Welsh teacher based in France to sing both anthems on Saturday in Paris
When Jim Rowlands steps out onto the pitch at the Stade de France on Saturday, it will be a moment of enormous pride, mixed with nerves and excitement.
The Welshman, who has taught at the French Military Academy of St Cyr for the past decade and has been in France for more than 30 years, will perform in front of the biggest crowd of his life.
When the academy’s choir was tasked with performing both anthems ahead of the Six Nations showdown, he was approached by students at the academy and asked if he could help them with the Welsh anthem.
From that chance request, he will find himself on the field come Saturday at 3.40pm.
“Basically, the intake’s choir master from the Combined Arms School came to my office,” he says. “I was expecting a question about an upcoming test or something, but he asked me if I spoke Welsh. I was surprised but said yes. The next thing we’re in a huge amphitheatre teaching them Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau.
“They only had two weeks to get it as right as possible, and starting from scratch, they’ve done a really great job. At one stage I sang it to them and I think that was when it was decided, ‘Oh ok he’s coming with us!’”
Jim, whose family still live in Graigfechan in Denbighshire, did have an amateur singing career of sorts, playing hundreds of festivals and concerts with a Celtic harp player and his Welsh folk rock band Mirrorfield in France, Wales and as far afield as Korea and Poland, but had never come close to any commercial success when he decided to call it a day.
“Covid lockdowns destroyed the gig circuits really and so I decided to stop singing and just concentrate on being the best teacher I could,” he says.
He confesses that his performance in front of 80,000 at the Stade de France will be a poignant and emotional moment for him.
“If I wanted one last hurrah before hanging up the voice, then it could hardly be bigger or more nerve-racking really,” he laughs. “I’ll dedicate it to my father who passed away in June and who would have been proud as punch. Also, I finally got my French nationality this January and so to sing both anthems is very significant and will be an emotional experience.”
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