Traditional Welsh Music & Clogging
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Renowned Welsh triple harpist, Robin Huw Bowen has brought together the most exciting new folk band to come out of Wales in the last twenty years. He is joined by Stephen Rees, a fiddler known from his work with the premier Welsh folk band Ar Log, Andy McLauchlin, a flute player and a multi-instrumentalist, and the clogging and guitar of Huw Williams, who is known as part of the singer/songwriter duo Huw & Tony Williams and for the songs he has written that have been recorded by many other musicians.
Click here to listen and see a live performance at the Kennedy Center's Millenium Stage on October 4, 2002.
Robin Huw Bowen is probably the best known Welsh folk musician who tours regularly in North America. Like the Irish, the Welsh have their own style of percussive tap dance or clogging and in Wales the band traditionally includes the triple harp. Crasdant concerts are an exciting opportunity to explore the music and dance of one of the lesser-known Celtic cultures.
In addition to concerts, Crasdant are in demand to teach workshops in Welsh clogging, and Welsh traditional music. They can work individually with instrumentalists and dancers or present lecture/demonstrations on traditional styles of variation and harmonization, as well as talking about their research into the music.
Huw Williams: clogging
Huw Williams has been performing Welsh step-dancing since the age of fifteen. Since then he has become a major force in the field of folk music and dance and his book on clogging is in its third printing. He won several titles at the Welsh National Championships and is in great demand with both radio and television in the U.K. His style of performance is unique, blending traditional steps with contemporary ideas, and as one expert said, "...is the best by far of anything that has ever been seen."
Welsh step-dancing (or Clogging, the term that is more popular in Wales) is the only type of Welsh dance which has continued in an unbroken tradition. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the puritanical revivals in Wales almost wiped out many forms of folk culture, and especially traditional dance. However the popularity of clogging's combination of infectious rhythms with dynamic style kept this tradition alive and it continues to thrive and evolve.
The main difference between Welsh clogging and other Celtic and American styles of solo percussive dance, is that Welsh dancers wear wooden clogs, and not merely hard shoes. The sole and heel of a Welsh clog are carved from one piece of wood, to form a shaped "platform" under the whole foot, onto which the leather upper is fixed, giving it the appearance of a normal shoe. However the sole does not bend, creating different movements for the feet, and different possibilities for percussive additions to the music.
Like American clogging, the Welsh include a variety of energetic "feats" or "tricks", and each clogger is eager to show off his own dexterity and inventiveness. Welsh clogging commonly includes steps such as a Coassack-style kicking squat (called the "Toby"), or high jumping, jumping over a bezum broom, or even trying to snuff out a lighted candle with his feet during the dance.
Stephen Rees: Fiddle,Pibgorn & Accordion
Born and brought up in Wales, Stephen has a degree from Selwyn College, Cambridge and currently teaches music at the Music University of Wales in Bangor. He has been playing music for Welsh dancers for years, and in 1989 he accompanied Huw Williams and Tim Brown when they won the national Eisteddfod at Llanrwst. Stephen was a member of Ar Log, possibily the best known of all of the Welsh folk groups, from 1982 until 1994.
He is especially interested in researching Welsh traditional music, including performance practice of the Renaissance and Middle Ages. When not teaching and performing Stephen works on music programs for Welsh language television.
Andy McLauchlin: Flute, Pibgorn & Whistle
Andy was born in St. Albans of a Scottish mother and an English father. A school trip to Snowdonia at the age of fourteen introduced him to Wales and started his fascination with Welsh culture and music. Later he learned to speak Welsh, went to Bangor University where he studied biochemistry and spent his free time learning Welsh folk dances.
His first instrument had been the bassoon, but after hearing Welsh musician and instrument maker Jonathan Shorland perform, he took up the "simple-system" flute and the pibgorn.This type of flute, made of wood with several keys, is a remnant of the last century and isoften seen in Irish bands. The pibgorn is a hornpipe, with a cow's horn on either end and is reminiscent of the Breton bombard.
Robin Huw Bowen: Triple Harp
Robin is recognized internationally as the leading exponent of the Welsh national instrument, the triple harp, which has three sets of strings. He is noted for his research and publications of the traditional dance music of Wales and also his research and recording of the music of the Welsh Gypsies. In 2000 Robin was awarded the Glyndwr Award for "an outstanding contribution to the arts in Wales".
Robin has played and toured with bands such as Mabsant and Cusan Tân, as well as touring solo regularly in Austrailia, North America, Germany and other parts of the world.
For more information, visit Crasdant'sweb site.
The Press Are Saying...
...this ensemble works together as a team of equals, each bringing their
own strengths to build a unified whole. The result is some of the
finest ensemble work to come out of Wales. Overall, I believe
Crasdant holds the key to the future of Welsh instrumental music...
Their blend of excellent musicianship, memorable harmonic lines,
and true ensemble spirit are the exact combination needed to
concoct the elixir of Welsh instrumental music.
Supergroups have a chequered history in folk music, sometimes they flare brilliantly
but briefly, all too often the sum is less than the parts. Crasdant has brought together four of
the prime exponents of Welsh tradition, four great players who have all worked tirelessly to
push the music on, add to its repertoire and give others the chance to participate. For my money,
it works brilliantly.
Welsh music is given the guile and clout more often afforded to its more revered
Celtic cousins...flying feet beating the time faster and faster as his dance whirls to a climaxl.
Wales has found its own Patrick Street.
Their first act was definately NOT like anything I'd heard on their CD. It was far more polished and was setting in to be a praisworthy performance.
Robin Huw played a brilliant and sparkling offering of a gypsy tune given to him by Eldra Jarman, called 'Y Dydd' (the Day). This was dedicated to a long-time friend and sound engineer on his CDs who recently died whilst Robin was on tour in Australia. I have to admit my hearstrings were pulled, I was on the verge of tears, and noticed a slight but reverent deliberation before the audience applauded. Robin has got to be one of the top performers, giving Welsh triple harp the airing it so rightly deserves, and his show on this night was one of the best I've ever seen or heard.
Huw Williams gave great input not only with his guitar playing, singing and clog dancing, but his cutting wit and humour shone through and kept us highly amused in times on tuning, reed adjustment and change of shoes!
The second half proved to be even better than that of the first half. Fantastic arrangements between a multitude of instruments...fiddles, accordion, whistles, flute and pibgyrn (pl. pibgorn). Stephen made use of scordatura tuning (different tuning from the regular G-D-A-E) on one of his fiddles to give a great resonant accompaniment to one of the sets. Andy Mac was certainly enjoying himself on stage. I suppose it's really hard to play flute and smile at the same time, but he seemed to manage!
Andy Mac and Stephen both played the Pibgyrn in various tunes but especially in the encore...Do I give the game away? Well...I thought it was spectacular as the brass section piped up... But that's not unusual!
A great little venue, a splendid gig and a superb band... Go and
see for yourselves.
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