St. Paul’s Organist and Folk Harpist release CD to celebrate St. David’s Day
A CD of Welsh music for use within wedding ceremonies is being released on the 1st of March by the Organist of St Paul’s Cathedral, Huw Williams and distinguished Welsh folk harpist, Carys Owen. Wedding CD’s have become increasingly popular, with the modern fashion for civil ceremonies and the desire to ‘personalise’ every aspect of the day.
“This is the first CD of its kind to offer Welsh couples the opportunity to express their identity through music” says Emyr Rhys of Aran Records. “Items include Romantic Welsh folk melodies for harp in arrangements by Nansi Richards – Telynores Maldwyn and John Thomas – Pencerdd Gwalia as well as original compositions for organ by Karl Jenkins and William Mathias.”
Born in 1971 in Swansea, and a fluent Welsh speaker, Huw Williams was Organ Scholar at Christ’s College, Cambridge then studied at the Royal Academy of Music and in Holland. He became Assistant Organist at Hereford Cathedral and was closely involved with the famous Three Choirs Festival. Having been appointed to his position at St. Paul’s in 1998 he now lives in London with his young family, but his recital performances have taken him to Canada, the USA, and all over Europe. Huw has also performed with many ensembles: the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, National Orchestra of Wales, City of London Sinfonia, London Mozart Players, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and The Sixteen.
“To record something specifically for the Welsh market was very appealing to me” says Huw “as I’m something of an ambassador to the Welsh in London. I hope that this project creates more interest in Welsh classical music.”
Three of the pieces for organ on the CD are by the late William Mathias. A former Professor of Music at the University of Wales, Bangor, and particularly noted for his church music including a piece that was especially commissioned for the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. Huw’s own wedding to his wife Angela included music by Mathias, so does he feel that there’s a place within a wedding ceremony to celebrate national identity? “Yes, the wedding ceremony represents the joining of two people, so the service should express the personality and background of that man and woman. Music, used in this context, reinforces our national identity, but first class pieces such as these also transcend their cultural origins.”
Originally from Bow Street, near Aberystwyth, Carys Roberts studied Music at Manchester University. Following her degree she undertook further study in ‘Welsh traditional Music’ at Bangor University, for which she was awarded an M.A.. Subsequently she has played the harp professionally, worked for the Welsh Arts Council and is now a tv producer on a Welsh arts magazine programme. Throughout this time Carys has recorded and toured as a member of the Welsh folk group – ‘Ogam’. “The harp has a particularly strong connection with Welsh culture and we have a rich tradition of pieces written for the instrument” she says. “More recently people have begun to borrow melodies from the ‘cerdd dant’ tradition for use as processionals and recessionals within the wedding ceremony. These ‘ceinciau’ have a grace and elegance that makes them particularly suitable, whilst also being uniquely Welsh.”
Elsewhere in the collection Carys plays arrangements of traditional Welsh songs. So what made her choose these particular melodies? “They all have one thing in common – they all talk about love, and some, such as ‘Ar lan y môr’ are widely recognised in that context.”
Whilst recording the CD, Carys was heavily pregnant and she and her husband Siôn have recently celebrated the birth of their first child – Luned Swyn. How does Carys anticipate couples will use this CD? “When people ask me to play at their wedding, they know that they want a harpist and they know that they want Welsh pieces. This will help the bride and groom to choose the specific pieces they require. Also, with people choosing to marry in so many unusual locations, sometimes abroad, this music will bring a Welsh flavour to proceedings, wherever they may be!”
An interesting footnote to this CD is the history of the fine organ used for the recording. This was built for the elderly Duke of Wellington in 1851. Ironically, as a young man, the ‘Iron Duke’ had no desire for a military career. Instead he wished to pursue his love of music. Following his mother’s wishes, however, he joined a Highland regiment. After defeating Napoleon and a long political career including a period as Prime Minister this organ was built by the great Victorian organ builder ‘Father’ Henry Willis as a gift from a ‘grateful nation’. It was installed at the Duke’s home, “Apsley House”, No.1 Piccadilly, London and remained there until it was put into storage during the second world war. In 1945 it was bought by Whitchurch Methodist Church, Aylesbury and carefully restored to its original condition in 1999. “We were very lucky to find it” says Emyr Rhys, “but then this collection has been a pleasure to produce, from start to finish.”
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.