The Gwyl Cerdd Dant Cymru Welsh singing festival is being held in Llanelli this year.
Fundraising has been gathering speed to ensure the success of the festival, due to be held in November at Ffwrnes Theatre.
The chair of the Gwyl Cerdd Dant Llanelli a’r Cylch is Catrin Hughes, who is also a music advisor and trustee of the Loud Applause Rising Stars (LARS) charity.
In support of the festival fundraising, LARS is organising a big Gala Concert at Llanelli’s Greenfield Baptist Church on Friday.
The evening offers a feast of choral music.
There will be four choirs – Côr Lleisiau’r Cwm and Harmoni, both under the baton of Catrin Hughes, Côr Meibion Llanelli, under new musical director Alex Esney, and Côr Ysgol Dewi Sant.
The concert will feature some excellent young soloists, including award-winning tenor Osian Wyn Bowen.
Also on stage will be five singers from LARS – mezzo soprano Nikkila Thomas, who is at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff, and Ysgol Y Strade Llanelli pupils Lauren Fisher, James Oakley, Daisy Owens and Jack Owens. They will be accompanied by Catrin Hughes and Andrew Pike.
The organiser are anticipating a big demand for tickets, which are available from choir members, Cadno Music in John Street, Llanelli, or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or Cerith Owens 07854 303918.
For the uninitiated, Cerdd Dant is a unique tradition of singing lyrics over a harp melody.
Traditional singers sang in stately homes in days of old and tended to sing in Welsh with strict rules about metre, rhyme, and speed of delivery.
Historically, Cerdd Dant was usually performed by a solo singer and a harpist.
Today, it is also performed by choirs.
When sung in a competition, there are strict rules about rhythm and cadences.
Cerdd Dant is regarded as the art of presenting or performing poetry to harp accompaniment.
In the old days, the poems sung were in cynghanedd, the strict Welsh metres based on alliteration and complicated rules, but later free metres were used just as much.
The harp always plays a set melody – a traditional melody or a melody composed in the traditional style.
The singer waits for a few bars and then sings his or her words on a counter melody, ensuring that the main accents of the metre fall on the main accents of the harp melody.
The singer and harpist both have to end each verse together: the last word of each verse always falls on the main beat of the last bar in the harp melody.
The counter melody in the old days was always improvised, but is almost invariably set in advance and rehearsed by modern singers.
This counter melody is called a cyfalaw. The art of composing the cyfalaw and placing all the words in the right place is called gosod. The harp melody is called the alaw or the cainc.
There are many differences between the Cerdd Dant of today and the old type of singing (in the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century):
- Up to the 20th century Cerdd Dant was sung by individuals only – no duets, trios, parties or choirs existed.
- It was an improvisatory art: no one bothered to compose and learn a setting or counter melody before singing it.
- The emphasis was almost entirely on the words. By today, much more prominence is given to the music.
- Very few females sang cerdd dant. Today, females are in the majority.
- It was a much less respectable art then than it is now, in some circles at least!
- There were no set rules agreed by any organisation or conference.
- The number of harp melodies to choose from were much fewer in the old days: not more than around 50, it would appear. By now there are almost 600.
The Gwyl Cerdd Dant Cymru organising committee are also planning other fundraising events before the festival –
September 13, Pontyberem Hall, ‘Gin night’. Organised by members of Menter Brycheiniog a Maesyfed.
October 5, Capel Newydd, Llandeilo with Bois y Castell, Ysgol Teilo Sant’s choir, and soloist Ffion Hâf.
October 23, Craft evening at Stradey Park Hotel. £5. Ticket, raffle and exhibition by crafters – a special evening to launch the festival of the festival designed by Jo Partridge.
The guest soloist at Friday’s concert at Greenfield Chapel, Osian Wyn Bowen, is no stranger to Llanelli audiences.
Osian is a Burry Port boy and is an undergraduate student, studying under the tutelage of renowned tenor Adrian Thompson at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) in Cardiff.
Osian has already performed in concert with Sir Bryn Terfel, soprano Rebecca Evans, soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, baritone Gary Griffiths, tenors Aled Hall and Rhys Meirion.
Venues include the RWCMD Dora Stoutzker Hall, St David’s Hall, The Principality Stadium, Wales Millennium Centre, Llandaff Cathedral, Venue Cymru, The O2 Arena, The Queen’s Theatre, London, Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace and the Milford Haven Music Festival.
Television appearances include S4C’s ‘Heno’,‘ Les Mis – Y Daith’, Cyngerdd y 10 Tenor, Noson Lawen and BBC’s Songs of Praise. Recent highlights include performing as part of trio in a live broadcast on BBC1 to mark the Passchendaele Centenary at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. The tribute to Welsh poet Hedd Wyn was performed in the presence of members Royal Family and European Ministers. Other highlights include playing the lead role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables as part of the Urdd’s National Theatre company’s 10 Year Anniversary production at the Millennium Centre, Cardiff.
In addition to his busy schedule, Osian is a patron of the charity Welsh Hearts and is an active volunteer crew member of Burry Port Lifeboat Station.
Osian’s awards – 2017 and 2018 – Minnie Morgan Scholarship Recipient; 2018 – Douglas Rees Young Opera Singer of the Year – Finalist; 2018 – Geraint Morris Memorial Award – Winner.
In other news, Bridget Radford’s two choirs, Lleisiau Hardd and Lleisiau Hardd Bach, will be staging their annual concert at St Mary’s Church, Burry Port, on Friday, July 12, 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 and available from choristers.
Burry Port Town Band will stage an evening of ‘Music from the Stage and Shows!’ at the Memorial Hall on Saturday, July 20, 7pm. The concert will feature the Senior Band, the ever-growing Junior Band and a very special guest artist Samuel Wyn-Morris.
The choristers from Llandyfaelog-based Côr Meibion Dyffryn Tywi are getting ready for their annual concert. It will be at the Princess Gwenllian Centre in Kidwelly on Saturday, October 12, 7pm.
The popular Concerts and Cakes initiative returns to The Lyric in Carmarthen at 1pm on Wednesday, July 24. Concerts and Cakes helps bring people together regularly to provide a forum for the sharing of high quality live music.
Each session is delivered in cabaret style and begins with an informal participatory music session led by Live Music Now musicians, followed by tea and cakes.
Live Music Now is the UK’s leading musicians’ development and outreach charity. They provide exceptional live music experiences to people with limited access to the arts, due to disability, illness or social disadvantage.
* If you have news about the choral or concert scene in Llanelli, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org