As part of our ongoing coverage of Beyond The Marches / Dros y Ffin we have the latest post from Elan Rhys, the lead vocalist of folk group Plu which you can read below. Don’t miss the final concerts, details of which are at the end of this post.
Day Three: Elan Rhys
Another day has passed, jam-packed with knowledge gained, and we are now settling in to Tŷ Newydd. Built by David Lloyd George who lived here until his death, it is a grand but homely house in an idyllic location on the outskirts of Llanystumdwy near Criccieth in north west Wales.
But we have spend most of the day in another grand building – the iconic National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
Our day began with an energetic and very inspiring talk by the harpist Robin Huw Bowen. He gave a very insightful introduction to the triple harp, considered our national instrument, and played his harp to demonstrate. The triple harp is completely unique to Wales and it’s main characteristic is its three rows of strings. Curiously, even though the instrument has this status, seeing a triple harp being played is an uncommon sight and so it was a huge novelty and pleasure to me and the sound of the first few strings being plucked gave me a combination of shivers and actual tears in my eyes! Robin also gave us plenty of ideas for our project with the inclusion of wonderful tunes and stories in his talk so we all felt very ‘pumped’ after he left.
We then were expecting to be led into the famous chambers of the library that held the archives that includes thousands of manuscripts of Welsh folk tunes and songs. Meredydd, the librarian, had got Georgia and I excited about the thought of exploring the archives and he was very enthusiastic about the thought of musicians using the resource to aide a creative project. He also asked us how we think the library should go about attracting more musicians to take advantage of their vast collection.
We soon realised why not many creatives use the library’s archives as they are VERY difficult to access due to the formalities of the library. For example, we were not able to explore the archives ourselves as we expected or photocopy most manuscripts that the librarians brought out for us.
I would advise the library to consider how musicians would need to use the resources in the archive to make the experience more positive and productive for them, if the library wanted their priceless resources to be taken advantage of by musicians.
But all six of us are feeling very positive and exited about the next three days of creativity!
Thanks for this Elan.
If anyone hasn’t seen my recent post about the BBC Folk Awards held in Cardiff this year there was a very clear encouragement by Meredydd Evans’ daughter Eluned for a digital archive to be funded and Elan has given a clear example here of why. This is what Eluned said when she accepted the Good Tradition Award on behalf of her late father:
I believed that knowledge should be shared…it’s in this spirit of sharing knowledge that it would be great to see the development of an online database of Welsh Folk Songs. Such a project could bring together institutions like the National Library of Wales and St Fagans National History Museum to digitise and make available online the collections of people like…Ifor Ceri, John Lloyd Williams. With sufficient political will and a good dollop of additional funding the creation of an online database like this by July 2017 is perfectly achievable. Above all, such a accessible cultural resource would make the rich and wonderful musical heritage of Welsh traditional music available to not just the people of Wales but to the whole world.
It’s projects like Beyond The Marches / Dros y Ffin that highlight the value of such archives so it seems as good a time as any to share this video from Smithsonian Folkways interviewing Meredydd Evans on Welsh Folk Song.
I look forward to seeing the active lobbying for such an archive including the Cardiff MP sat next to me during the BBC Folk Awards who sounded very keen when I asked him about the archive afterwards.
Saturday 2nd May 2015 – Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 8pmhttp://www.aberystwythartscentre.co.uk/music/beyond-marches
Sunday 3rd May 2015 – Cardiff, Wales Millennium Centre, 7.30pmhttp://www.wmc.org.uk/BeyondtheMarches
Monday 4th May 2015 – London, Cecil Sharp House, 7.30pmhttp://www.cecilsharphouse.org/component/content/article/21-shared/shared-events/2282-
The project is a joint commission by trac Cymru and the English Folk Dance and Song Society. It is supported by the PRS for Music Foundation Beyond Borders programme, a co-commissioning and touring programme run in partnership with Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Arts Council of Ireland / An Chomhairle Ealaíon.