minstrel: Apology (Longish)

hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu
Wed Mar 15 15:02:17 PST 2000

> Lady Jennet wrote:
> > My
> > persona happens
> > to be late-period Welsh and, to my knowledge, there are few
> > existing vocal
> > pieces that are decidedly Welsh and that are documentably period.  Harp
> > pieces we have, vocal pieces, not so much.

A problem near and dear to my own heart!  Although I can hardly claim to
have spent a great deal of time on the question recently (silly PhD!), so
far I've only identified one (1) vocal piece in Welsh for which we know
and have the tune to which it was sung at the time.  (Edmwnd Prys' "Song
of Summer" to the tune of "About the Bank of Helicon" -- although I
haven't ascertained whether it was written before 1600, as he lived until
1623.  In 1621 he published metrical settings of the psalms in Welsh with
some of the tunes included.)  The item at least gives an anchor for
extrapolation and speculation (e.g., "some late-period Welsh lyrics were
sung to widely-known tunes popular throughout Britain").  For another
"anchor", some time ago I posted a list of tunes performed at a
late-period Christmas celebration in Wales -- a list that again showed a
unity with English musical culture of the time. Apart from the use of the
Welsh language for lyrics, it's difficult to identify anything
"characteristically Welsh" in the available data -- and audiences have a
limited (although non-zero) tolerance for being sung to in Welsh!

One of my "maybe some day" projects is to take the 14th century Latin
liturgy for St. David's Day for which we have notation available, and work
across from contemporary religious verse and prose in Welsh to try to
develop a performable Medieval Welsh version of the material.  Then all
I'll need is a choir willing to perform chant in Welsh ....

I actually have reasonable hopes that there are more works like Prys' out
there where known popular tunes are indicated for performance.  There's a
vast amount of Elizabethan-era Welsh literature out there, although not
easily accessible.


Heather Rose Jones         hrjones at socrates.berkeley.edu

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