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The folk tradition in Wales

ifor 25 Mar 06 - 10:00 AM
Dave Hanson 25 Mar 06 - 10:08 AM
sian, west wales 26 Mar 06 - 09:34 AM
Scooby Doo 26 Mar 06 - 09:45 AM
greg stephens 26 Mar 06 - 09:57 AM
GUEST,DB 26 Mar 06 - 10:01 AM
GUEST 26 Mar 06 - 10:37 AM
GUEST 26 Mar 06 - 10:38 AM
sian, west wales 26 Mar 06 - 12:47 PM
ifor 26 Mar 06 - 01:55 PM
GUEST,DB 26 Mar 06 - 06:11 PM
Surreysinger 26 Mar 06 - 06:19 PM
Nigel Parsons 26 Mar 06 - 06:39 PM
Splott Man 27 Mar 06 - 03:05 AM
GUEST 27 Mar 06 - 03:14 AM
sian, west wales 27 Mar 06 - 04:36 AM
Surreysinger 27 Mar 06 - 05:19 AM
Andy Jackson 27 Mar 06 - 05:39 AM
greg stephens 27 Mar 06 - 06:02 AM
ifor 28 Mar 06 - 04:39 AM
sian, west wales 28 Mar 06 - 05:00 AM
GUEST 28 Mar 06 - 05:24 AM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 29 Mar 06 - 10:33 AM
GUEST 29 Mar 06 - 01:06 PM
greg stephens 29 Mar 06 - 01:41 PM
sian, west wales 29 Mar 06 - 05:07 PM
GUEST,Porterhouse 30 Mar 06 - 03:55 PM
sian, west wales 30 Mar 06 - 04:18 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 30 Mar 06 - 08:00 PM
GUEST,Bob Coltman 30 Mar 06 - 08:14 PM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 30 Mar 06 - 08:41 PM
GUEST,Jerry Epstein 30 Mar 06 - 11:27 PM
Surreysinger 31 Mar 06 - 10:44 AM
clueless don 31 Mar 06 - 11:29 AM
GUEST 01 Apr 06 - 08:04 AM
greg stephens 01 Apr 06 - 12:31 PM
GUEST,RICHD 01 Apr 06 - 02:46 PM
Fidjit 01 Apr 06 - 05:35 PM
sian, west wales 02 Apr 06 - 01:30 PM
MARINER 02 Apr 06 - 04:43 PM
sian, west wales 02 Apr 06 - 05:49 PM
Surreysinger 02 Apr 06 - 06:19 PM
richd 02 Apr 06 - 07:08 PM
sian, west wales 03 Apr 06 - 04:49 AM
Geoff the Duck 03 Apr 06 - 05:10 AM
sian, west wales 03 Apr 06 - 05:42 AM
GUEST,punkfolkrocker 03 Apr 06 - 08:07 AM
Snuffy 03 Apr 06 - 09:47 AM
sian, west wales 03 Apr 06 - 10:02 AM
greg stephens 03 Apr 06 - 02:48 PM
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Subject: The folk tradition in Wales
From: ifor
Date: 25 Mar 06 - 10:00 AM

I am interested in discussing the folk tradition in Wales.One of the most exciting bands I have seen is the Boys From The Hill .This is a Swansea band who play urban folk with attitude.They seem underrecognised in Wales and yet are brilliant live .They are fronted by Andy Hill who is a fine songwriter and his song Brechfa Forest deserves to be known far and wide.The band are political and brim with energy and commitment.The "hill" referred to in the name of the band is Townhill one of the poorest parts of Swansea nd a place not seen in the tourist brochures about Swansea or the Gower. Are there any others in the folk tradition you would recommend ?
ifor


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Dave Hanson
Date: 25 Mar 06 - 10:08 AM

What folk tradition, ' urban folk with attitude ' what's that then ?

eric


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 09:34 AM

Take a look at the 'Musicians' category on the trac website. My favourites change according to my mood and circumstances. Fortunately, there's a wide choice available to me - horses for most courses. I prefer the more traditional Welsh folk tunes and songs, although I like some variety in performance styles. Pigyn Clust, Ffynnon, Crasdant, KilBride Brothers, Hwntws, Calennig, Never Mind the Bocs, et al as well as all the sessions and other informal get-togethers.

And - I shouldn't think that Townhill would make the tourist brochures! It ain't that kinda area, interesting tho' it may be!

siân


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Scooby Doo
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 09:45 AM

What about Mic Tems website for Dr Price etc ect.
Scooby


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: greg stephens
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 09:57 AM

The Boys from the Hill sound very interesting, I'll look out for them. Thanks, Ifor, for bringing them to our attention. Do they do any folk material, or is it all their own stuff?


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 10:01 AM

I've never been able to work out whether there is a surviving folk (song) tradition in Wales or not. There is the famous and brilliant Welsh folk singer, Phil Tanner, of course, but his tradition was an English language one.
I have, occasionally, come across folk songs in Welsh but I've got a sneaking suspicion that many of these may be the product of mid-nineteenth century, romantic, middle-class Celtic fogginess.
When I've asked questions on the subject of Welsh folk song, over the years, various people have told me that any Welsh folk song tradition was replaced by choral singing in non-conformist chapels - possibly ... ?
It would be really interesting to know more - if there is anything to know, that is.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 10:37 AM

It's great to see Boys From The Hill get some puff. Quite frankly, they are brilliant. Strong self written songs like Guitarra Armada and Theme Park are agumented by the likes of Bells of Rhymney Lifeboat Mona and traditional songs like Fair Phoebe and the Dark eyed Sailor (the best of the many versions I've heard) and FFarwel Fo i Langeyfelach Ion.

They were a three piece but I think multi-instrumentalist Martin Leamon has left to pursue his interest in the links between Welsh and Estonian music, leaving the duo of Andy Jones (vocals, guitar and songwriting) and Chris Pitson (bouzouki, cittern and occasional vocals/songwriting - his live showpiece, a version of Music for a Found harmonium is extraordinary). They are very well-thought of in Swansea but have yet to really travel beyond. Their self-titled album which came out in 2001 is aviable from Fflach records - www.fflach.co.uk. Check out their own website: www.boysfromthehill.com

As for Welsh folk music in general, it's flourishing. Bands like Fernhill, Rag Foundation, Ar Log (essentially, the Spinners of Wales - undervalued but great), Jac y Do as well as those listed by Sian are well worth checking out.

Welsh tradtional song has come together from a number of sources. Some are many hundred years old others Victorian although "romantic, middle-class, Celtic fogginess" is in mercifully short supply. The influence of the chapels in Wales is, though strong, not as all-pervasive as you might think. Temperance and piety were convenient masks to show our Anglian bretheren, who thought they were in charge!


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 10:38 AM

Oops - pressed submit before saying who I was. Sorry!

Wayne


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 12:47 PM

I can't believe that anyone who looked *seriously* into Welsh folk song would be in any doubt as to its continuity. Of course there are Welsh male voice choirs. There are choirs in a lot of countries and if that's all a person can perceive, they're just being lazy.

The folk song in Wales is acontinuous, varied, evolved, tradition. The occasional 'new' trad song can even still being uncovered, although obviously not that many any more. But they are well published for anyone who truly wants to access them. And there's a huge groundswell of new interest and accompanying publications for Welsh instrumental tunes as well.

A good amount of the 'Victorian' stuff actually used Welsh Airs (harp tunes, which we treat as a separate category from 'folk song') for which poets devised words - often unsuccessfully from a singer's point of view. But then, this was happening everywhere else as well so it's just silly to think that the genuine 'folk song' disappeared in Wales because of this. It didn't happen in Ireland, did it, and you had the same things going on.

And the hymn tradition (which was broader than just the Methodists) actually SAVED a lot of tunes, so let's not be too down on chapels. In fact, the chapel argument is usually put forward by people too lazy to actually look for the reality but want to look like they are 'in the know'.

The Welsh Folk Song Society has set up three one-day symposiums with lectures on various aspects of the history. I've just been to the second one yesterday in Bangor; the third will be at the Welsh History Museum (which everyone actually knows as 'St Fagans') on 22 April, from 10.00 a.m. Free, with translation services, and, if memory serves, a focus on the folk songs of Glamorgan and the ballad printing industry in Wales.

There's a new English language history of Welsh traditional music currently being written which will be published by University of Wales Press. I think the author is edging towards the end of the 19th Century now so she's in the home stretch.

On another front, I think Mick Tems' site should have a link on the trac site above - probably under 'Calennig'.

sian


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: ifor
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 01:55 PM

dear greg,
Wayne has answered your question about the Boys From The Hill.They are excellent songwriters themselves...Brechfa Forest about a mid Wales work camp for the unemployed before the war is great...but they also do a fine version of Lifeboat Mona by Peggy Seeger [?]. My wife says their version of Dark Eyed Sailor is remarkable and indeed it is!!My copy of their fine CD has been snaffled by my son and is now in New York.
I saw them in August at the Pontardawe Festival and they were fantastic....edgy ,great songs ,driving music and plenty of attitude .They often play for good causes and did a gig quite recently for the Balata Refugee Camp in Palestine.This is a band well worth seeing.
They have their own website and should be seen far and wide!!!!


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,DB
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 06:11 PM

Dear sian, west wales,

That's really interesting, thanks! It's just that Welsh folk song just doesn't seem to have as high a profile as Scots, Irish and English. I will certainly look out for the book that you mention and read it with interest - I really do want to know more.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Surreysinger
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 06:19 PM

Welsh folk song was being actively collected in the 19th century, IIRC from what I've read while looking into the background of Lucy Broadwood - she certainly was in correspondence with various people about it, and had books on the subject in her personal collection. As far as solo rather than band performances of Welsh traditional song goes- Chris Jones is well worth hearing - lovely voice, and a great singer (appearing at Whitby again this year, I think). (And, of course, Mary Humphreys also includes some Welsh songs in her performances).


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 26 Mar 06 - 06:39 PM

And (whether wanted or not) we'll probably have a few Welsh songs at Miskin this year.
If it comes down to desperation, I'll sing a couple.
I may even use a couple of Welsh tunes for different words, but I'll make the effort!

CHEERS
Nigel


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Splott Man
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 03:05 AM

It's easy to overlook the English language traditions in Wales, particularly south Wales. Mick Tems and Pat Smith did some sterling work in uncovering and recording Anglo-Welsh songs in their days as Calennig. The late lamented Siwsann George was also a great ambassador of Welsh songs.
Pat& I are trying our best to keep them in the public ear. The same goes for Mick and his partner Olly (We'll all be at Crediton this weekend, so plenty of Welsh song there, and at Miskin).

For one reason or another, in the past, Welsh artists have been reluctant to promote themselves across the border, possibly because there is a sufficient audience at home, possibly because of a lack of interest and old prejudices on both sides (I'm talking Wales v England here).

Splott Man


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 03:14 AM

There may not seem to be much active interest in Welsh song in England, but when Mary sings in Welsh there's often favourable comments, and at least one audience member asked why we don't do more. Because it doesn't make sense singing songs in a language the audience can't understand, is the obvious answer, but people seem to enjoy it anyway.

We make a point of playing a few Welsh dance tunes too.

Anahata


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 04:36 AM

DB, I imagine it will be a couple of years yet before the book comes out, but it will be worth waiting for. You might keep an eye out in Antiquarian Book shops for "Welsh National Music and Dance" by WS Gwynn Williams (first published 1933 by J Curwen & Sons, and subsequent editions by Gwynn Publishing). It's the only English language history of the subject to date; there's been a lot of change in thinking about some topics since 1933 but it's still worth having if you're interested in the academic side of things.

You're right that Welsh music doesn't have the profile of Scottish/Irish/English and I think there are a number of reasons for that. In part, the British Media seem to me to be amazinginly anti-Welsh ... and I say that as a Canadian listener/viewer/reader.

Splotty, the only point upon I would take issue with you (as you know I love you dearly) is the 'home' market. I despair of Welsh performance venues: so few of them have any interest in traditional music! Apart from the clubs which are largely in the south east, the only venues that make a real effort are the Muni in Pontypridd and Queens Hall in Narberth. The Arts Council for Wales has a special fund for Touring (music, theatre, dance) beyond Cardiff which venues can bid for. I've just found out that a cluster of theatres are bidding for a grant for touring rock/pop/jazz. When I asked why Trad wasn't in there, the organizer told me that there was no interest!

Surreysinger, just for info, there were collections of airs and tunes in the 18th century but the first collection which actually printed words along with tunes wasn't published until the 19th. IIRC, there were 2 reasons for this. 1, that the Welsh liked to 'mix and match'; they took a tune and tried to fit as varied a selection of verses to that tune as possible so printing any one set of words with any given tune wouldn't have made sense to them. 2, there was an assumption on the part of those collectors that some tunes which DID have specific words were so well known that they didn't need to bother printing the words.   And then there were the even earlier collections (i.e. Robert ap Huw, early 1600s) but they were in manuscript form, not printed.

Sign up for the free trac magazine. The inside back pages carry articles on some aspect of traditional music in Wales. For info on artists, you'll want the magazine, Taplas. You should also listen to Celtic Heartbeat on Radio Wales ('Listen Again' on the website). Frank Hennessy plays some really good new talent; his show introduced me to a very good young singer from mid Wales, Jack Harris. I've also heard good things about another mid Wales singer, Ian Rowlands. (Both singer-songwriters) It's good to know that there are some 'up-and-comings' too!

sian


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Surreysinger
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 05:19 AM

>Because it doesn't make sense singing songs in a language the audience can't understand, is the obvious answer, but people seem to enjoy it anyway.

Anahata - I don't think I'd necessarily agree with the comment that it doesn't make sense to sing in languages that others don't understand! I can recall going to the National quite a few more years ago than I care to remember and hearing Mhairead ni Dhomnaill (and I'm sure that I've probably spelled that wrong - can't bring myself to get up and raid my CD collection - so apologies). Other than what she provided in her introductions,I had not the foggiest idea of what she was singing about, but the delivery,intensity and obvious sincerity of what she was up to grabbed me immediately. I spent a couple of weeks afterwards tracking down a recording of her singing on the strength of what I had heard then (and still enjoy playing it).

I found much the same thing a couple of years ago listening to Eamon* Brophy singing for the first time - again I couldn't understand a word of what he was delivering, but the actual delivery was full of emotion and commitment - absolutely spine tingling stuff. (If I recall, the first time I heard Chris Jones was also on the same occasion that I first heard Eamon* singing, at the Dorset Singing weekend run by John Waltham).

* Mis-spelling alert again (rueful grin) - I promise I will check it out when I've posted this!!

So as far as I'm concerned there is sense in singing in a non-common language, as long as the person singing is able to properly deliver the song (ie is involved in and committed to it, and not just going through the motions).

Sian - many thanks for that. I had thought that collecting had been going on well before it was taken up in any earnestness in England - but wasn't going to stick my neck out!!


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Andy Jackson
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 05:39 AM

I have to agree with the sentiments above.
While it takes a bit of practice to listen in a strange language and long ballads are hard work there is a certain magic to the Welsh language when it is sung.
Over 20 years ago on one of my first visits to Wales we visited Llantrisant Folk Club, of course. Halfway through the evening a young girl, we were all younger then, introduced herself as Siwsi. She then explained the rough idea of her song about the tragedy of Aberfan. Now even a Surrey born English-man like me remembered Aberfan.
And then she sang!!!! Any one who knows me knows that I am not adverse to a tear or two and they happened alright during that song. The lovely Siwsi George, who is sadly no longer with us , beacame a firm friend over the years and never lost the ability to put a tear in my eye. God bless her memory.

Andy


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: greg stephens
Date: 27 Mar 06 - 06:02 AM

Nothing at all wrong in singing in a language that the audience(all or some of them) dont understand. I have always been a worshipper of cajun music since first hearing Amadee Ardoin and Denis McGee as a teenager. The fact that I hadnt a clue what they were singing about didn't matter at all. I knew what they were feeling all right.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: ifor
Date: 28 Mar 06 - 04:39 AM

Another band worth mentioning and well worth seeing are the Amigos from Swansea led by Gary Phillips who is a wonderful guitarist.The band play as a basic three piece but on occasions expand to a 5 piece with an accordianist and a fiddle player [Billy Jenkins?].
They play everything from ragtime to hot club gypsy ,from delta blues to folk traditional, early 50s style rocknroll to 30s style jazz.
Again they don't seem to be well known outside South Wales but deserve a wider audience.Folk festival organisers should investigate further!


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 28 Mar 06 - 05:00 AM

OK.

Then: Cajuns Dembo.

Welsh folk songs, Cajun style. And Cajun songs in Welsh. A hoot.

siân


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST
Date: 28 Mar 06 - 05:24 AM

The Louisiana cajun band Les Shaggeurs des Moutons also do covers of Welsh folksongs sung in French, a classic act well worth chasing up.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 10:33 AM

A Yank of Welsh descent speaking here, and confessing to my own lack of knowledge...

A few years back I made a serious search for Welsh traditional singers on CD, or indeed anywhere, and found a gloomy discontinuity between what we can hear today and whatever the older home-and-fireside Welsh singing styles may have been.

Yes, there are the great Welsh choirs, yes, there are the revival singers, and yes, there are the Williams and other collections of Welsh traditional songs.

But as John Storm Roberts put it to me at the time, we may have no chance left to know what the indigenous Welsh traditional solo singing style or instrumental style ***sounded like*** -- in the same way that we know, for instance, the authentic sounds of English village singers, Scots low- and highlanders, or Irish tinkers who transmit not just the songs, but the performing styles from the days before electronic media.

It bugs me, because that's exactly what I want to hear: the original stuff done the original way!

But as Roberts told me, the strong church revival tradition, together with England's political and cultural hegemony, and a number of other factors in the 19th century pretty much erased Welsh traditional singing STYLE in the minds of the singers of Wales.

This is analogous to the situation in Russia and some central European nations where native traditions were overwhelmed by arrangers. I'm thinking of the Russian landowners who trained serf choirs and large instrumental ensembles in particular, also the heavy influence of classical arrangers on the indigenous traditional performance styles of, say, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. The result: a kind of potted "folksong" that bears no trace of its legitimate origins in folk singing style. Style gets lost, and style, it needs saying, is our means of tracing what the songs and singers sounded like.

Does anyone know of surviving Welsh singers who can refute this view? Anyone on record, say, who sings the songs passed down in their families in the style of their great-great grandparents...if that's not a logical impossibility? Unquestionably there was a distinct Welsh singing style -- solo, as distinct from the choral styles that also go back centuries -- and if there is any remnant of it, I would love to hear it.

Any suggestions?

Bob


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 01:06 PM

Miskin Man mentions the wonderful,irreplacable Siwsann George. Her album Traditional Songs of Wales (1994, Saydisc) is a superb introduction to Welsh folk song. I'm pretty sure it's still available, at least on cassette.

Cheers

Wayne


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: greg stephens
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 01:41 PM

I guess to most of us, Phil Tanner is our sole experience of traditional Welsh singing, and of course he was from a very Anglicied part of the country. Surely there must be some recordings of the real thing elsewhere in Wales that someone could point us to?


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 29 Mar 06 - 05:07 PM

Well, tons actually, Greg. Frank Hennessy plays a good selection on his Celtic Heartbeat programme on Radio Wales (Sat nights, and "Listen Again" via the internet). There's a good 'sampler', Rough Guide to Wales, which covers everything from the 'archive' to modern groups. Arfon Gwilym brought out a CD of song a couple of years back (unfortunately from my point of view, we have more instrumental than song these days) and there are groups like Carreg Llafar that are worth listening to. Tons of instrumental stuff: Mabon, KilBride Bros., Crasdant, Never Mind the Bocs, etc. I think the great "Hwntws" from the 70s are looking to 'relaunch'. Again, the list on the trac website gives a good start ...

You mention Phil Tanner; it's a pity that St Fagan's Folk Museum has problems in publishing stuff in there collection. There's at least one singer who recorded a lot more than PT (but in Welsh mostly) but there are copyright 'issues'. We're working on the problem so maybe that will be sorted eventually.

There are a couple of good recordings of Archive material of course. The Plygain carols and the Stable Loft Songs have been re-released on one CD by Sain.

And there are, of course, a lot of books of both songs and tunes readily available for those who don't necessarily want to learn from recordings ...
siân


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,Porterhouse
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 03:55 PM

Does anyone remember a wonderful three part harmony traditional group based in the Vale of Glamorgan area in the early 1970s called PORTERHOUSE? The female singer was called Stef and they sang some great traditional songs.
Ifor


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 04:18 PM

How did I miss the Bob Coltman post? Sheesh. Getting old.

Sorry, I have no idea who John Storm Roberts is but he seems to have bought the usual 'party line' on this. Not accurate. Yes, the Western European classical style of presentation has **pretty much** taken over, and that's all you'll find at an Eisteddfod, but there are enough of 'the other' still singing. The problem is that they don't get showcased because the Establishment doesn't value their style of singing. Also, many of them don't consider themselves to be 'performers' in the usual sense of the word so wouldn't be particularly interested in being involved in folk clubs.

But they exist and can be heard at sessions and in the occasional pub (the few which have the proper licences or are far enough out in the hills not to be too closely watched). Also, there are a lot of good tapes of singers collected in the '60s and '70s so there is enough to be 'getting on with' for the serious researcher. (As it happens, I'm going through some stuff from Pembrokeshire at St Fagan's Folk Museum tomorrow.)

Yes, a few things have been lost forever - like the Welsh Dorian Scale, and singing in quarter tones, but Edison invented the phonograph just a li'l too late in the day, I guess.

I won't even agree completely about the German/Russian comment, I'm afraid. I'm thinking of tapes I heard when I went to uni. in Waterloo , Ontario, of the Dukhobors (OK - I've probably spelt that incorrectly!) in the prairie provinces. Even the Mennonite singing provided evidence of older styles.

It all ain't easy, but neither is it as impossible as some (mostly people who don't like 'trad') want to make it out to be.

siân


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:00 PM

sian,

As one who does like 'trad' raw, with the bark on, and wants it from the horse's mouth, I thank you.

Being in Massachusetts, not in Wales, I'll have to pass on the pub singers and local amateurs who probably are just what I'd like best to hear, but to the best of my ability I will check out those mentioned in the messages above.

I would be grateful for recommendations as to which of the above cited CDs or tapes are considered the best of what knowledgeable Welsh consider deep traditional song sung in traditional solo (not choral or folk revival) style. For your guidance, I'm looking for the Welsh equivalent of US Library of Congress field recordings. Again, emphatically not folk revivalists, but originals.

Oh, by the way, John Storm Roberts was in the 1970s one of the premier experts on world music, ran a world music record service and was involved with the Original record label if memory serves. In those pre-web days he was a lifeline to, and knowledgeable commentator on, folk and ethnic song outside the Anglo-American tradition. As to Welsh music, I felt at the time that his answer was too pat, and the door was being shut in my face, but John dealt in strong opinions. I'm happy to hear there's more to it than he allowed.

And yes, of course Russian, German, and nearly every other song tradition has seeped through to the present in rare voices and places. But they are hard to find, and the homogenized versions are ever more screening them out of recording opportunities, that's all I meant.

"Dukhobor" is correct. A fascinating tradition. I've been lucky enough to find a few other slim survivals of Russian and Ukrainian traditional style, as well as it can be estimated. But not many escaped the classicists and ideologues.

Again, thanks to everyone,

Bob


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,Bob Coltman
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:14 PM

I should have added that, along with Calennig and some others I found during my search, I discovered Siwsann George's Traditional Songs of Wales CD. It's a treasure, and her loss is tragic; she was a truly wonderful singer.

But that's not, as I think you'll see from my plaint for field recorded authenticity above, what I seek at the moment. I'm looking for the people she learned from. The equivalent of the Sarah Makems of this world, rather than the Tommy Makems, if I may use an Irish parallel.

Bob


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 08:41 PM

what about the Patagonian Welsh ?
might any pre mid 19th century trad music still exist in any form over there ?

My wife is south Welsh, about 6 years ago we also tried to discover
if there was a distinct indiginous Welsh folk music.
In the end we collected some various artists generic 'celtic' sounding material
sung in Welsh language..
including a bunch of old 1960's vinyl EPs
[which we still haven't ever played due to lack of working turntable],
but came to the conclusion that if there was ever a uniquely distinctive style it must have died out a long time ago.
A recent very informative early music program on Radio 3 more or less confirmed this.
But if i remember right, this radio show did play samples of exciting Welsh violin tunes..

please excuse my poor memory..

most annoyingly, we found an old LP in a vinyl collectors stall,
a solo album by 'a woman';
we listened to it in store in its entirety,
and thought it was brilliant, but the seller wanted over 30 for it
which we couldn't afford at the time!

I long ago lost the name of the artist and the LP,
and now can't even remember what style it was..
but I vaguely think it might have a minimalist arranged folk/acid rock crossover..

last year she bought that CD of old Welsh acid rock compiled
by the super fuuy animals..
but again, its lost somewhere in the house and i cant remember the title !!???


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,Jerry Epstein
Date: 30 Mar 06 - 11:27 PM

Very glad to see Bob Coltman's contribution above. Hope you are doing well, Bob. . .

I have just come from an amazing singers gathering at the northernmost point of Ireland. It was a gathering of about 150 people, a couple of guests but no "stars", just unaccompanied trad singing as far as the eye could see for three days. There was one Welsh singer that I heard on SUnday evening, sang one song, seemed to me to be a quite genuine traditional style. I do not know his name (though might be able to find out), and he only sang once.

There was a Welsh group about 25 years ago, first pointed out to me by ROy Harris, called Ar Log. I have wonderful record of theirs. It featured two brothers who played the triple harps. They also sang Welsh tradition, but I couldn't say how traditional it was stylistically.

Bob also speaks about Russian tradition being covered up by over arranging, which of course it was. But Dmitri Pokrovsky was finally able to break through the government wish to make everything into high art, got some support (I think maybe from Kruschev?) and collected absolutely amazing stuff out in the countryside. He got together an ensemble of singers who did the stuff in unabashedly powerful style. Arranged somewhat vocally, though this may have been authentic tradition, it bore all the earmarks of the real thing and was quite overwhelming. Definitely not "pop-ized". I have two recordings.

The place where therewas virtually a total wipe-out of real traditional forms, to the best of my knowledge, was Germany. There is no doubt that there was a real ruiral singing tradition 200 or 300 years ago, but classical music (Mozart and the like) became so popular throughout the country, that the older forms seem to have vanished except for some very pale remnants that kids would learn in school.

Jerry Epstein


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Surreysinger
Date: 31 Mar 06 - 10:44 AM

Just got this e-mail from SEFAN - I presume that, since it's based in Aberystwyth there ought to be some mention of Welsh performance in the whole of the symposium. Must admit I feel tempted to go,as I'd love to see the stamping ground of my college days again - that and an interesting sounding symposium as well!!


"Here We Come/Dyma Ni'n Diawad (3 June 2006)
There will be a two-day symposium on traditional and contemporary folk performances in Britain hosted by the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at the University of Wales in Aberystwyth in collaboration with the Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 2-3 June 2006. Details from hhp@aber.ac.uk "


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: clueless don
Date: 31 Mar 06 - 11:29 AM

On 27 Mar 06 - 03:14 AM, Anahata said, in part: "We make a point of playing a few Welsh dance tunes too."

I have some interest in Welsh dance tunes, and in particular I remember Fiona Ritchie playing purportedly Welsh tunes on her Thistle and Shamrock radio show (I can't remember exactly when this was, but I have the notion that it was in the 1980's.) These tunes were by a group that Ms. Ritchie identified, but whose spelling I do not know. Phonetically, it sounded like the group was called "Alley Grogan".

Anyone heard of them?

Don


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST
Date: 01 Apr 06 - 08:04 AM

The Pontardawe Folk Festival has been a very positive force for good music in Wales during the past 25 years or so.I have managed to get to most of them and they have been excellent.The early ones ,put together on a shoestring budget were particularly groundbreaking .I think there is a need for a major rethink about the booking of performers for next year and I certainly think that there could be more music workshops and traditional music in the line up.
ifor


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: greg stephens
Date: 01 Apr 06 - 12:31 PM

Sian, West wales: you listed a few things in response to my request for details of any Welsh traditional recordings, aprt from Phil Tanner. You said there were tons, but then proceeded to list people like Crasdant, kilbride Bros etc. I know about these, what i was looking for was traditional recordings, not revival. Can you suggest anything whatsoever we could actualy buy now and listen to? This whole discussion is very interesting, but it would be great to have some actual evidence before we tried to make up our minds.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,RICHD
Date: 01 Apr 06 - 02:46 PM

As far as I can tell, very little recording of source singers took place in Wales. There was lots of transcription of tunes and airs, but little interest in the performance of songs by living singers. By the time relativly cheap portable recording became available and there was an interst in it much of the oral tradition seems to have died. There are still some traditions of course- Plygain in north Powys and parts of Pembrokeshire for example. It might also be worth remembering that much of Wales doesn't just have the one tradition. In the area where I am from there are people belonging to longstanding Irish, English, Chinese and Italian communites each with their own tradition, along with people who would identify themeselves with a Welsh or English language tradition. Add to this early industrialisation and a non-native middle class and its possible to see how a continuos tradition could be repeatedly fractured and not survive in an accessable form. Given that the early stages of industrialisation were peopled by arivals from rural Wales this would probably also weaken the rural traditon as well. For these reasons I think that the idea of a single unified tradition of Welsh folk music is problematical, and would rather think of the tradition as being one of individuals and communities continuously remaking and recreating 'tradition' as needed in response to changing social and economic conditions. Long live revival! So there! I would still like to know what's in the archives in St Fagans.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Fidjit
Date: 01 Apr 06 - 05:35 PM

I can sing, "The Cruel Sister", in Norwegian! At Miskin, for you, if I get the chance.

P'raps we should have a, "Foreign Language Song Workshop".

Ah! But, then being in Wales, English would be included.

Chas


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 01:30 PM

I shouldn't have left it so long without replying, as there are a lot of points I now need to contribute to ... !

First, Bob: I'm sorry if I sounded a bit 'short' in a previous post. There are a lot of 'statements' about Welsh music which are accepted without a question but are pretty superficial, and sometimes I don't have the energy to put the other point of view, or the fuller point of view. Anyhow, sorry.

I also have a problem with the concept of 'revival' because, although the Welsh did participate in that whole scene with vim and vigour, there was a lot of unbroken tradition going on here. Jerry mentions Ar Log; the Roberts brothers were two of the founders (Gwyndaf and Dafydd?) and they had learned their songs in the community, and their harp playing from the infamous Nancy Richards, who was a full blown 'source musician' or 'tradition bearer'. Apart from the Robertses, she also taught Robin Huw Bowen (currently on tour in the USA), and Robin was also taught by Eldra Jarmain, a gypsy harper, so another side of the Welsh tradition. So, are Gwyndaf, Dafydd and Robin 'revivalists'? I wouldn't say so.

Similarly, Arfon Gwilym is a singer who was a member of Cilmeri in the '70s and might be thought of as a 'revivalist'. But Arfon is from a long line of singers from the Bala area and although he has competed in the Eisteddfodau, he's never 'gone over to the dark side' of pseudo classical song styling.

Ah, and 'song styling': I hate what a lot of Welsh singers (mostly in the Eisteddfod tradition) do to lovely little innocent songs. That is, try to turn them into Art Songs. Yuk. BUT you can err on the other side too. Something isn't 'more authentic' if it sounds hoarse and nasal. I asked an expert friend of mine about 'authentic' Welsh sound and she felt that the Welsh voice had a very lyrical quality and clear sound. She thought that Heather Jones or even Mary Hopkins were good examples of female singers.

Siwsi George was great and stayed true to her own accent. I don't think I'd say that she was 'less' authentic just because she was one generation along from the people from whom she learned her songs. One of her mentors recorded a huge amount of his repetoire in the 60s and 4 LPs are now available on one 2CD set: "Mered: 50 traditional Welsh folk-songs" You may listen to this and think, "that's not what we mean" but Mered is authentic, grass-roots (although he eventually earned a PhD and was head of Lt. Ents at BBC Wales at one point) and a real tradition bearer. Sorry, but he has a sweet, soft voice and is still alive so maybe doesn't meet the criteria ... Oh - he lived in Mass. while working on his PhD and some of this stuff is available thanks to the Moe Asch network that sought out such music.

Surreysinger, I've been contacted by the SEFAN organizer and have made a few suggestions. One fear I expressed is what happens when professional performers 'take an interest' in traditional community rites. One problem is that they only get interested because it's their newest obsession, not because they have a deep interest in the community. And then the community is given to think that it can only be done 'right' by professionals so stop doing it themselves. The commoditization of culture. sigh.

RichD, there are a lot of recordings of source singers but most are only available to hear if you go to the Folk Museum in St Fagan's, Mon - Fri. As it happens, I was there Friday making lists of songs from Pembrokeshire for a project we're doing down there; we got as far as "M" in the file cards and have about 30 tracks which we need to listen to so far. I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I think Dr Mary Davies was the first person to use the phonograph to make field recordings in Britain, and that, in Wales. She new Thomas Edison and he sent her one. Must have scared the crofters witless when this Grande Dame showed up in their cottages demanding that they sing into the machine ...

St Fagans HAS put out 2 recordings, which are now available on one combined CD from Sain: PLYGAIN CAROL SINGING / STABLE-LOFFT SONGS
CAROLAU PLYGAIN / CANEUON LLOFFT STABAL (SCD2389) This is just the sort of thing that I think most of you mean by 'traditional' as opposed to 'revival'.

Then again, there are CDs of singers who, since the '70s maybe, would be considered embarassingly old fashioned and yet should be seen as part of the continuum. I would bet, too, that 'folkies' would disapprove of their repetoire: old chestnuts, sentimental stuff, 'Mothers Bible' lyrics, etc. with the occasional hymn and folk song thrown in.

In that category, I would suggest Bob Roberts Tairfelin, Richie Thomas (I think there's a CD, "Hen Rebel fel Fi") or Jac a Wil (two brothers).

A word about instrumental: there's the unbroken tradition of harp playing APART from the classical (although the classicists wouldn't think the folk was 'important') and you can access that for starters with the CD "Nancy Richards" (Sain SCD2382) and move it forward through artists like Robin Huw Bowen, Llio Silyn and Rhes Ganol. There are definitely 'broken' traditions which are being recreated, and in this category you get bagpipes and hornpipes (ref: anything by Ceri Rhys Matthews) and crwth (ref: anything by Cass Meurig or Bragod). Bragod put out an impressive CD/booklet a couple of years ago, "Kaingk" (www.bragod.com), which elaborates on Bob Evans' research on the crwth. I must say that I, and others, find Bob's ideas to be absolutely delightful, but off-base. Still, it 'informs the debate', as the academics might put it.

I've lost track. Not sure if I'm making sense now. So I'm finishing with that. There are enough names above for you to be getting on with. And I'm just pleased that we still have music going on in Wales which traces back a very long long way.

sian


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: MARINER
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 04:43 PM

Sian, For the sake of accuracy were the Roberts brothers not nephews of "The infamous Nanci Richards"?


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 05:49 PM

Hmm. Don't really know. I'll ask around. I was in a lecture given by Robin Huw Bowen about NR years ago when he said that he never managed to speak about her without someone coming up to him afterwards and saying they were related to her. Whereupon I went up to him and said that I was related to NR. Which I am, but from a WAY far off! Can't even remember how.

sian


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Surreysinger
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 06:19 PM

>>Surreysinger, I've been contacted by the SEFAN organizer and have made a few suggestions

Sian - I suspect that it wasn't the SEFAN organiser you contacted but the organiser of the Aberystwyth conference?? I actually meant that I had received the information via an email circulated by the South East Folk Arts Network to its members - hope I didn't mislead you ??


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: richd
Date: 02 Apr 06 - 07:08 PM

My argument is that inevitably the tradition in Wales is fragmented. I would like to quote from the Merthyr Guardian of 1850: "It is a frequent practice of men disabled.. to learn to play the harp; by which means they earn precarious subsistence, by playing at public houses and merry-makings wherever they can find employment. I have seen men recently mutilated practicing the harp for this purpose". I I wonder what they played, and regret we'll never know, because a harp tradition in Merthyr Tydfil must have been something to hear! Maybe it partly depends on how you define 'tradition' and how you stand in relation to constructions of Welshness. I will follow up on the technology stuff about recording, and wonder why the range of voices we are offered is so small. For many people in/of Wales their relationship with St Fagans is deeply, deeply problematical. Good wishes to you.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 04:49 AM

Well, the quote above refers, if memory serves, to the large number of blind harpers - and I imagine this applies to other instruments as well. I don't think it relates to the question of fragmentation.

I don't think I actually responded to that point above, unless you mean 'fragmented' in the sense of broken tradition, in which case I did. The harp had its downturns but it has had an unbroken line of players. The Roberts clan (Cambrian Minstrels - Welsh gypsy harpers) territory would have stretched down to Merthyr and there's quite a lot known about them. Seems to me that someone recently told me that one of the 'lineage' was still playing the harp (but my memory is swiss-cheesy at times so I wouldn't swear to it).

If you mean fragmented in terms of regionalized, I'll agree with you, although I don't know how much of that can be proven for instrumental - particularly harp, fiddle or crwth - music. The available manuscripts are often of 'jobbing musicians'; regardless of where they were based, they travelled for a living and their repertoire was made up of both old and 'new fangled' tunes which their audiences wanted to hear, sing or dance to. So they aren't 'regional', even the older ones. Whether an instrumentalist like Cass Meurig, Robin Huw Bowen or 'other' would be able to shed more light, I don't know.

There certainly are very interesting regional variations in song, which is part of the work I am currently doing in Pembrokeshire and down in the South East (of Wales). Most of the published collections of songs in the last 25 years have made a point of giving historical background which helps us understand the music from a geographic point of view.

I obviously live in West Wales and I've never had any problem with St Fagans although I do agree that being where it is makes individual research for most of us a problem. (An international and cross-sectoral problem of locating all the resources in the capital city which is usually inaccessible to most citizens.) The project we are doing in Pembrokeshire came about to give us a mechanism for taking the local songs which are on the museum tapes and re-introducing them into the communities from which they came. "Releasing into the wild". The curators and being very supportive.

siân


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Geoff the Duck
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 05:10 AM

So where does the Eisteddfodd fit in all this discussion? What is all about and what is it's purpose? What is its agenda?
Just curious.
Quack!
Geoff.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 05:42 AM

I used to support the Eisteddfod, but I was ex-pat Welsh (in Canada) at the time and ex-pats tend to perceive all things in the Old Country as A Good Thing. (I bet this holds true for most immigrant communities, particularly the 2nd/3rd/4th generations.)

I am now less and less supportive. The Eisteddfod is a traditional *structure*. (Like a Male Voice Choir) It is not set up to support traditional arts. Actually, the opposite. Even in a very rural 'national' like Meifod (2003) and even being very generous in defining 'traditional' only about 20% of all competitions had anything to do with traditional arts (music, literature, craft - the whole caboodle). And don't get me started on competition in general!

Maybe there's nothing wrong with competition at some level, but it seems to have taken a strangle hold on music here. And the Eisteddfod does not promote good musicianship. It promotes people with musical skills who know how to conform to what the adjudicators are looking for. Occasionally you get a really gifted person like Bryn Terfel or Ioan Griffiths who rise above the ordinary but ...

Oh look. You've got me started. What really burns me is that, for years, the Arts Council didn't fund traditional arts because 'we fund that through the Eisteddfod'. Fortunately that has changed / is changing.

Oh - and the above are my personal views and not *necessarily* those of my employer!

sian


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: GUEST,punkfolkrocker
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 08:07 AM

my S.Welsh mrs is still curious if anyone knows anything about
any possibilitly of older pre mid 19th century music traditions
existing in the remaining music of Patagonian Welsh community..

maybe in the same way that some older immigrant songs & tunes have survived in a 'purer' form in isolated areas of rural America,
whereas the same old songs have 'evolved' and become more 'diluted'
in the lands of origin ?


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: Snuffy
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 09:47 AM

If you are looking for older recordings, America may be a fruitful place: The Wisconsin Folksong Collection has field recordings form the 1930s and 1940s in many languages, reflecting the cultures that immigrants brought with them. All the singers were born in the 19th century - one as far back as 1858 - definitely not "revival" :-)

There are 16 Welsh language recordings there, and there may also be some songs in English sung by Welsh immigrants to Wisconsin.


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: sian, west wales
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 10:02 AM

Interesting, Snuffy. I shall take a look.

Punkfolkrocker, various people have looked into the cultural practices of the Patagonian group, including the boys in Ar Log (above) who, if memory serves, did a tv programme from there. The only thing that I remember from it is that there was one little tune, Lisa Fach, that they found still sung which was no longer known in Wales, although it once was. It wasn't anything very old, though. The words were by Ceiriog and I shouldn't think the tune was much older. Ar Log did record it on one of their later albums.

The Welsh settlement there was mid 19th C and led by a minister so they would have left at a time when religious music was the big thing and most of the older stuff would have already been 'in print' in the collections of the 1700s and 1800s. Of course, hymnology is a field worth looking at in the context of folk tradition. I don't know much about Patagonia, but the North American Welsh community is interesting in terms of the paths the hymnology took. A lot of hymns in the current Welsh North American hymnbook are considered to have extremely old-fashioned words by native Welsh standards - Victorian. Also, there were hymn writers writing new Welsh hymns in N.Am. which made it big 'back home' (Y Milwr Bychain, Maesgwyn) and at least one which only became known in Wales fairly recently (Blodwen) although sung with verve throughout Welsh communities in Canada and the USA.

Examining older Welsh American hymn books is interesting as you can trace how the ex-pat community developes and changes its repertoire to something more 'American' over time.

Maybe the same can be done in Patagonia.

siân


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Subject: RE: The folk tradition in Wales
From: greg stephens
Date: 03 Apr 06 - 02:48 PM


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