Shannon Mercer, Skye Consort, Seán Dagher, Amanda Keesmaat
Wholenote Discoveries - May 2009
In her fourth CD for Analekta, once again the lovely soprano voice of Shannon Mercer rings clear and true, this time in a most warm and heartfelt performance of Welsh songs. As the daughter of a long-time member of the Ottawa Welsh Society, Mercer well understands music and language as the cultural glue that binds people of Welsh descent. And what fond melodies they are. In fact, Mercer attributes her choice of career to the influence Welsh song had in her young life. The imagery inherent in the poetic language along with the sweet lyrical melodies chosen for this recording have quite an emotive impact on the listener, despite the fact that no translations are provided in the liner notes. Best-known pieces on this album are the well-loved lullaby Suo Gan, as well as the poignant Dafydd a Gareg Wen (David of the White Rock) and the unrequited Bugeillo’r Gwenith Gwyn. In arranging the accompaniments and instrumental pieces, Sean Dagher has done a marvellous job of preserving traditional elements while melding them to a more contemporary aesthetic. The Skye Consort which includes flute, violins, cello, bass, cittern, accordion and percussion adds a 17th-century Italian harp similar to the Welsh triple-harp. Beautifully played, beautifully sung. Dianne Wells
Culture is the cement of the Welsh identity, and this is easily assessed when one is faced with the richness of its poetry, its dances, its language and most of all, its music. It becomes no surprise to learn that Wales is sometimes referred to as “the land of song.” Since at least the 12th century, Welsh bards and musicians have participated in musical, theatrical and poetic contests called eisteddfodau, a tradition pursued up until this day.
Welsh folk music was suppressed following the Act of Union (1707), which promoted the English language and the rise of the Methodist church. The church frowned on traditional music and dance. Folk tunes were sometimes used as hymns in the 18th century. However, choral music was preferred over instrumental and traditional musical styles soon became associated with drunkenness and immorality.
A revival began in the 1860s with the formation of the National Eisteddfod Society, followed by the foundation of London-area Welsh Societies. The publication of Nicholas Bennett’s Alawon fy Ngwlad (“Tunes of my Land”), a compilation of traditional tunes in 1890 did a lot for the promotion of Welsh music.
Wales began seeing a revival of its traditional roots due to the popularity of 1960s folk singer-songwriter Dafydd Iwan. Iwan was instrumental in the creation of the modern Welsh folk scene, and is known for fiercely patriotic and nationalistic songs.