Elsa and I tried to walk the old train track from Llanbedr to Aberaeron... or at least what was left of it. The old track had been dug up sometime in the 60s by some Lord numpty. Shame because the old tracks would have been useful (especially as the buses in Wales have become next to useless and soon to be extinct apparently, but that's for later...)
Anyway, we had a lovely day wandering through fields and over old wooden bridges, enjoying the company of the trees and sheep. We never did make it to Aberaeron though - we just couldn't find the path through.
Sometime after that, we both went to see Lau play at Rosygilwen. Lau is one of the best folk bands I've ever seen. A very full sound, massive landscapes of texture, thick and lush - each of the musicians are masterful - and the singer has an astonishing voice. They play from their hearts moving from the gentle and sublime to mind-blowing ripping tunes. They were and are still one of my favourite folk bands (by now, I listen more to The Gloaming, but more on that later...).
Bethan started her lecture series at Plas Hendre. I think it came in response to cuts made by the University of Aberystwyth (the University was / is creating problem after problem and went into a fast downward spiral of bad decisions and bad publicity.) Anyway, I think that Mered Evans was the first speaker. Mered has been one of several major contributors to Welsh folk song publication. And Bethan is the coolest host, generous beyond and full of humour... and the Plas is an incredible delight of interesting and old books, instruments, paintings and all sorts - the culture centre of this Wales. A quick aside: Bethan is the author of the seminal and most important book about the Welsh crwth. All scholarship after that rests upon her work which exists in two massive volumes.
|Crwth of Richard Evans 1742|
Venantius Fortunatus (530-ca.600) said:
Romanusque lyra plaudat tibi, Graecus achilliaca,
Barbarus harpa, chrotta Britanna canat.
The Roman praises on the lyre, The Greek on the (Achilles') cithara,
The Barbarian on the harp, with the crwth the Britons sing.
|The original three string crwth|
Well, maybe... who knows...
The crwth eventually died out in Wales possibly around the 1850s. This happened for a few reasons. By that time, the music had simply changed style so much that the crwth was no longer a suitable vehicle. The fiddle was much more versatile and more readily adapted to the new music. Which meant that the last of the old crwth players died without being able to find anyone interested in learning the instrument. And, most damaging, were the religious revivals that continued to sprout up sporadically from the 1700s onwards. The religious revivals really despised the music (except for hymns) - particularly music made on the crwth as well as the fiddle, harp and pipes and they especially hated dancing. Deemed as too sinful, I suppose. Although, they say the harp in Wales managed to remain an unbroken tradition, I don't really believe this to be true, which I'll get into another time.
As far as I know, the crwth was reintroduced mainly by Bethan and Bob Evans. Bob plays with Mary-Anne Roberts in the group Bragod (another one of my favourite groups!) You can hear them here: http://www.bragod.com/bragodvideo.html
or go to their main website: http://bragod.wordpress.com/about/
Cass Meurig also has a cool crwth album that was released on the label Fflach a few years ago,
and here is an example of a three stringed crwth by some dude named Sedayne:
Anyway, I have digressed...
|busking in Cardiff with Elsa & Gwil|
Sometime after that I went to another Pentre Ifan. It was a beautiful, open experience led by the ever gracious, ever full of energy and enthusiasm, full of wisdom and knowledge and my good friend Ceri Rhys Matthews. If I remember rightly, it was with Julie, Kate, Alan and Chris - all beautiful people. I think Kate called it the 'birth of man'.
I think that month I also went with Elsa and Gwil to the Abercych twmpath, organised by Simon with the always great Ceri 'Ffliwt', Julie Murphy, Sille Ilves and Martin Leamon.
A fairly busy but fun month. All a bit foggy by now... and unfortunately, all my old photos (and writings) are locked away on a broken hard drive which is making it especially difficult.
Next, meeting Llio Rhydderch...