CD A0217: A Collection of Welsh, Irish & Scottish Airs

A Collection of Welsh, Irish & Scottish Airs by Elinor Bennett

CD Cover: A Collection of Welsh, Irish & Scottish Airs by Elinor BennettThis disc, first released in 1992, was recorded in the Medieval Hall - Cochwillan - just out side Bangor in Gwynedd. John Hywel was the Music Director, Meilyr Hywel Tomos the sound engineer and Hywel Wigley produced the CD.

For this pressing all the tracks have been re-mastered and the sound quality greatly improved. But I hope that it retains the personal, warm quality of the original.

Three very different harps were used.
A concert grand harp (1984) by Horngacher of Munich
A triple harp (1982) by the late John Weston Thomas
A celtic Harp (c1979) by Brown & Taylor of Edinburgh

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Audio Samples and Track Listing

Track Listing
01. Concerto - O'Carolan
  Sonata No 1. (1761) - John Parry
02. (i) Allegro
03. (ii) Andante con Variazione
04. (iii) Gavotta
05. The Peat Fire Flame
06. Snowdon's summit
07. Sweet Melody of Gwynedd
08. Titrwm Tatrwm - arr. E Bennett
09. Margaret who lost her garter
10. Llangollen Market - arr. E Bennett
11. The Flowers of the West
12. Honeyed Lip
13. The Jilted Girl - arr. E Bennett
14. New Year's Eve
15. Green Pastures - arr. E Bennett
16. Where is my Love? - arr. E Bennett
17. Penillion setting on the Ash Grove
18. Sleeps the Noon in the deep blue Sky
19. Carolan's Receipt
20. The Wild Geese
21. Bracelet - arr. Gareth Glynn
22. In Old Donegal
23. The Two Horses - arr. E Bennett
24. The Grey Steed - arr. E Bennett
25. Little Tinker Boy - arr. E Bennett
26. Farewell to Llangywer - arr. E Bennett
27. Quiet Lond of Erin
28. Sunset Poem - arr. E Bennett

CD Notes & Credits

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01.  Carolan's Concerto - Thurlough O'Carolan (1670-1738)
The great Irish harpist and bard, Thurlough O'Carolan, was also blind as the result of smallpox. "He lived at the time when the harp was the favourite musical instrument of the landed gentry in Ireland, and, while this was a time of great poverty for many, it was also a time when a well-to-do patron might finance the harp studies of a musically gifted youth, then sent him forth, well equipped with harp, horse, money and a guide to embark on the respected profession of an itinerant harper." (Roslyn Rensch). O'Carolan published his popular "Concerto" in 1738, This version was taken from Bunting's famous collection of Irish music- "The Ancient Music of Ireland".

Sonata No 1 (1761) - John Parry (1710-1782)
02.  - Allegro
03.  - Andante (Tema con Variazione)
04.  - Gavotta
John Parry was born on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, and became domestic harper to the wealthy landowner and patron of the arts, Sir Watkin Williams Wynne of Ruabon. Blind from birth, he was known as "Blind Parry of Ruabon", and was one of the finest exponents of the Triple harp, which was the only harp that Parry would have known.
This sonata is the first in a set of "Four Lessons for the Harp or Harpsichord" and was published in his "A Collection of Welsh, Irish and Scotch Airs" in 1761.

05.  The Peat-fire flame
"A Tramping song" from Scotland

06.  "Moel yr Wyddfa"
"Snowdon's Summit" comes from Welsh Harper by John Parry, Bardd Alaw (1776-1851)
Triple Harp

07.  Mwynen Gwynedd / Sweet Melody of Gwynedd

08.  "Titwm Tatwm"
This love song, which comes from Pentraeth in Anglesey, would have been sung by a young man as he desperately knocks on the door of his beloved. In a raging storm, he asks his girlfriend to get out of bed, open the door and rekindle the fire for him. The young man travels to London, Chester and other places, but his heart always flies back to Anglesey. "Titwm Tatwm" represents the sound of gravel being thrown on the window!
Triple Harp

09.  "Megan a gollodd ei gardas" (Margaret who lost her garter)
This popular dance tune is taken from Edward Jones' Relicks of the Welsh Bards" (1794), where the following foot-note appears :"In the reign of King Edward the third, the Queen, or the Countess of Salisbury, is said to have dropt her garter in dancing a minuet at the Court... which the King picked up, and seeing some of his nobles smile, he said : Honi soit qui mal y pense (old French shame upon him who thinks evil of it) This remains to this day the motto of the Order Of The Garter". And still true in 2007!
This tune may be recognisable as the accompaniment to the "Flower Dance" in the Gorsedd ceremonies of the National Eisteddfod of Wales.
Triple Harp

10.  "Marchnad Llangollen" (Llangollen Market)
The young girl of this song remembers the first day in May when her lover left her to go to the army. She is broken hearted and bitterly regrets the fact that she did not go with him. She accuses her father of being cruel in stopping her from going away at the same time, and blames herself for staying at home comfortably. But life at home with her parents is impossible - her father is cruel every night and her mother is always cross. She attends Llangollen market every day, but the thought of bargaining there causes pain to her sick heart. The three verses end with the refrain :
"Why, Owen, did you leave me,
Why did I stay?"
Triple Harp

11.  "Mel Wefus" (Honeyed Lip)
The second John Parry (1776-1851), whose pseudonym was "Bardd Alaw", published two collections entitled "Welsh Harper" in 1839 and 1848. The two volumes contain original melodies composed by Barrd Alaw, and also a great deal that appeared in the collections of Blind Parry, Edward Jones and other early Welsh harpers. The lovely tune "Mel Wefus" comes from Welsh Harper 2.
Triple Harp

12.  "Blodau'r Gorllewin" (The flowers of the West)
This appears in John Parry, Rhiwabon's "British Harmony", first published in 1781
Triple Harp

13.  "Hen Ferchetan" (The jilted girl)
"Little Lisa of Hendre farm" has been jilted and intends to find another boyfriend. But despite her attempts to make herself as attractive as possible by wearing silk laces and make-up, there is no new sweetheart for poor Lisa! Seeing all her old boyfriends getting married in church, she is broken hearted. There will be new potatoes on apple trees before she gets a husband!
But something that Sion Prys said to her on the way home from the fair at Bala, raised Lisa's spirits and made her feel much better!
Celtic Harp

14.  "Nos Galan" (New Year's Eve) British Harmony (1781) John Parry, Rhiwabon
Triple Harp

15.  "Blewyn glas" (Green Pastures)
The virtuous man who sings this song, complains that his ex-girlfriend bewitched him and led him astray in her devious and immoral ways, similar to the way cows attracted by a patch of green grass in the middle of the River Dyfi and are led to their death by drowning. He intends to go into the garden to cut a posy for her, but will pass the lavender, lilies, pinks and red roses, and cut a huge amount of nettles to give to this unprincipled girl!
Triple Harp

16.  "Pa le mae 'nghariad i?" (Where is my love?)
This is one of the saddest and most beautiful songs in the Welsh language in my opinion. "Where is my love?" sings the young man as he waits in vain for his girlfriend to meet him by the garden gate. In great distress, he peeps through the window and sees her family standing around her deathbed. He sings farewell to his sick girlfriend, and says that he will go with her to her grave.

17.  "Anfon y Nico" (Cynan) a Penillion setting on "The Ash Grove"
Albert Evans Jones (1895-1970) , whose bardic name was Cynan, was one of Wales' most popular poets of the 20th century. By profession, he was Minister of Religion, and a most notable and influential Archdruid of Wales. He was Chaplain in the army in Macedonia during the First World War, when this poem was written. Cynan asks the little bird(Nico) to fly home from Macedonia to his native Wales and find a lovely garden in Anglesey which is full of beautiful roses, so far away from the disease and injuries of the battlefield. The bird must find the most beautiful rose in the garden - his friend Megan - and sing so intensely to her that she will also feel the deep "hiraeth" (grief, longing) that is burning in his heart. The bird must also tell his cousin that he would give everything to have just half an hour fishing in the Traffwll lake far from the sound of war.
Triple Harp

18.  Sleeps in the noon in the deep blue Sky (Scotland)
The melody comes from PatrickMacdonald's collection of 1781 and the words after Thomas Pattison's translation from Ossian - "The sweet voice of Cona."
These two songs are taken directly from volume three of the famous "Songs of the Hebridies" arranged by Marjorie Kennedy - Frazer and Kenneth Macleod, published in 1921. Marjorie Kennedy -Frazer first visited the Outer Hebridies in 1905, and says in the foreword to her first volume:From the outer isle of Eriskay, Barra, North and South Uist, Benbecula and the Lewis and from the Skye and Eigg we have reaped a rich harvest of hitherto un-noted airs".
Celtic Harp

19.  Carolan's Receipt (Ireland)
The full title is "Carolan's receipt for drinking whisky", and is dedicated "To Dr John Stafford". Carolan had not been feeling well, and was advised by his own doctor to stop drinking whisky. As his condition grew progressively worse, he was advised by Dr John Stafford to start drinking whisky  again, whereupon O'Carolan's condition immediately improved. This song was composed in gratitude for the "new" cure!
Celtic Harp

20.  The Wild Geese
This song (also known as "Ireland's Lamentation") is one of the most hauntingly beautiful ever composed for the harp. The tune expresses the national grief for the "Wild Geese" who were the young men who left Ireland to join the armies of France and Spain against Cromwell's England, after the broken Treaty of Limerick in 1691.
Celtic Harp

21.  "Breichled" (Bracelet) by Gareth Glyn
This cycle of five folk songs, depicting the love life of a woman, was first performed by flautist Judith Hall and myself during the first World Harp Festival held in Cardiff in 1991.
The Millers daughter declares that she is not hurt by rumours that her boyfriend has three of four other girlfriends- she herself is free to have four or fifteen (19!) if she wishes. But she prefers to hold on tight to her loving only one man!
"If my love comes tonight to knock the blue pane", sings the heart-broken young woman, "please be kind to him, and tell him that I have been forced to leave home to marry a man in another parish against my wishes".
Mother in Law's complaint : The young wife sees her mother-in-law coming to visit her, and knows that the older woman suspects that her son is buying too much soap for his squandering wife, because her washing is far too clean! But the clever young wife knows that her neighbour, Lewis Morris, often washes his horses in a certain part of the river, leaving lots of soap on the bank. That is where she washes her clothes and gets them sparklingly white!
Suo-gan- A Lullaby
Two arguing : Husband and wife are quarrelling. The wife is accused of being too lazy to do anything apart from sleeping. Eventually, the children and husband catch the sleeping bug and everyone sleeps all the time!
Concert Harp

22.  In Old Donegal
This song is recent and was composed by Ruth Mervyn with words by John Irvine. It is a simple and jolly little ditty that always makes me feel happy!
Celtic Harp

23.  "Y Ddau Farch" (The two horses)
This allegorical song describes the conversation that the singer overheard one day when he was out walking on the mountain. He met two horses who were deep in conversation. The weak, old horse said that he had also been young and strong once, like his companion. But when he became old "they" took away his shoes, gave him chaff to eat and sent him out to graze on the mountain. He was no good to anyone anymore, and as long as there was breath in his nostrils, he would never, ever return home.
Triple Harp

24.  "Y March Glas" (The grey steed)
In this light -hearted song, the singer boasts that his grey horse is without comparison. He also boasts that he has just bought a new saddle made from the side of a pig, a silk hat from Brecon that is worth a sovereign, and a fine coat made by a London tailor which fits him perfectly! Life was good for this high-achieving horseman from Cardiganshire!
Triple Harp

25.  "Bachgen Bach o Dincer" (Little Tinker Boy)
In days gone by, the little tinker-boy used to wander around the countrysidefrom village to village with a pack on his back, a pipe under his nose, and repairing everyone's pots and pans cheaply. He would sit happily in a corner chatting away, and work with a soldering iron in his hand. This song denotes a change in society, and the demise of itinerant workers. The singer asks where the kind little boy has gone, and says that he misses his good, cheap work very much indeed.
Triple Harp

26.  "Ffarwel i Blwy Llangywer" (Farewell to Llangywer)
As he sings farewell to his native Llangywer and to the fair town of Bala, the singer also says goodbye to his girlfriend, whose identity he does not wish to disclose. He is leaving for England with a heart as heavy as lead to dance in front of the harp and play with the drums. He bids farewell to all the haunts of his childhood, and as he leaves, confesses that hearing the melodies of Meirionnydd causes great pain in his heart even if his voice seems happy.

27.  Quiet Land of Erin

28.  Sunset Poem (Dylan Thomas)
This is the prayer intoned by the Reverend Eli Jenkins as the sun set on Llaregyb in Dylan Thomas' dramatic poem "Under Milk Wood". It is a "penillion" setting, and the melody played on the harp is "Y Bardd yn ei Awen_ The Inspired Bard". The poem asks God to bless everyone in Llaregyb, as they bow to the sun, "And say goodbye, but just for now!"
Triple Harp     

Album and Artist Information

Instruments: Harp
Genre: Traditional Welsh, Irish & Scottish
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0217
MCPS: Kissan CD
Label: Kissan
Year: 1992; Remastered 2008
Origin: Wales (UK)

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Other Recordings by Elinor Bennett

Available from Creighton's Collection
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Serenâd Pencerdd Gwalia Little
Collection of Airs