CD A0131: Diversions / Clymau Cytgerdd

Diversions / Clymau Cytgerdd by Osian Ellis

CD cover: Diversions / Clymau Cytgerdd by Osian EllisClymau Cytgerdd - Diversions offers a rare chance to hear the wide range of musical talent of one of Wales’ best-known contemporary harpists. The CD showcases not only the performer and singer but also the arranger and composer. From Traditional folk songs sung in Welsh to Bach's Gavotte en Rondeau, via the Handel Harp Concerto and Osian's own composition Diversions for Two Harps.

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The sheet music for Diversions is published by Adlais Music Publishers

Other music by Osian Ellis

Track Listing & Audio Samples

Children's Songs Traditional
01 Deryn y Bwn - The Bittern
02 Gee Geffyl Bach - Gee up Little Horse
03 Dacw Mam yn Dwad - There comes Mother
04 Pedoli - Pedoli
05 Gwenni aeth i ffair Pwllheli - Gwenni went to Pwllheli Fair
Improvisations Op. 10 William Mathias
06 Allegro moderato
07 Lento sonore
08 Allegro non troppo
Diversions for Two Harps Osian Ellis
09 Chasing
10 Descanting
11 Gossiping
Harp Concerto in B flat, Op. 4, No. 6 GF Handel
12 Andante allegro
13 Larghetto
14 Allegro
Penillion Singing Arr. Osian Ellis
15 Greddf gwr o'r - from the Gododdin
16 Cywydd Tomos Prys
17 Patagonia
18 Gavotte en Rondeau JS Bach
St Asaph Canticles Osian Ellis
19 To the Court of Bishop John
20 Threnody for Harp
21 Elergy for Bishop William Morgan
Sonata in G minor Op. No. 10 GF Handel
22 Andante
23 Allegro
24 Adagio
25 Allegro
Songs of Longing Traditional
26 Fair Lisa
27 When I was a Lad
28 Where is my Love
29 Tell not a soul

CD Notes & Credits

Sleeve Notes

CHILDREN'S SONGS Voice and harp
Among our folk songs there are many nursery and play-songs for children, invariably nonsensical and fantastical.

Song of the Bittern
The bittern is a marsh bird which has been extinct in Wales for over a hundred years. It emits a booming sound - which is heard in the song, from its long neck. The bird wanders over the hills, falls into a basket of apples, sells them in the market with the children shouting all around him, and returns back home telling his mistress: "Look at all the money I've had for selling apples!"

Gee up, little horse
Carrying us both over the hIlls and down through the dales; the river is deep - we'll slip on the stones here we go down - now that's a fine trick! And at this moment the father (usually) throws the child up in the air and catches him - a mother might be more cautious!

Dacw Mam yn dwad
There comes my mother, over the white stile; something in her apron, and a pitcher on her head. The cow in the farmyard mooing for her calf, and the calf over yonder playing "Jim Crow". Jim Crow "crystyn," one, two, four, and the silly little pig sits sweetly on the stool!

The singer imagines he is a blacksmith shoeing horses in the smithy. The sound of the anvil is imitated in "bidinc, bidinc," and the trotting pony is heard in "bi-drot, bi-drot".

Simple Gwenni
Gwenni went to Pwllheli Market to buy a clay bowl; she paid six shillings for it - at home it would have cost her just sixpence-ha'penny; simple-sample, ffinister-ffanister ­ always this fuss with silly old Gwen! Gwenni went milking with her clay bowl; the cow gave just one slap with her tail and the six shillingsworth was shattered - simple - sample, etc. Gwenni went early to wash her clothes in the river; while she fetched her soap her clothes floated away with the stream - simple-sample, etc.

IMPROVISATIONS OP. 10 Solo harp William Mathias 1934-1992

William Mathias has used the harp extensively as a solo instrument, in chamber music, and in his colourful orchestrations. At the invitation of the Llandaf Festival he wrote for me the Harp Concerto in 1970. These earlier pieces were written while he was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London after completing his studies at the University of Wales at Aberystwyth.

The first movement, has a "happy-go-lucky" atmosphere with the two harps in quite distant keys (G and C flat) pursuing each other as if they were 'playing tag'. They eventually collide into each other on the last note.

Descanting is based on the traditional style of "Penillion Singing", peculiar to Wales, where the harp plays a harmonized melody and the singer sets verses in counterpoint - or descant. The work was commissioned by Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant Cymru (the Welsh Penillion Singing Society) as a test piece for its Festival in 1990. Here the second harp plays the air and the first harp plays the descant - a "Song without Words".

Gossiping is dedicated, with affection, to all my colleagues, young and old. It chatters and prattles, tut-tuts and yes-yesses; it is loquacious but, I hope, not long-winded. The Welsh title of the work is Clymau Cytgerdd.

This was first performed by the Welsh harpist. William Powell in 1736 as an interlude during Alexander's Feast. Handel had already used the harp as an obbligato instrument
in Julius Caesar, Esther, Saul and Alexander Balus. When he scored the work with strings and recorders, Handel instructed the lower strings to play pizzicato during the first and last movements - in imitation of the plucked harp, and he instructed the violins to play throughout with mutes. However it is probable that Powell would have played the work for solo harp also - as we know Blind John Parry did. The Flute Sonata in F major became the Organ Concerto in F major Opus 4 No. 5. No doubt, more copies could be sold by Handel's publisher in this manner. The second movement is a Sarabande, a slow dance with a strong second beat, and the last movement is a Minuet.

i Andante allegro
ii Larghetto
iii Allegro

SONGS IN PENILLION STYLE voice and harp Osian Ellis
This is the traditional way of setting Welsh poerry to music - the folk-songs were invariably unaccompanied. The singer and harpist decide on a harp-tune, to which the singer must set his words, observing many rules: the harp must begin alone, and he then improvises his own counter-melody; finally, he must end with the melody that is played on the harp.

Greddf gwr - Aneirin
A fragment from Britain's oldest heroic poem, the Gododdin, by the Welsh poet Aneirin, and composed around 600 A.D. for the chieftain, Mynyddog Mwynfawr, and his ancient British court at Dineidyn, now Edinburgh. The complete work (over 1200 lines) is a series of elegies for the Brittonic warriors who fought and died at the hands of the Angles at the battle of Catraeth (modern Catterick). "A man in might, yet, in years, a youth - courageous in battle; a fine handsome knight astride a nimble, long-maned steed; a light, wide shield on a slender horse; glinting blue swords, fringed with gold - hatred shall never come between us! Far better - I shall praise you in song: sooner to a bloody field than to a wedding feast! Sooner to be ravens' feed than to a funeral! Owen, my beloved friend, I grieve that you lie beneath a cairn. Woe that in this land was slain the only son of Marro".

Cywydd Tomos Prys - Tomos Prys c. 1564-1634
A setting of a poem (a 'cywydd') by the Elizabethan poet and adventurer, Thomas Prys. He fought as a soldier in Flanders, Holland, France, Spain, Scotland and Ireland. He later became a buccaneer hunting booty from Spanish ships, and in this poem, interspersed with English commands, he amusingly recalls some of his exploits at sea. The Welsh poetic custotn of cynghanedd, an organised system of assonance and alliteration, spills over into his English lines: "Bring here the timber tomboy / What's here, a can of beer, boy? / Munson, hoist up the mainsail /By Marie. I see a sail' '' Apparently, his exploits were not profitable, and in the final couplet he vows: "Before I will, pill or part / Buy a ship - I'll be a shephart!"

Patagonia - R. Bryn Williams 1902-1981
Desterrado: a poem, in Welsh and Spanish (South American). written fpr me to sing on a visit in 1965 to Patagonia in the south of Argentina to celebrate the landing in 1865 of a shipload of Welsh emigrants who, after many ordeals, have survived in this distant land. The poet was Bryn Williams (1902-81) who was brought up in Patagonia, returned to Wales as student, entered the Presbyterian ministry, and, as a poet, he was honoured with his appointment as Archdruid from 1973-76. The poem is a cry of longing for the Andes, it begins in traditional Welsh fashion, but as soon as the Spanish is heard, the harp sails off into a most un-Welsh idiom.

This is a movement from the Partita in E major for Solo Violin.

ST ASAPH CANTICLES - 1988 Voice and harp Osian Ellis
Written for the North Wales Music Festival held at St Asaph Cathedral. The main thrust of Welsh verse from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries was the celebration of the leaders of the community - in early times, kings, princes and warriors, and after their demise, noblemen and church dignitaries.

Canticle I
A setting of an ode (a cywydd) in praise of Bishop John Trevor and his court around 1397 by one of the most distinguished poets of the 14th Centuty, Iolo Goch (c. 1320­98); he wrote for patrons all over Wales, and in poems to King Edward III and to Sir Roger Mortimer he displays detailed knowledge of the wars of the period, and of people and places in Ireland, England and France. Three of his poems to Owain Glyndwr are extant, and one of them celebrates the luxury of the court of Sycharth. He wrote in praise of at least two bishops and a dean of St Asaph, for he was welcome to stay with them. These patrons displayed an enthusiasm for Welsh verse, and the poet was held in great esteem. In this Eulogy he reveals the measure of the patronage bestowed upon him, and he looks forward to the hospitality offered for yet another winter by Bishop Trevor - Iolo may have died not long after. Despite his age, he gives a virtuoso display as he declaims to the music of the harp (the poetry was always intended to be spoken or sung - not read on a page), and he amusingly observes upon the functions of the officers of the court. They, of course, would be his audience. He describes the impressive Mass sung in the Cathedral with the voices of the bourdon, mean, treble, and a novelty, surely, at this time, the higher- sounding quatrible. He has a familiar and friendly relationship with the Bishop, so close, indeed, that he can tease him when he declaims: "Hardly a day passes - he is generous in every way - that he does not bless me - how
considerate he is - often twice, by Mary, or thrice in a day!" (These interruptive phrases, called sangiadau, were a decorative feature of the cywydd. They can be awkward to read and understand, yet, surprisingly, the music accommodates them without difficulty). And then the impish, sly suggestion in the final couplet: "Often he favours me with gold; may he enjoy God's gift of bliss."

Canticle II
Threnody for harp solo, when the harpist articulates his own deep anguish and bitterness at the loss of his beloved patron before accompanying the bard in his Elegy.

Canticle III
A setting of an elegy to Bishop William Morgan, the translator of the Bible into Welsh, written by Huw Machno (c. 1560-1637). The poet, like Bishop Morgan, was a son of Penmachno; he had already written several eulogies for him, but, finally, in 1604, came this intensely felt elegy of 130 lines. I have chosen to set just 38 of these. I attempt to convey the grief of the poet in his lament for the loss of a valued friend, a noble and generous patron, a great scholar, and a most highly-respected personage.

SONATA IN G MINOR OPUS 1 NO. 10 Solo harp G.F. Handel
Originally written for violin and continuo. It was Handel's custom to note only the skeleton of the music, - the treble with figured bass; and he expected the players to improvise imaginatively, to extend the harmonies, and to add variations, especially during any "'peated section. I trust that I have adhered to Handel's intention and style.

i Andante
ii Allegro
iii Adagio
iv Allegro

SONGS OF LONGING voice and harp
To Lisa

Another version of Lisa Lân which was sung to me in 1970 by a blacksmith, William Jones, at Aberdaron, on the Llyn Peninsula. He recalled his grandfather singing the song, which is in the Dorian Mode, but with occasional quarter-tones as well. The folk-songs were often transmitted by seamen as they sailed, over a hundred years ago, to and from the many Welsh ports and landing places which have long-since disappeared with the demise of the sailing ships. The song is a tragic expression of unrequited love: "Oh, Lisa, bear me to my grave."

The Old Man's Ballad
He recalls his joyous, frivolous youth, and then his marriage to the finest girl he ever saw; the union turns sour, but, eventually, she dies, and the old man seems joyous once more!

Where is my love?
The singer has made a tryst with his girl friend; she does not appear; he goes to her house to seek her, and finds her family weeping above her dead body. This is his lament.

Tell not a soul
"If thy heart is near to breaking - tell not a soul, because thy love is now forsaking - tell not a soul. And if all hopes do perish - tell not a soul, there is none who will thee cherish - tell not a soul"

Notes by Osian Ellis


Recorded and mixed at Sain Studios, Llandwrog ­ April & May 1990
Engineered by Emyr Rees and Gethyn Evans

Mixed by Barcud, May and June 1990.
Engineered by Gerallt Jones

Produced by Stephen P. Rees and Osian Ellis

Photography by Nigel Hughes

Made in Wales

Album Information

Instruments: Solo Harp / Harp & Voice
Genre: Mixed: Traditional Welsh, Classical, Contemporary
Format: CD
Our Ref: A0131
Label: Sain
Year: 2006 Re packaged. (Original CD published 1990)
Origin: Wales (UK)