“The rhythm and rhyme of Welsh folksongs comes easily to those who want to write them” – Gwilym Morus-Baird
During the autumn and winter of 2015, poet, musician and folklorist Gwilym Morus-Baird worked with the Welsh language poets of the Tal-y-bont area, inviting them to compose traditional folk verses about the River Leri. He then worked to set these lyrics to music, performing and recording them for an album that was launched at the Black Lion in Tal-y-bont village, spring 2016 (available for free download here).
In an eloquent blog post (also available as PDF below), Gwilym reflected on the themes explored by the poets, coalescing around sense of place and identity, loss or longing – for Welsh language culture and traditions – but also of concomitant catharsis since the river “allow[s] the longing to flow and for the poet to return to the present a little lighter having let the past […] the water washes heartache away to the sea”. He notes too a connection between the ‘nature’ of the river and the form that was being used to describe or celebrate it:
“Many of the contributions mention the river’s ability to sing, often as a central characteristic. The Leri also ‘remembers’ and transmits the sounds of the past, what is often an almost unconscious metaphor for the penillion tradition itself. As it flows from past to present through the poet’s memory the tradition gives rise to new songs, the old forms birthing new verses like waves on a river.”
The resulting songs were aired on national radio (Radio Cymru) and warmly received by the local community at the CD launch:
“A wonderful evening in Y Blac on Friday. The pub was packed for the launch… [T]here seemed to be a whole village worth of people supporting and enjoying this project as it ripples outwards. The evening brought a great mix of people together, it was a convivial, human and nourishing event to be part of.” – Jane Lloyd Francis.
ARTWORKS & DOCUMENTATION
The finished album Penillion i’r Leri is available for free download.
Early in-progress work was made available via Gwilym’s SoundCloud page:
Fy Eiliadau I
Oesol Ydi’r Afon
Gwilym’s blogs on the Hydrocitizens community reflecting on the project process and outcomes – Folksongs for the Leri and A summary of themes explored – are also available as PDFs below.
ENGAGEMENT & PARTICIPATION
The project involved contributions from five local poets and musicians:
Carys Briddon, Bontgoch
Bleddyn Owen Huws, Tal-y-bont
David Jones, Bwlchyddwyallt
Siwan Morus, Borth
Siân Saunders, Tre Taliesin
Songs from Penillion i’r Leri were featured in two BBC radio programmes:
Sesiwn Fawr, Radio Cymru, 1 November 2015
Georgia Ruth, Radio Cymru, 3 March 2016
A work in progress sharing of songs – performed by Gwilym with his sister Siwan Morus – was also offered as part of the Cymerau Autumn Gathering, 19 November 2015.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Gwilym writes: "In 2012 my long running interest in Medieval Welsh poetry resulted in a doctorate from Bangor University. I have also worked as a research fellow at the Library of Congress, Washington DC, comparing international performance practices. I currently offer online courses in Welsh Mythology (whitedeer.earth) and fulfil music commissions.
Commissions include an album of songs responding to art works at the 2011 National Eisteddfod; music for television (f.e. Y Tad Deiniol by Pixel Foundry), for puppet shows and for art installations (f.e. a piece included in Jony Easterby’s For the Birds). I am currently working on a commissioned piece for an arts consortium making music out of bicycles, and a collaboration with the painter Laurel Gallagher on her extensive project Feral State.
Since 2005 I have released several albums of original material, and was lead singer and percussionist for a twelve piece afro-funk outfit called Drymbago. I have also released popular versions of folk songs such as Ym Mhontypridd and Tra Bo Dau that are played occasionally on BBC Radio Cymru. I have also been responsible for collaborations with musicians from Palestine. My music is online at mwncinel.com and gwilmor.com."