wales.
Sophie Jones, a farmer's daughter, was chosen to go to Nebraska after winning two competitions at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Llandovery. "I won two competitions – Folk Singing under 25 and Cerdd Dant solo under 25. Right after announcing the results on the stage, they said that they had another announcement to make. The judges then had to make a decision to choose 1 out of the top 3 to represent the Urdd organisation at the festival – and I was the lucky one! 4 people got chosen all together from 4 different competitions."
It meant that Sophie got to sing in the State Capital Office of Nebraska, representing Welsh culture abroad. "It was an incredible experience, seeing people from all over America coming together to show their love and passion for Wales. It was lovely to see people speak fondly of their heritage and connections with Wales.
"At the end of the ceremony, it was an experience to see the Welsh flag flying for the first time in front of the building – truly magnificent. On top of this, we also received a gift from the mayor of Lincoln, with a certificate stating that we are now Honorary citizens of the City of Lincoln.
"The Opening Concert of the festival was also an incredible highlight – the audience was so warm and engaging and so happy to have singers from Wales out to sing for them in person."
The North American Festival of Wales is held every year in different states, including Canada. The aim of the festival is to promote Welsh culture. The North American tradition began in 1929 when over 4,000 people gathered at Niagara Falls for the first National Gymanfa Ganu. It became the largest gathering of the Welsh, descendants, and friends in North America.
Sophie got into music when she was just three years old. "I did my first eisteddfod singing ‘Gee Ceffyl Bach’, and the judge told me I had a beautiful voice and a future in singing, and it kind of went from there. I’ve competed in every eisteddfod possible since then and love every event! It’s a part of who I am."
As well as singing, Sophie is currently studying in Cardiff for a degree in medicine. "I decided to follow my dream of becoming a doctor but also have been in love with singing since a very young age. So it was important for me to try and have the best of both worlds and do both.
"I will definitely keep singing and growing my singing career as much as I can. Whilst at the festival a very famous Welsh composer came up to me and said, ‘Sophie you make sure you keep singing, you’ve got a beautiful voice and it deserves to be heard.’ It’s moments like this that really stick with me and grow me as a singer."