music from Wales: Fernhill
With the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, you might have heard more about the country of Wales than you usually do. The Duke’s father is titled the Prince of Wales, for one thing. The Duke is serving with a rescue unit of the Royal Air Force based in Anglesey, for another, and the couple have chosen to live near there. There is more to Wales than its recent royal highlighting, of course.
There's a beautiful and varied landscape and sea coast, a long history, a Celtic language all its own, a vibrant culture. a welcoming people, and there’s music. One of the most interesting and best ways to meet the music of Wales is through the work of the band Fernhill.
Fernhill is Ceri Rhys Matthews on flute and guitar, Julie Murphy, whose main instrument is her voice, Tomos Williams on trumpet, and Christine Cooper on fiddle and voice. They've a new album out, the first one with this current line up, which is called Canu Rhydd. This means, in Welsh, free poetry. At a recent concert at Celtic Connections in Glasgow, I had the chance to hear Rhys Matthews explain just what this means in the history of the poetry of Wales, how a flowering of creativity took place in medieval times when restrictions on poetic forms were lifted -- and how Fernhill has used texts from that time in their music.
The musicians offered songs in both English and Welsh, as well as tunes with horn and fiddle, flute and guitar. There was a piece in which Matthews sang in Welsh and Cooper did a spoken word section in English, and there was music to this as well, all well thought out and well presented. Beauty in simplicity, complex ideas shared through deep focus, and, as they say of themselves, music from the edge of an island. Well worth your time to seek out, in live performance and through recordings.
You may find out more about the band and about Canu Rhydd at Fernhill’s web site
photographs were made at Celtic Connections with the permission of the festival and the artists, and are copyrighted. thank you for respecting this.
you may also wish to see
more recordings by Fernhill
the BBC’s site about the music of Wales
Music Road: Celtic Connections 2012: the music continues