Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Welsh Traditional Music

Welsh Traditional Music

Phyllis Kinney
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Welsh Traditional Music
    Book Description:

    This book offers readers, both general and specialist, an introduction to, and analysis of, the traditional music of Wales. With musical examples throughout, the book is written in a straightforward, accessible style by an acknowledged authority in the field. Covering the period from medieval times to the present day, this book should appeal to anyone with an interest in the cultural history of the people of Wales.

    eISBN: 978-0-7083-2358-8
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. v-vi)
    Daniel Huws

    In a model nation, Phyllis Kinney, under the auspices of an enlightened foundation, would have spent much of the past forty years editing from manuscripts and from recordings the wealth of unpublished traditional music of her adopted country. Wales would have had available to all, with appropriate editorial apparatus, a worthy published corpus of her traditional music. That ideal remains a distant one. Instead, we can only be grateful that a long personal commitment on her part has led to a valuable range of publications – some by herself alone, some in collaboration with Meredydd Evans – which has made public part...

  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of illustrations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. A note on the translation of Welsh terms and transcription of the musical examples
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  8. Introduction: What is Traditional Music?
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    Sally Harper

    Defining ‘traditional music’ can be as elusive as nailing a jelly. Though for many the term conjures up immediate associations with ‘folk-songs’ and ‘folk tunes’, ‘traditional’ and ‘folk’ are no longer musical synonyms. The International Folk Music Council had good reason to adopt ‘traditional music’ as its official term in 1981, for the designation ‘folk music’ has now become a notorious shape-shifter. Increasingly it evokes popular ‘fusion’ repertories that may indeed draw on ‘traditional’ tunes and instruments, but also rely on professional performers and commercial studio production.

    So what do we mean by traditional music? Four features should perhaps be...

  9. 1 The Oral Tradition
    (pp. 1-16)

    No manuscripts of secular music have survived from Wales, if indeed there were any, before the end of the sixteenth century. Although music was an important part of Welsh life, the secular tradition was an oral one. The music of ordinary people, the songs and dances of ploughmen, nursemaids, blacksmiths and itinerant fiddlers were not noted down before the eighteenth century, whereas music favoured by cultivated Welsh gentry from later medieval times until the seventeenth century was sophisticated, complex, bound by strict rules and passed on orally from teacher to pupil. Knowledge of music from an earlier period depends upon...

  10. 2 The Watershed
    (pp. 17-34)

    In the course of Robert ap Huw’s long life Welsh culture underwent a profound change. It was this period that saw the final decline of the bardic order as an institution and English become the preferred language of the more influential of the Welsh gentry. It is true that bards continued to be welcomed into gentry homes at the traditional festivals of Christmas, Easter and Whitsun, and a few continued as patrons of domestic poets. But inflation between 1550 and 1650 caused a serious decline in living standards so that many families could no longer afford to keep a household...

  11. 3 Manuscript to Print
    (pp. 35-56)

    Only about a dozen of Huw Morys’s more than five hundred poems were printed during his lifetime. Immensely popular, they circulated in manuscript in the houses of the gentry and middling sorts, and in oral tradition in the mouths of the illiterate. English law licensed publishing only in London and the university towns of Oxford and Cambridge, but in 1695 the law was relaxed and publishing was allowed in other parts of England and Wales. The first Welsh publisher to take advantage of this was Thomas Jones, then working in London, and he immediately moved to Shrewsbury, an important commercial...

  12. 4 Edward Jones and Traditional Airs
    (pp. 57-70)

    In 1784, three years after the publication ofBritish Harmony, came the first book of Welsh tunes to include words to some of the airs.This was Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards;an enlarged edition appeared in 1794. It is obvious that this work was much more ambitious than any of John Parry’s publications. Edward Jones, its author, was not only a notable harpist but an antiquarian with a wide-ranging interest in old Welsh music. He was born in 1752 to a cultured, well-to-do farming family in Llandderfel, Merionethshire, an area abounding with harpers wherepenillionsinging...

  13. 5 Seasonal Festivities
    (pp. 71-104)

    By now it is clear that the professional musicians of eighteenth-century Wales confined their attention almost exclusively to the publicising and publishing of what they considered to be traditional Welsh airs. They did this primarily in London, ignoring almost completely a body of popular music that flourished among their compatriots back home.

    Early in the eighteenth century, Wales was almost entirely rural. It was a country on the fringe of Europe without cities or a capital and with a small population – more people lived in London than in the whole of Wales – which was largely dependent on agriculture and ruled...

  14. 6 Carols, Ballads and the Anterliwt
    (pp. 105-126)

    Most of the great Christian celebrations had a sacred and a secular side and Christmas wassailers might also have been among the church worshippers for theplygainservice early on Christmas morning. The Welsh wordplygaincomes from the Latinpullicantus or ‘cock crow’ and, originally, the start of the service might vary between three and six o’clock in the morning. By the eighteenth century, many prospective church-goers did not go to bed at all on Christmas eve, but stayed up drinking and playing cards, or singing and dancing to the harp, or making treacle toffee and generally enjoying...

  15. 7 The Early Collectors: Iolo Morganwg and Ifor Ceri
    (pp. 127-156)

    The eighteenth century in Wales produced some notable polymaths. Educational opportunities were increasing in spite of the lack of national institutions or financial resources, and by the end of the century the reading public in Wales had expanded considerably. Many of these versatile scholars were craftsmen, clergymen or well-to-do farmers who had time to pursue interests other than scraping a living. Lewis Morris, Richard Morris’s brilliant elder brother, was a surveyor who interested himself in science, engineering, cartography, history, philology, literature, agriculture, music and a host of other topics. William Jones, the Llangadfan farmer, became an expert in classical studies,...

  16. 8 The Great Change
    (pp. 157-180)

    The nineteenth century saw an immense change in Welsh life and culture. It began in a country where agriculture and minor industries such as weaving were the chief means of earning a livelihood, but by the beginning of the twentieth century more Welsh people were working in industries such as coal or iron and steel than in farming. The change was equally remarkable in other aspects of Welsh life. Religion underwent an upheaval of mountainous proportions, in which Methodism, an eighteenth-century movement to reform the established Church, grew mightily and transformed the nature of religious practice in Wales. Cultural changes...

  17. 9 The Momentum Continues
    (pp. 181-202)

    In 1858, an eisteddfod was organised in Llangollen. It lasted four days and for the first time cheap railway excursions were arranged for the crowds who wanted to attend. Among the prizes offered at the eisteddfod was one for an unpublished collection of Welsh airs. Two of the entrants to this competition were from south Wales and both were harpists. The winner was David Thomas Llewelyn (‘Llewelyn Alaw’); his reputed prize-winning collection is now preserved in the National Library of Wales as NLW MS 331D.

    Unusually, the losing entry was also preserved, submitted under the pseudonym ‘Orpheus’. The manuscript eventually...

  18. 10 J. Lloyd Williams and the Welsh Folk-Song Society
    (pp. 203-228)

    The twentieth century opened with the last of the religious revivals, which had the overall effect of replacing the folk-song with the hymn. At the same time, the new century saw the formation of a society with the purpose of preserving the folk-song. The religious revival flamed briefly and then subsided – the Welsh Folk-Song Society, on the other hand, went on to celebrate its centenary in 2006.

    The society’s success was due above all to John Lloyd Williams (1854–1945), a towering figure who, in his long life, bridged the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In many ways the story of...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 229-240)
  20. Appendix 1 Cerdd Dant
    (pp. 241-246)
  21. Appendix 2 Printed Music Collections referred to (including facsimiles) by date of publication
    (pp. 247-250)
  22. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-260)
  23. Index
    (pp. 261-286)
  24. Index of Music
    (pp. 287-290)