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The Harp in Wales

Bruce Cardwell
Foreword by Catrin Finch
ISBN-13: 
9781781720806
Publication Date: 
Monday, July 15, 2013
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A celebration of the harp in Wales, an instrument as symbolically key to a Welsh identity as the flag itself. Foreword by Catrin Finch.

Bruce Cardwell provides a history of the harp in Wales, including how it grew to prominence, its evolving role in Welsh culture, how it became a central symbol of Welshness, how it has developed as a musical instrument in response to changing musical taste, and the booming harp business today. He also explores the craft of harp-making, including the variety of construction, materials, designs and aesthetics, issues of ‘playability’ and tone, and the fusion of craft skills with art sensibilities. The book also has a section on Forty two contemporary Welsh harpists and harp makers , with portraits and a narrative on their perspective on their personal instruments, their individual repertoires and how they see their place in the continuing tradition. These harpists include Catrin Finch, Elinor Bennett, Delyth Jenkins, Robin Huw Bowen, Twm Morys, Gwenan Gibbard, Harriet Earis, Rhodri Davies and Llio Rhydderch.

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Cambria Review

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Music has invariably played an important part in the imaging of Wales in the wider world. Tall hats, leeks, daffodils, male voice choirs, hymn singing, coal mining, choral singing, solo vocalism (in all musical genres) and folk music have all bharp2een used to underline the supposed ‘musicality’ of the Welsh people and reinforced by the celluloid ‘Proud Valley’ and ‘Off To Philadelphia in the Morning’, among many other films and books. The harp has been a vital presence in our music making and poetic culture for centuries and, as this well produced volume shows only too well, has been central to our musical culture. The author Bruce Cardwell is a practicing folk musician (playing flute and pipes) as well as an accomplished photographer. Introduced by Catrin Finch the volume includes portraits of most of the leading protagonists both as players and makers of the harp as well as including a short ‘whistle-stop-tour’ of the history of the harp in Wales by the author. Friendly in tone with a non-academic coffee table format, it reminds us of the rich tradition of the harp in Wales, the pluralism and fusion of contemporary musical styles as well as the often dogged determined nature of the main characters involved, from Cerdd Dant practitioners, to folk and classical, jazz and most if not all contemporary musical styles. The harp remains a living and constantly evolving part of our culture. The opening background to the harp in Wales is comprehensive in scope if rather sketchy. Perhaps that was the author’s intention. It would have been good to be told a least something (for example) of the rich repertoire by Welsh composers of the modern era, works such as the ‘Concerto’ and the harp oeuvre in general by William Mathias among many other works which have entered the international repertoire for the instrument, not to mention many other composers such as Hoddinott, Grace Williams, David Harries, Ian Parrott and many others. (This reviewer heard Gareth Glyn’s excellent ‘Triban’ played by a young harpist in New Delhi a few years ago!). The author’s relaxed style of writing works far better in the many individual personal histories which are often bought to life with warm good humour. The sense of tradition is palpable throughout as is the pragmatic approach and a shared sense of mission. We are vividly reminded that the harp making tradition is alive and well through the tireless work of Allan Shiers, Alun Thomas, Robert Hadaway, Greville Hunt and others. Also evident is the sense of musicological research in the work of Osian Ellis, Ann Griffiths, Robin Huw Bowen and Bob Evans. The international performing careers of Ellis, Griffiths, Elinor Bennett, Catrin Finch, Ieuan Jones and others are rightly celebrated and coupled with their exemplary musicianship is articulation of the highest order. Starting with Nansi Richards (1888-1979), surely one of the most colourful musicians in the whole history of Welsh music, her role in keeping the Triple Harp alive speaks volumes for her stoical insistence of the musical validity of the instrument at a time when it could have disappeared altogether. Her successor Llio Rhydderch has equally made a huge contribution in the field, and with imagination of often high order. Osian Ellis (not ‘Elis’ as printed here) managed to be a ‘lone voice’ for the harp ‘in the wilderness of twentieth-century popular music’ making, as he did, a living in the competitive world of commercial music claiming that he learnt more playing at the London Palladium than he did at the Royal Academy of Music where he was the only harpist rising thereafter to international prominence. As one of Benjamin Britten’s favoured players his reputation was and is assured. He was one of the leading members of the Melos Ensemble in their early years and his recordings of (for example) Ravel’s ‘Introduction and Allegro’ remains definitive. With his playing in mind, Britten composed much of the ,War Requiem, and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ among many other works (his Hon D.Mus from the University of Wales was awarded for his work as a leading virtuoso as well as his other accomplishments, by the way). Perhaps the most rewarding part of the book is the sheer variety and colourful nature of the characters represented within. The scope is indeed wide from the work of Delyth Jenkins with Cromlech and Aberjaber to Rhodri Davies’s alternative approach using resonating devices and so forth to make the harp sound new and varied, to the folk rooted fusion of Sian James to the jazz style of Amanda Whiting-the range is beyond the musical imagination of the musical 1970’s let alone earlier eras. Included also are Dafydd and Gwyndaf Roberts and their pioneering work with Arlog as well as Twm Morys’s highly personal fusion of poetry and the contemporary scene (and there is surely no ‘to bach’ on the ‘w’ in Twm’s name-or have I missed something?). Just as the stubborn determination and abilities of the harp makers runs as a constant theme throughout the book so to does the role of pedagogy. Like earlier poetic tradition there is a strong family feel to the handing down of expertise from one generation to the next. Elinor Bennett was taught by Alwena Roberts, knew Nansi Richards, studied with Osian Ellis and taught Catrin Finch who eventually became her daughter in law. How about that for lineage! The book also reflects the equally vital local linkages between teacher and pupil (and think of the cost for the parents of Rhiannon, Hafwen and Branwen Lewis or sisters Llinos and Alaw Jones in having more than one harpist in the house!). Also reflected are the international links- the itinerant careers of so many of the leading performers often fed by study abroad as in the case of Ann Griffiths (who studied in Paris). The text could arguably have been more tightly edited with a better synthesis in places as well as greater care of spelling and grammar at times. The photography is of very good quality and captures each subject with humanity and humility and inevitably brings the instrument as well as the performers well to the fore. Short dictionary-like descriptors of each subject would have been welcome as well as the author’s pen portraits as they would surely reinforce the considerable achievements of the main protagonists. Our singers have been arguably more prominent on the world stage but our harpists have been no less successful and from the eighteenth century onwards have often been in the front rank of performance practice. If anything at all shines through this volume it is the sheer exuberance and love of performing, the devotion to craft in whatever genre and the sense of belonging to a tradition that has never really left he harping community. With harp schools, competitions, the Eisteddfod, Cerdd Dant and international gatherings and competitions well in place the harp is well placed in Wales for further development in the twenty first century. Dr Lyn Davies

http://www.cambriamagazine.co.uk/the-vital-presence-of-the-harp-in-our-c...

19/12/2013 - 11:50
Anonymous's picture

Review by Wales Arts Review

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No votes yet

Despite numerous debates, the harp will always be linked to a Welsh identity. Bruce Cardwell’s The Harp in Wales explores just that: a book that focuses on the harp in the context of Wales. With an in-depth introduction to the historical importance of the harp, Cardwell gives a simplified and concise background to the instrument, looking at its structure, its development and its significance. Cardwell explores the old bardic compositions and the simplicity of the first harps made of wood and horse hair. He then traces its development to the more sophisticated instrument it is today. Around 1775, the first triple harp was made for blind harpist John Parry. This increased the harp’s popularity, but by the 19th century, it was beginning to decline due to the deaths of many famous makers. This then, is undoubtedly a signifier of the importance of the maker, and is one which Cardwell emphasises again and again by embedding biographies of makers between famous players; without makers, there would be no music. The book is extremely informative, yet not written in a way which excludes the non-harp player.

Cardwell’s introduction offers an engrossing history of the instrument which is also very informative; it is displayed in a way that is not dependent on any kind of expertise. He follows the chronological historical developments of the ancient instrument, but brings it back to Wales, drawing on the laws of Hywel Dda and the stories of the Mabinogion. Cardwell tells the readers with confidence that if Cymru is ‘Gwlad y Gan’, then the symbol of song embedded within the country is the harp, thus implying its importance to Welsh identity. In the words of Professor Ieuan Jones, ‘the harp is more normal here than in many other countries.’ We may not today be that clichéd picture of a figure in a tall black hat playing a wooden harp – in fact, the players will be dressed in suits and ball gowns with a harp that is simply beautiful to look at. This old image however is more than just a stereotypical representation: it is an image that solidifies values still cherished today.
The Harp in Wales by Bruce Cardwell Seren, 200pp., July 2013. Foreword by Catrin Finch

The Harp in Wales
by Bruce Cardwell
Seren, 200pp., July 2013.
Foreword by Catrin Finch

The book goes on to introduce different players and makers in Wales, old and new, modern and traditional. From the iconic Nansi Richards to perhaps the more experimental Kay Davies, Cardwell really does cover it all. Nansi is described as ‘an encyclopaedia of the Welsh Countryside’. Nansi was such an icon in her day. Fascinatingly, when staying in America with Will Kellog, she told him that his name sounded like ‘ceiliog’ in Welsh, meaning cockerel, and told him to put a cockerel on his cereal packet. This was the origin of rooster we still see on the packet today. Her life was music, and to encapsulate that, on seeing the harp at Dolgellau’s folk festival in 1979, she said, ‘This is the climax of my life – seeing the triple harp taking its rightful place on the Welsh stage.’

Cardwell doesn’t present the makers and players in a significantly segregated way; he varies style and era in a way which seems to imply how relevant the harp still is today. It is also always brought back to a Welsh root, re-enforcing this idea as the harp as part of our cultural identity. Each segment for each artist has its own appeal. In a chapter on Nansi Richards, Cardwell includes many allegorical narratives which are familiar and funny. Catrin Finch is of course given her own chapter (and writes the Foreword), as she is considered one of the most widely recognised harpists in Wales today. Cardwell uses direct quotes from Finch making for a rich segment. Finch is largely considered to be a more modern harpist, moving away from the classical towards a more contemporary sound. In 2000, the post of Harpist to the Prince of Wales was revived, and of course, Finch was top of the list. This coinciding of the traditional post with the modern harp player is surely significant to the harp’s increasing popularity in modern Wales. Finch has played around the world, winning prestigious competitions in New York, for example, for her ability. This just goes to prove that the harp is a true representation of Welsh identity, and to be recognized around the world for its iconic sound is a privilege. It is refreshing to read of the new Welsh harp talent too like sisters Llinos and Alaw Jones, Nest Jenkins and many more. This vast inclusion of makers and players really does illuminate how constant the harp has been, and how it will continue to be in the future.

Cardwell’s style of writing is not one of an expert appealing to an expert, nor is it one of a specialist educating a non-musician. It is nestled comfortably in between, a sort of conversationalist tone runs throughout. The distinctive, well selected photographs really enrich the reading experience providing a sense of character, place and Welsh identity. Cardwell’s fantastic book speaks to everybody, and is a significant documentation of instrument that is so often associated with our country and is thus intrinsically linked to our cultural identity.

–Elin Willaims

Full Review:
http://www.walesartsreview.org/the-harp-in-wales-by-bruce-cardwell/

18/11/2013 - 12:49

Comments

Anonymous's picture

Review by Wales Arts Review

0
No votes yet

Despite numerous debates, the harp will always be linked to a Welsh identity. Bruce Cardwell’s The Harp in Wales explores just that: a book that focuses on the harp in the context of Wales. With an in-depth introduction to the historical importance of the harp, Cardwell gives a simplified and concise background to the instrument, looking at its structure, its development and its significance. Cardwell explores the old bardic compositions and the simplicity of the first harps made of wood and horse hair. He then traces its development to the more sophisticated instrument it is today. Around 1775, the first triple harp was made for blind harpist John Parry. This increased the harp’s popularity, but by the 19th century, it was beginning to decline due to the deaths of many famous makers. This then, is undoubtedly a signifier of the importance of the maker, and is one which Cardwell emphasises again and again by embedding biographies of makers between famous players; without makers, there would be no music. The book is extremely informative, yet not written in a way which excludes the non-harp player.

Cardwell’s introduction offers an engrossing history of the instrument which is also very informative; it is displayed in a way that is not dependent on any kind of expertise. He follows the chronological historical developments of the ancient instrument, but brings it back to Wales, drawing on the laws of Hywel Dda and the stories of the Mabinogion. Cardwell tells the readers with confidence that if Cymru is ‘Gwlad y Gan’, then the symbol of song embedded within the country is the harp, thus implying its importance to Welsh identity. In the words of Professor Ieuan Jones, ‘the harp is more normal here than in many other countries.’ We may not today be that clichéd picture of a figure in a tall black hat playing a wooden harp – in fact, the players will be dressed in suits and ball gowns with a harp that is simply beautiful to look at. This old image however is more than just a stereotypical representation: it is an image that solidifies values still cherished today.
The Harp in Wales by Bruce Cardwell Seren, 200pp., July 2013. Foreword by Catrin Finch

The Harp in Wales
by Bruce Cardwell
Seren, 200pp., July 2013.
Foreword by Catrin Finch

The book goes on to introduce different players and makers in Wales, old and new, modern and traditional. From the iconic Nansi Richards to perhaps the more experimental Kay Davies, Cardwell really does cover it all. Nansi is described as ‘an encyclopaedia of the Welsh Countryside’. Nansi was such an icon in her day. Fascinatingly, when staying in America with Will Kellog, she told him that his name sounded like ‘ceiliog’ in Welsh, meaning cockerel, and told him to put a cockerel on his cereal packet. This was the origin of rooster we still see on the packet today. Her life was music, and to encapsulate that, on seeing the harp at Dolgellau’s folk festival in 1979, she said, ‘This is the climax of my life – seeing the triple harp taking its rightful place on the Welsh stage.’

Cardwell doesn’t present the makers and players in a significantly segregated way; he varies style and era in a way which seems to imply how relevant the harp still is today. It is also always brought back to a Welsh root, re-enforcing this idea as the harp as part of our cultural identity. Each segment for each artist has its own appeal. In a chapter on Nansi Richards, Cardwell includes many allegorical narratives which are familiar and funny. Catrin Finch is of course given her own chapter (and writes the Foreword), as she is considered one of the most widely recognised harpists in Wales today. Cardwell uses direct quotes from Finch making for a rich segment. Finch is largely considered to be a more modern harpist, moving away from the classical towards a more contemporary sound. In 2000, the post of Harpist to the Prince of Wales was revived, and of course, Finch was top of the list. This coinciding of the traditional post with the modern harp player is surely significant to the harp’s increasing popularity in modern Wales. Finch has played around the world, winning prestigious competitions in New York, for example, for her ability. This just goes to prove that the harp is a true representation of Welsh identity, and to be recognized around the world for its iconic sound is a privilege. It is refreshing to read of the new Welsh harp talent too like sisters Llinos and Alaw Jones, Nest Jenkins and many more. This vast inclusion of makers and players really does illuminate how constant the harp has been, and how it will continue to be in the future.

Cardwell’s style of writing is not one of an expert appealing to an expert, nor is it one of a specialist educating a non-musician. It is nestled comfortably in between, a sort of conversationalist tone runs throughout. The distinctive, well selected photographs really enrich the reading experience providing a sense of character, place and Welsh identity. Cardwell’s fantastic book speaks to everybody, and is a significant documentation of instrument that is so often associated with our country and is thus intrinsically linked to our cultural identity.

–Elin Willaims

Full Review:
http://www.walesartsreview.org/the-harp-in-wales-by-bruce-cardwell/

18/11/2013 - 12:49
Anonymous's picture

Cambria Review

0
No votes yet

Music has invariably played an important part in the imaging of Wales in the wider world. Tall hats, leeks, daffodils, male voice choirs, hymn singing, coal mining, choral singing, solo vocalism (in all musical genres) and folk music have all bharp2een used to underline the supposed ‘musicality’ of the Welsh people and reinforced by the celluloid ‘Proud Valley’ and ‘Off To Philadelphia in the Morning’, among many other films and books. The harp has been a vital presence in our music making and poetic culture for centuries and, as this well produced volume shows only too well, has been central to our musical culture. The author Bruce Cardwell is a practicing folk musician (playing flute and pipes) as well as an accomplished photographer. Introduced by Catrin Finch the volume includes portraits of most of the leading protagonists both as players and makers of the harp as well as including a short ‘whistle-stop-tour’ of the history of the harp in Wales by the author. Friendly in tone with a non-academic coffee table format, it reminds us of the rich tradition of the harp in Wales, the pluralism and fusion of contemporary musical styles as well as the often dogged determined nature of the main characters involved, from Cerdd Dant practitioners, to folk and classical, jazz and most if not all contemporary musical styles. The harp remains a living and constantly evolving part of our culture. The opening background to the harp in Wales is comprehensive in scope if rather sketchy. Perhaps that was the author’s intention. It would have been good to be told a least something (for example) of the rich repertoire by Welsh composers of the modern era, works such as the ‘Concerto’ and the harp oeuvre in general by William Mathias among many other works which have entered the international repertoire for the instrument, not to mention many other composers such as Hoddinott, Grace Williams, David Harries, Ian Parrott and many others. (This reviewer heard Gareth Glyn’s excellent ‘Triban’ played by a young harpist in New Delhi a few years ago!). The author’s relaxed style of writing works far better in the many individual personal histories which are often bought to life with warm good humour. The sense of tradition is palpable throughout as is the pragmatic approach and a shared sense of mission. We are vividly reminded that the harp making tradition is alive and well through the tireless work of Allan Shiers, Alun Thomas, Robert Hadaway, Greville Hunt and others. Also evident is the sense of musicological research in the work of Osian Ellis, Ann Griffiths, Robin Huw Bowen and Bob Evans. The international performing careers of Ellis, Griffiths, Elinor Bennett, Catrin Finch, Ieuan Jones and others are rightly celebrated and coupled with their exemplary musicianship is articulation of the highest order. Starting with Nansi Richards (1888-1979), surely one of the most colourful musicians in the whole history of Welsh music, her role in keeping the Triple Harp alive speaks volumes for her stoical insistence of the musical validity of the instrument at a time when it could have disappeared altogether. Her successor Llio Rhydderch has equally made a huge contribution in the field, and with imagination of often high order. Osian Ellis (not ‘Elis’ as printed here) managed to be a ‘lone voice’ for the harp ‘in the wilderness of twentieth-century popular music’ making, as he did, a living in the competitive world of commercial music claiming that he learnt more playing at the London Palladium than he did at the Royal Academy of Music where he was the only harpist rising thereafter to international prominence. As one of Benjamin Britten’s favoured players his reputation was and is assured. He was one of the leading members of the Melos Ensemble in their early years and his recordings of (for example) Ravel’s ‘Introduction and Allegro’ remains definitive. With his playing in mind, Britten composed much of the ,War Requiem, and ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ among many other works (his Hon D.Mus from the University of Wales was awarded for his work as a leading virtuoso as well as his other accomplishments, by the way). Perhaps the most rewarding part of the book is the sheer variety and colourful nature of the characters represented within. The scope is indeed wide from the work of Delyth Jenkins with Cromlech and Aberjaber to Rhodri Davies’s alternative approach using resonating devices and so forth to make the harp sound new and varied, to the folk rooted fusion of Sian James to the jazz style of Amanda Whiting-the range is beyond the musical imagination of the musical 1970’s let alone earlier eras. Included also are Dafydd and Gwyndaf Roberts and their pioneering work with Arlog as well as Twm Morys’s highly personal fusion of poetry and the contemporary scene (and there is surely no ‘to bach’ on the ‘w’ in Twm’s name-or have I missed something?). Just as the stubborn determination and abilities of the harp makers runs as a constant theme throughout the book so to does the role of pedagogy. Like earlier poetic tradition there is a strong family feel to the handing down of expertise from one generation to the next. Elinor Bennett was taught by Alwena Roberts, knew Nansi Richards, studied with Osian Ellis and taught Catrin Finch who eventually became her daughter in law. How about that for lineage! The book also reflects the equally vital local linkages between teacher and pupil (and think of the cost for the parents of Rhiannon, Hafwen and Branwen Lewis or sisters Llinos and Alaw Jones in having more than one harpist in the house!). Also reflected are the international links- the itinerant careers of so many of the leading performers often fed by study abroad as in the case of Ann Griffiths (who studied in Paris). The text could arguably have been more tightly edited with a better synthesis in places as well as greater care of spelling and grammar at times. The photography is of very good quality and captures each subject with humanity and humility and inevitably brings the instrument as well as the performers well to the fore. Short dictionary-like descriptors of each subject would have been welcome as well as the author’s pen portraits as they would surely reinforce the considerable achievements of the main protagonists. Our singers have been arguably more prominent on the world stage but our harpists have been no less successful and from the eighteenth century onwards have often been in the front rank of performance practice. If anything at all shines through this volume it is the sheer exuberance and love of performing, the devotion to craft in whatever genre and the sense of belonging to a tradition that has never really left he harping community. With harp schools, competitions, the Eisteddfod, Cerdd Dant and international gatherings and competitions well in place the harp is well placed in Wales for further development in the twenty first century. Dr Lyn Davies

http://www.cambriamagazine.co.uk/the-vital-presence-of-the-harp-in-our-c...

19/12/2013 - 11:50
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