Caneuon Gwerin

Archwilio ac arddangos caneuon Gwerin o Gymru / Exploring and showcasing folk songs from Wales

Archive for the category “Religious”

Dyledwyr ŷm i Seinio Clod

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Ble oeddech chi am 6 o’r gloch ar fore dydd Nadolig? Roeddwn i a fy nheulu yng Nghapel John Hughes ym Mhontrobert, Maldwyn (llun uchod oddi ar www.montgomeryshiregs.org.uk), ar gyfer y Plygain ben bore (gwelwch fy mlog o flwyddyn dwethaf am esboniad o’r draddodiad Plygain). Dyma un o dim ond ychydig o Blygeiniau sydd dal yn digwydd yn gynar ar fore Nadolig. Roedd y capel fach yn llawn a chawsom dau rownd efo chwech pharti/unigolion yn cymryd rhan. Cenais Cloch Erfyl efo fy nhad a fy mrawd yn y rownd gyntaf a Dyledwyr ŷm i Seinio Clod fel deuawd efo fy mrawd yn y ail rownd.

Darganfyddais Dyledwyr ŷm i Seinio Clod eleni wrth wrando ar fy nghopi o’r CD Ar Dymor Gaeaf: Carolau Plygain. Cefais fy nhrawio gan y llinell harmoni agos iawn, yn enwedig effeithrwydd y llinell disgynnol yn y cymal olaf. Roeddwn i’n falch o allu dod o hyd i’r gân yn llyfr Geraint Vaughan-Jones, Mwy o Hen Garolau Plygain.

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Carol ar fesur ‘Llygoden yn y Felin’

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Mae’r cyfnod Plygain rwan yn para hyd at yr ail Sul ar ôl Nadolig felly dwi ddim yn rhy hwyr yn postio’r gân Plygain olaf. Fel dwedais mewn postiau gynharach mae’r garol Plygain arferol yn cael ei ganu gan dri person mewn tri llais. Serch hyn, mae sawl deuawd ac unawd ar gael hefyd. Mae Carol ar fesur ‘Llygoden yn y Felin’ yn un o’r deuawdau yma.

Bugeiliad ac angylion ohttp://www.radical.net/blog/2012/12/christmas-hymn/

Bugeiliad ac angylion ohttp://www.radical.net/blog/2012/12/christmas-hymn/

Mae’r gân yn rhanu nodweddion efo rhai o’r garolau Plygain eraill dwi wedi ysgrifennu amdanynt. Fel Daeth Nadolig mae’r pwnc yn Nadoligaidd ac mae’r gair ‘Plygain’ hyd yn oed yn ymddangos ynddi. Mae’r geiriau yn canolbwyntio ar yr angylion a’u cân. Dwi’n hoffi’r delwedd ar ddechrau’r ail bennill lle mae’n dweud taw canu’r angylion uwch Bethlehem byddai’r Plygain fwyaf erioed.

Mae strwythyr cerddorol y gân yn ddiddorol – dim ond 2 pennill sydd ganddi ond mae nhw’n benillion hir. Mae’r alaw yn un draddodiadol (gwler isod) felly mae’r strwythyr yn gwneud synwyr – mae gan y rhan fwyaf o alawon werin strwythyr AABB. Dim ond 2 bar mae pob llinell o eiriau yn cymryd i’w ganu sy’n golygu bod amser am 16 llinell o fewn pob pennill. Yn ffodus, mae’r alaw yn ddiddorol felly dydych chi ddim yn diflasu wrth wrando arni!

Gwreiddiau

Fy nhad, David Thomas, a brawd, Hedd, sy’n canu yma. Cafon nhw y gân allan o’r llyfr Mwy o Garolau Plygain gan Geraint Vaughan-Jones.

Mae fy nhad a brawd yn galw’r gân yn ‘Llygoden yn y Felin’ ond mewn gwirionedd does gan y gân ddim teitl – yn y llyfr “Carol ar fesur ‘Llygoden yn yr Eglwys'” yw ei enw ond mae hwn yn ddisgrifiad yn fwy nag enw. Mae Llygoden yn y Felin yn alaw werin traddodiadol a felly mae’r cân yma yn eistedd yn gofforddus yn y draddodiad o ganeuon Plygain a chaneuon gwerin sydd wedi rhoi geiriau newydd ar alaw oedd yn bodoli yn barod.

Yn ôl Dr Chris Groom yn Enwau Alawon – Llyfrau a Llawysgrifau Cymraeg: 17g-19g mae’r alaw yn ymddangos yn Gardd o Gerddi, Neu, Gasgiad o Ganiadau: Sef, Carolau, Marwnadau, Cerddi, Awdlau, Englynion, Cywyddau, &c. Gwedi eu cyfansoddi ar amrywiol Destynau a Mesurau (Rhuthin: R. Jones, 1826) fel alaw ar gyfer y gerdd ‘Cerdd Ymddyrchafiaeth yr hwsmon’ gan Thomas Edawrds (neu Twm o’r Nant). Gwyddem felly bod yr alaw yn bodoli rhywbryd cyn 1826. Enw arall ar gyfer yr alaw yw Duc o Dero. Yn Mwy o Garolau Plygain T. Williams yw’r enw wrth y geiriau ond dydw i ddim yn gwybod dim o’i hanes yn anffodus.

Ble Nesaf

Hyd y gwn i does neb wedi recordio’r carol. Mae yna trac ar CD Mabsant o’r enw Ton Gron (Fflach, 1990) o’r enw ‘Llamiad Bach o Gwrw / Llygoden yn y Felin’ ond nid alaw y garol mae nhw’n chwarae.

Geiriau

Gwrandewch yn llon a dewch yn llu,
Dadseiniwn yn gysonol gân
Gan uno’n deg o fewn ei dŷ,
Rhown glod i’r Iesu glân;
Heddiw yn deg cyhoeddiad yw
I ddynol ryw, trwy dduwiol ras
I gofio’r dydd y daeth Mab Duw,
Oen gwiw, mewn agwedd gwas;
Fe ddaeth angylion llon eu llef
I gario n’wyddion gorau’r Nef.
Gan ddweud heb gêl wrth y bugeiliaid
Y dydd y ganed Ef –
“Mae uchel Geidwad, yn ddyn gwael –
Sef Crist yr Arglwydd hylwydd hael
Yn ninas Dafydd ar y wawr dydd
Ar gynnydd i chwi gael.”

Y blygain gynta’ a’r fwya’ fu
Rhwng gwychion lu goruwch y llawr,
Yn seinio cân ag atsain cu
Am eni’r Iesu mawr;
Gogoniant Duw a ganent hwy
Mewn canmoladwy seingar lef
Tangnefedd rhad i ninnau trwy
Ei fawr gynhorthwy Ef;
Cael yr Eneiniog gyda’r wawr
Yn godiad myrdd, yn Geidwad mawr,
Cyfiawnder Duwdod yn y dyndod
I achub llychod llawr;
Nid clywed n’wyddion lwysion lef
Oedd ddigon, gwelwn, i’r bugeiliaid,
Ond “Awn i’w weled Ef!”

Carol to the tune of ‘Mouse in the Mill’

The Plygain season now lasts until the second Sunday after Christmas so I’m not too late posting this final Plygain song. As I said in previous posts Plygain carols are usually sung by three people in three part. However, there are also several duets and solos. Carol as fesur ‘Llygoden yn y Felin’ is one of these duets.

This song shares several characteristics with other Plygain carols I’ve written about. Like Daeth Nadolig the topic is very Christmassy and the word ‘Plygain’ ever appears in the lyrics. The words focus on the angels and their song. I like the image at the beginning of the second verse where the lyrics tell us that the angels singing above Bethlehem was be the biggest Plygain ever.

The song’s musical structure is interesting – it’s only got 2 verses but they’re long ones. The tune is traditional (see below) so the structure makes sense – most folk tunes have an AABB structure. Each line of lyrics only takes two bars to be sung so there’s time for 16 lines of text in each verse! Fortunately the tune is interesting so you don’t get bored listening to it!

Origins

It’s my dad, David Thomas, and brother, Hedd, who are singing here. They got the song out of the Mwy o Garolau Plygain book by Geraint Vaughan-Jones.

My dad and brother call the song ‘Llygoden yn y Felin’ (Mouse in the Mill) but it the song doesn’t really have a title – in the book it’s called “Carol ar fesur ‘Llygoden yn y Felin'” (Carol on the ‘Mouse in the Mill’ metre) but this is a description more than a name. Llygoden yn y Felin is a traditional tune so this song sits comfortably in the long tradition of folk and Plygain song lyrics being written to fit with a pre-existing tune.

According to Dr Chris Groom in Melody Names – Select Welsh Books and Manuscripts: 17c-19c the tune appears in Gardd o Gerddi, Neu, Gasgiad o Ganiadau: Sef, Carolau, Marwnadau, Cerddi, Awdlau, Englynion, Cywyddau, &c. Gwedi eu cyfansoddi ar amrywiol Destynau a Mesurau (Rhuthin: R. Jones, 1826) as a tune for the poem ‘Cerdd Ymddyrchafiaeth yr hwsmon’ (The exaltation of the farm bailiff) by Thomas Edwards (aka Twm o’r Nant). We therefore know that the tune existed sometime before 1826. The tune is sometimes also called Duc o Dero. In Mwy o Garolau Plygain the book the words are attributed to T. Williams but unfortunately I don’t know anything about him.

Where next

As far as I know no one has recorded the carol. There’s a track on Mabsant’s CD Ton Gron (Fflach, 1990) called ‘Llamiad Bach o Gwrw / Llygoden yn y Felin’ but the tune they play isn’t the same as the one for the carol.

Lyrics

Listen gladly and come in your droves,
We’ll sing out our constant song,
In unity within His house,
We’ll praise the holy Jesus;
Today the fine announcement is
For mankind, through the godly race
To remember the day that God’s Son came,
Meet lamb, in the form of a servant;
The angels came in merry voice
To carry the best news of Heaven.
Telling the shepherds truthfully
On the day He was born –
“The high Saviour, is now a lowly man –
Christ the Lord will prosper greatly
In David’s city at the break of day
He will help you all to progress.”

The first and biggest every plygain took place
Between the brilliant host above the ground,
Singing a song with a fond echo
About the birth of the great Jesus;
They sing of God’s glory
In a praiseworthy sonorous voice
We will gain a gracious peace through
His great help;
The Messiah comes with the dawn
A myriad with arise, the great Saviour,
The righteousness of the Godly in humanity
To save the dust of the earth;
Hearing the news from the kingdom of heaven
From the holy angels’ voices
Was not enough, we see, for the shepherds
So they said “Let’s go and see Him!”

Cloch Erfyl

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Ychydig o flynyddoedd yn ôl penderfynnais i, fy nhad a fy mrawd i ddysgu un neu ddau o ganeuon Plygain baswn ni’n gallu canu fel triawd o amgylch gwasnaethau Maldwyn. Doedden ni ddim eisiau gwneud un o’r rhai poblogaidd, megus Daeth Nadolig, neu basau’n rhaid i ni wastad gwneud yn siwr ein bod ni’n canu’n gyntaf rhag ofn i barti arall canu’r gân cyn ni! Aethom felly trwy y ddau lyfr o garolau Plygain cafodd eu casglu gan Geraint Vaughan-Jones o’r enw Hen Garolau Plygain a Mwy o Garolau Plygain a dod o hyd i Gloch Erfyl a Bryniau Iwerddon. I’n mawr rhyddhad dyden ni ddim eto wedi clywed rhywun arall yn canu’r caneuon hyn mewn gwasanaeth Plygain.

Nativity scene from photobucket.

Nativity scene from photobucket.

Fel Daeth Nadolig, mae Cloch Erfyl yn gân Plygain sy’n sôn am stori geni Crist. Ond, fel llawer o ganeuon Plygain, mae hi hefyd yn sôn am y groes a Chalfari sy’n gwneud hi’n fwy ddifrifol na llawer o garolau modern.

Dwi’n hoffi strwythyr gerddorol y gân – mae’r strywthyr AABA yn rhoi brîg naturiol yn y 5ed a’r 6ed llinellau. Mae geiriau y llinellau yn y tri pennill yn addus iawn i’r brîg gerddorol gan bod nhw’n sôn am gweld Iesu am y tro cyntaf, canu efo’r angylion a Hosanna llon. Dwi hefyd yn hoffi y tamed bach o boliffoni ar ddiwedd ar adrannau A.

Gwreiddiau

Yn anffodus does dim nodiadau ar gael ar y caneuon yn Hen Garolau Plygain. Mae gan y rhan fwyaf ohonynt enw awdur ar ôl y geiriau felly gwyddem taw Geraint Vaughan-Jones ei hun ysgrifennodd y geiriau i Gloch Erfyl yn 1983. Mae’r ffaith bod hi ddim wedi ei sgwennu tan diwedd yr ugeinfed ganrif yn esbonio pam fod ganddi dim ond 3 pennill – mae rhai caneuon Plygain llawer yn hirach ac yn dod o adeg y baledi hir pan oedd gan gynulleidfaoedd ‘attention span’ hirach nag heddiw!

Does dim byd yn Hen Garolau Plygain i esbonio pwy ysgrifennodd yr alaw. Efallai bod hi’n alaw traddodiadol neu’n alaw oedd yn perthyn i gân werin yn barod. Mae’r teitl yn un ddiddorol gan nad ydy hi’n gysylltiedig â geiriau y gân. Efallai Cloch Erfyl oedd enw’r alaw / cân werin wreiddiol neu efallai bod Y Parch Vaughan-Jones wedi rhoi’r enw Cloch Erfyl ar y gân gan fod o wedi ei chyfansoddi yn Llanerfyl pan oedd y cloch yn canu. Os gwyddoch yr ateb cywir, gadewch sylw isod.

Ble Nesaf

Gallwch clywed trefniant Gareth Bonello o’r gân ar y CD Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Plygain (2010, Anhrefn Records) dwi wedi crybwyll mewn postiau blaenorol.

Yn Rhagfur 2013 rhuddhaodd Gareth Bonello EP fer o ddarnau offerynnol hyfryd yn seiliedig ar alawon Plygain o’r enw Plygeiniwch! (Bubble Wrap Collective). Gallwch clywed ei fersiwn o Gloch Erfyl ar soundcloud.

Mae Harriet Earis a Sharron Kraus yn chwarae cerddoriaeth offerynnol nadoligaeth. Dwi ddim yn meddwl bod nhw wedi recordio CD on gallwch clywed ychydig o’u gosodiad o Gloch Erfyl ar eu gwefan.

Geiriau

Daeth cennad o’r Nef i Fethlehem dref
I draethu’r newyddion hael
Fod Ceidwad a Brawd yn Faban tylawd
Yn gorwedd mewn beudy gwael,
Ac wele Ef, Tywysog Nef,
Eneiniog mawr y Tad,
Ym mreichiau Mair ar wely o wair
Yn isel ei ystad.

Ffynhonnell yr Iawn yn eiddil a gawn
Ar fronnau Mareia lon;
Rhyfeddod o hyd gweld Iachawdwr y byd
Yn faban ar liniau hon!
Cydgenwch gân, angylion glân,
I foli Aer y Nef:
I’n gwared o’n loes trwy farw ar groes
O’i lys disgynnodd Ef.

Gogoniant i’r Tad a roddwyd ei Fab
Yn bridwerth trosom ni.
Ein cadw fe all rhag poenau y Fall
Drwy rinwedd Calfari.
Hosanna sy yn llonni’r llu
Uwch meysydd Bethlehem;
Yn fychan a mawr, holl deulu y llawr,
Moliannwn Ef. Amen.

The Bell of Erfyl

A few years ago my dad, my brother and I decided to learn a Plygain song or two to sing as a trio in some of the Montgomeryshire Plygain services. We didn’t want to do one of the popular ones, like Daeth Nadolig, otherwise we’d have to make sure we always sang first in case another party sang the song before us! So we looked through the two books of Plygain carols collected by Geraint Vaughan-Jones called Hen Garolau Plygain (Old Plygain Carols) and Mwy o Garolau Plygain (More Plygain Carols) and came across Cloch Erfyl and Bryniau Iwerddon. To our relief we’ve still not heard anyone else sing these songs at a Plygain service.

St Erfyl's Church from wikipedia.

St Erfyl’s Church from wikipedia.

Like Daeth Nadolig, Cloch Erfyl is a Plygain song about the nativity story. But, like lots of Plygain songs, it also talks about the cross and Calvary making it a bit more serious than many modern carols.

I like the musical structure of the song – its AABA structure gives a natural pinnacle to the 5th and 6th lines. The words in these lines in the three verses are appropriate to this musical pinnacle as they talk about seeing Jesus for the first time, singing with the angels and cheers of Hosanna. I also like the touch of polyphony at the end of the A phrases.

Origins

Unfortunately there are no explanatory notes on the songs in Hen Garolau Plygain. The majority of them have the name of the author at the end of the lyrics so we know that Geraint Vaughan-Jones himself wrote the words to Cloch Efyl in 1983. The fact that it wasn’t written until the end of the 20th century explains why there are only 3 verses – some Plygain songs are much longer and come from a the period of long ballads when audiences had longer attention spans than they do today!

There is nothing in Hen Garolau Plygain to explain who wrote the melody. Perhaps it’s a traditional tune or a melody which already belonged to a folk song. The title is interesting because it’s not connected with the lyrics. Perhaps Cloch Erfyl was the name of the original folk song / tune or perhaps the Rev Vaughan-Jones called the tune Cloch Erfyl because he composed it in Llanerfyl when the bells were ringing. If you know the correct answer, leave a comment below.

Where next

You can hear Gareth Bonello’s arrangement of the song on Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Plygain (2010, Anhrefn Records) CD which I’ve mentioned in previous posts.

In December 2013 Gareth Bonello released a short EP of lovely instrumental pieces based on Plygain melodies called Plygeiniwch! (Bubble Wrap Collective). You can hear his version of Cloch Erfyl ar soundcloud.

Harriet Earis and Sharron Kraus play instrumental Christmassy music. I don’t think they’ve recorded a CD but you can hear an extract of them playing Cloch Erfyl on their website.

Lyrics

A messenger came from Heaven to Bethlehem town
To declare the good news
That a Savoiur and Brother as a poor Baby
Was lying in a lowly stable,
And see Him, Prince of Heaven,
Anointed by the Father,
In Mary’s arms on a bed of straw
Low in his estate.

The source of Righteousness we find feeble
Feeding on the breasts of glad Maria;
A wonder still to see the Saviour of the world
As a baby on her lap!
Sing a song together, pure angels,
To praise the Heir of Heaven:
In order to deliver us from pain by dying on the cross
He descended from His court.

Glory to the Father who gave his Son
As a dowry for us.
He can protect us from the pains of Evil
Through the virtue of Calvary.
Hosanna cheers the host
Above the fields of Bethlehem;
The small and large, the whole family of earth,
Praise Him. Amen.

Daeth Nadolig

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Plygain

Yn y post dwethaf addewais cyflwyniad i’r draddodiad Plygain i fynd efo’r post yma. Mae’r traddodiad o ganu carolau Plygain yn hen iawn – gwyddem o eiriau Catholig rhai o’r caneuon bod hi’n dyddio nôl i’r adeg cyn y diwygiad Protestanaidd yn y 16fed ganrif.

Yn draddodiadol roedd teuluoedd (neu y dynion o leiaf) arfer mynd o gwmpas tai eu cymdogion ar Noswyl Nadolig yn sgwrsio, yfed ac yn tynnu taffi oddi ar yr aelwydydd. Yna basau pawb yn cerdded i’r eglwys wrth olau canwyllau gan gyrraedd tra bod hi dal yn dywyll. Yn adegau hwyrach basau pobl yn mynd i’r dafarn cyn y gwasanaeth yn lle tai cymdogion. Roedd y gwasanaeth yn cymryd lle yng ngolau canwyllau felly mae straeon am fechgyn direudus yn llosgi gwallt y merched yn y sedd o’u blaenau a fe losgodd un eglwys yn Sir y Fflint i lawr yn ystod gwasanaeth! Os aeth y gwasanaeth ymlaen heb broblemau gyda thân basau hi’n mynd ymlaen tan torriad dydd. Daw’r gair ‘Plygain’ o’r lladin ‘pullicantio’, sy’n golygu ‘ar ganiad y ceiliog’ h.y. toriad gwawr.

Y dyddiau hyn mae’r rhan fwyaf o Blygeiniau yn cymryd rhan min nos o tua 6yh tan 8yh. Dechraeodd y Blygain marw allan mewn rhai ardaloedd ond mae yna draddodiad di-dor ym Maldwyn, lle cefais fy magu. Mae Arfon Gwilym, arbennigwr ar ganeuon Plygain, yn dweud taw Malwdyn oedd un o’r llefydd cyntaf i newid i Blygeiniau min nos yn lle ben bore a bod hyn yn allweddol mewn helpu’r traddodiad i barhau. Hefyd, Malwdyn oedd un o’r llefydd lle newidwyd y Plygain o fod yn rhywbeth bore Nadolig yn unig at rywbeth sy’n cymryd lle dros gyfnod y Nadolig. Rwan cewch gwasanaethau o ddechrau Adfent tan y Sul pythefnos ar ôl Nadolig. Ym Maldwyn mae’r cyfnod Plygain yn gorffen efo’r ‘Blygain Fawr’ yn Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa.

Llanfighangel Church

Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa church, © Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru 2001, found via http://www.peoplescollectionwales.co.uk/Home

Mae gwasanaeth Plygain yn wahanol i bob gwasanaeth crefyddol arall byddwch erioed wedi mynychu. Yn gyntaf, dydy’r ficer ddim yn chwarae rôl fawr o gwbwl. Gwelwch fo / hi am 10 munud ar ddechrau’r noson (croeso, darlleniad, cyflwyno carol mae pawb yn canu, yna cyhoeddi bod y Blygain ar agor), munud yn y canol (i gyflwyno carol cynulleidfaol arall) a 5 munud ar y diwedd (i roi bendith). I rywun sydd heb fod i wasanaeth Plygain o’r blaen efallai basau’n edrych fel petai beth sy’n digwydd rhwng y croeso a’r bendith yn digwydd trwy hud ond, mewn gwirionedd, mae’r holl beth yn eithaf anarchaidd!Bydd rhwng 6 a 20 o bartion Plygain yn y gwasanaeth yn barod i ganu ond does neb yn trafod y trefn o flaen llaw. Ar ôl i’r ficer agor y Blygain bydd tamed o oedi – does neb eisiau edrych yn ddigwilydd wrth neidio o flaen parti mwy profiadol a pharchedig. Ar ôl i’r parti cyntaf canu bydd tamed o oedi eto. Oes unrhywun gwir eisiau mynd yn ail, yn enwedig os oedd y parti gyntaf yn dda? Wedi’r ail parti mae’r gwasanaeth yn dechrau rowlio yn fyw naturiol a weithiau bydd mwy nag un parti yn sefyll ar yr un pryd sydd ychydig yn ddigri. Yn y sefyllfa yma mae’r parti sy’n eistedd tuag at flaen yr eglwys yn mynd yn gyntaf tra bod y parti arall yn eistedd lawr ac yn ceisio eto.

Gallwch edrych o gwmpas yr eglwys a cheisio gweld pob parti ac unigolyn rydych yn meddwl bydd eisiau cyfrannu ond does dim modd pendent o wybod faint o bobl bydd yn canu y noson honno. Cewch felly cyfnod arall o oedi ar ôl y parti olaf. “A oes unrhywyn arall eisiau cymryd rhan?” bydd y ficer yn gofyn cyn cyhoeddi bod yr ail rownd ar agor. Mae’r ail rownd yn dilyn yr un trefn a’r rownd cyntaf felly mae llai o oedi a lletchwithdod. Yn yr hen ddyddiau basau’r canu yn parhau tan y wawr a basau rhaid i’r partion paratoi digon o ganeuon i lenwi nifer o rowndiau. Y dyddiau hyn 2 rownd yw’r nifer arferol, 3 os does dim llawer o berfformwyr yn cymryd rhan. Ar ôl y rownd olaf bydd pawb sydd wedi cymryd rhan yn y gwasanaeth yn dod i flaen yr eglwys i ganu Carol y Swper. Mae’r gân i fod i gyfeirio at y swper olaf, ond dwi wastad yn meddwl bod y cantorion yn meddwl mwy am y swper bydd ar gael yn neuadd yr esglwys / pentref ar ôl ddwy awr o ganu fawr!

Dwi wrth fy modd efo’r ffordd mae’r gwasanaeth yn cymryd rhan efo dim arweinydd na threfn pendant ond digonedd o barch tuag at y partion profiadol. Dwi wedi clywed bod rhai Plygeiniau newydd yn ysgrifennu rhestr o’r partion bydd yn cymryd rhan ac yn rhoi nhw mewn trefn o flaen llaw. Baswn i’n anog y pobl yma i drio’r ffordd traddodiadol o drefnu’r noson.

Mae caneuon Plygain fel arfer yn cael eu canu gan bartion o 3 neu 4 llais, er bod unawdau a deuawdau wedi bodoli eriod. Yn wreiddiol roeddent yn bartion o ddynion yn unig yn canu un llais yr un ac fel arfer roedd y cantorion yn dod o’r un teulu. Roedd rhywun yn y teulu yn ysgrifennu’r geiriau mewn llyfr ymarfer a basau’r cantorion yn dysgu’r alaw ar lafar. Weithiau roedd yr alaw yn newydd, weithiau roedd yn cael ei fenthyg oddi wrth gân gwerin poblogaidd. Daeth rhai beirdd yn enwog am ysgrifennu llawer o garolau Plygain fel Huw Morys (Eos Ceiriog), Jonathan Huws a Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain).

Mae pethau wedi newid ychydig erbyn hyn, wrth gwrs. Mae merched rwan yn ymuno yn y partion (hwre!), ond dyden nhw dal ddim yn cael canu Carol y Swper ar ddiwedd y noson ym Maldwyn. Dwi’n meddwl bod hwn yn wahanol mewn llefydd eraill. Cewch hefyd partion mawr o 12 person lle mae 3-4 person ar bob llinell ac mae rhai pobl hyd yn oed yn canu allan o lyfrau hen nodiant printiedig!

Arfon Gwilym workshop

Gweithdy Plygain efo Arfon Gwilym yn Arbrawf Mawr cyntaf trac yn defnyddion Hen Garolau Cymru.

Yn wreiddiol, gan fod partion yn sgwennu geiriau a weithiau alawon eu hunain, roedd hi’n ddigwilydd iawn i ganu cân rhywun arall yn yr un gwasanaeth. Mae yna deuluoedd sydd dal yn dod i’r gwasanaethau efo’r llyfrau ymarfer bach, ym Maldwyn o leiaf, ond, gan fod llawer o bobl rwan yn canu allan o’r un llyfrau (Mae Hen Garolau Cymru yn boblogaidd iawn) mae mwy o siawns bydd rhywun yn canu’r gân roeddech chi yn bwriadu canu. Mae’n rhaid felly mynd i’r Blygain efo digon o ganeuon wrth gefn yn eich repertoire!O ran cerddoriaeth, mae gan garolau Plygain ystod eang o ganeuon datgeiniol pwerus at rhai tawel a myfyrgar. Mae llawer o garolau Plygain yn hollol homoffonig ac mae nifer yn swnio fel emyn (fel Teg Wawriodd) ond mae cryn dipyn ohonynt efo elfennau cewstiwn ac ateb (fel Carol Eliseus a Deffrown! Deffrown!). Mae brawddegu yn bwysig o fewn carolau Plygain a byddwch yn darganfod daliant ar eiriau pwysig. Mae carolau Plygain wastad yn cael eu perrfformio yn ddigyfeiliant.

Yn olaf, nodyn ar y geiriau. Mae geiriau cân Plygain fel arfer yn ddwys, cymleth a barddol ac yn sôn nid yn unig am eni Crist ond hefyd am ei fywyd, ei farwolaeth a sut gall pobl ceisio bod yn Gristnogion dda.

Daeth Nadolig

Wedi dweud nad ydy caneuon Plygain o hyd yn ganolbwyntio ar eni Crist, dyma gân sy’n Nadoligaidd iawn. Mae’r geiriau yn crybwyll y baban yn y crud, y seren, y bugeiliad a’r dynion doeth. Mae hi hefyd yn paentio llun del o’r tywydd rydym yn profi ambell i Nadolig – y coedwig yn gwisgo “hugan gwyn” o eira.

Mae’r alaw yn dlos a’r harmoniau yn glos a chynnes, fel sy’n nodweddiadol mewn carolau Plygain. Patrick Dean (o’r Foxglove Trio) a Hedd Thomas (fy mrawd) sy’n canu efo fi yma. Dwi wrth fy modd yn cael canu efo lleisiau mor cyfoethog.

Gwreiddiau

Mae Daeth Nadolig yn cael ei ganu ar yr un alaw a chân gwerin secwlar o’r enw Deio Bach. Mae Parti Cut Lloi yn canu’r gân yma ac yn dweud ar eu wefan bod hi’n dod o hanner gyntaf y 20fed ganrif. Mae Hen Garolau Cymru yn dweud bod hi gan “John Jones, Llangollen, 1801 – 1856” sy’n awgrymu bod y gân Plygain yn hŷn na’r gân secular.

Ble nesaf

Gallwch clywed Daeth Nadolig yn gael ei ganu gan Cogia Llanfihangel ar y CDs yma:

  • Gwŷl y Baban, Sain, 2005, SCD 2519,
  • 101 o Garolau a Chaneuon Nadolig, Sain, 2010
  • Ar Dymor Gaeaf (Carolau Plygain Carols), Sain, 2010

Sonias yn y post dwethaf am CD cynhyrchwyd gan Rhys Mwyn o’r enw Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Plygain (Anhrefn Records, 2010). Gwnaeth Lleuwen Steffan fersiwn o Daeth Nadolig ar y CD yma.

Mae sawl llyfr a llyfryn da wedi wedi sgwennu ar y traddodiad Plygain:

  • Trefor M. Owen, Welsh Folk Customs, 1959, tud. 28-33
  • Arfon Gwilym a Sioned Webb (Gol.), Hen Garolau Cymru, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwyn, 2006
  • Enid R Morgan (Gol.), Cadw Gŵyl: Llawlyfr i’r Traddodiad Plygain, Bwrdd Cenhadau’r Eglwys yng Nghymru, 2000

Ar gyfer hen nodiant carolau Plygain yn gyffredinol chwiliwch yn:

  • Arfon Gwilym a Sioned Webb (Gol.), Hen Garolau Cymru, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwyn, 2006
  • Rhiannon Ifans (Gol.), Yn Dyrfa Weddus: Carolau Ar Gyfer Y Plygain, Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion, 2003
  • Hen Garolau, casglwyd gan Geraint Vaughan-Jones, Y Lolfa, 1987
  • Mwy o Garolau Plygain, casglwyd gan Geraint Vaughan-Jones, Y Lolfa, 1992

Geiriau

Daw’r geiriau allan o Hen Garolau Cymru gan Arfon Gwilym a Sioned Webb.

Daeth Nadolig fel arferol,
Daeth fel yn y dyddiau gynt,
Gyda’i eira, gyda’i oerni,
Gyda’i rew a’i ruol wynt.
Yn lle dail i drwsio’r goedwig,
Gwisgr hi â hugan gwyn,
Ac mae miwsig pob aderyn
Wedi darfod yn y glyn.

Daeth Nadolig fel arferol,
Mewn tawelwch mae y byd,
Wrth i ninau gofio’r stori
Am y baban yn ei grud,
Cofio am y seren ddisglair,
Cofio am y preseb tlawd,
Cofio’r engyl yn cyhoeddi
Geni Duw mewn gwisg o gnawd.

Daeth Nadolig fel arferol
Ac mae miswig ym mhob man,
Miwsig rhai yn mynd i Blygain,
Miwsig peraidd glychau’r llan,
Rhaid i ninnau gyda’r doethion
A’r bugeiliaid i gael trem
Ar yr hwn sydd wedi’i eni
Draw ym mhreseb Bethlehem.

Gorfoleddwn a moliannwn,
Ganwyd Ceidwad mawr y byd,
Cyfaill pechaduriad mawrion
Ydyw Iesu Grist o hyd,
Brenin heddwch ydyw’r Iesu
A thangnefedd ar ei wedd,
Dyma frenin y brenhinoedd
Ddysgodd inni gladdu’r cledd.

Mae’r post yma er cof am Arwyn Tyisa, aelwyd o sawl parti Plygain Maldwyn a bu farw yn gynharach yn 2013. Roedd o’n aelwyd gweithgar o Aelwyd Penllys a dwi’n siwr na fasau llawer o gantorion Plygain ifanc heddiw ddim wedi cael cymaint o gyfleuoedd i ymwnud a’r traddodiad oni bai am anogaeth Arwyn a’i parodrwydd i yrru pobl o gympas yn ei Land Rover.

Plygain

In my last post I promised an introduction to the Plygain tradition this time. The Plygain carol singing tradition is very old – we know from some of the songs’ Catholic words that it dates back to the times before the 16th Century Protestant reformation.

Traditionally, families (at least the men) used to visit their neighbours’ houses on Christmas Eve chatting, drinking and ‘pulling toffee’ from hearths. Then everyone would walk to church by candlelight, arriving whilst it was still dark. In later periods people would visit the pub instead of their neighbours’ houses before the Plygain service. Services took place by candlelight so there are stories of naughty boys burning the hair of girls in the pew in front and one church in Flintshire burnt down during a service! If the service progressed without any incendiary problems, it would continue until day break. The word ‘Plygain’ comes from the Latin ‘pullicantio’, which means ‘cock crow’ i.e. at dawn.

These days most Plygains take place in the evening from about 6pm to 8pm. The Plygain started to die out in some areas but there’s an unbroken tradition in Montgomeryshire, where I was brought up. Arfon Gwilym, a Plygain expert, says that Montgomeryshire was one of the first places to switch from dawn services to evening ones and that this was instrumental in helping the Plygain to survive. Montgomeryshire was also one of the places where the Plygain changed from being a Christmas morning only activity to being something that took place throughout the Christmas period. You can now find Plygains taking place from the start of Advent until the Sunday a fortnight after Christmas. In Montgomeryshire the Plygain season ends with the ‘Big Plygain’ in Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfa.

Llanfighangel church

Interior of Llanfighanel yng Ngwynfa church. From http://www.hoadly.co.uk

A Plygain service is different from every other religious service you have ever attended. Firstly, the vicar doesn’t play a very big role at all. You see him / her for 10 minutes at the beginning of the service (to give a welcome, do a reading, introduce a congregational carol and then declare that the Plygain is open), a minute in the middle (to introduce another carol) and 5 minutes at the end (to give a blessing). To a newcomer, it may appear that what happens between the welcome and the blessing happens by magic but it’s actually rather anarchic!

There’ll be between 6 and 20 Plygain parties ready to sing in the service but no one discusses the order beforehand. After the vicar opens the Plygain there’s be a bit of a hesitation – nobody wants to look rude by jumping ahead of a more respected or experienced party. After the first party there’s a bit more of a pause. Does anyone ever really want to go second at something like this, especially if the first party was really good? After the second party the service starts rolling on more naturally. Sometimes two parties stand up at the same time which is a little comical. In this situation the party sitting further forward in the church go first whilst the one nearer the back has to sit down and try again.

You can look around the church to try and spot each party and individual you think will want to contribute but there’s no clear way of knowing how many people will be singing that evening. You’ll therefore have another hesitation after the last party. The vicar will ask if anyone else wants to take part and, after the congregational hymn, declares the second round open. The second round follows the same order as the first so there are fewer pauses and less awkwardness. In the old days the singing went on until dawn and the parties had to prepare enough songs to last many rounds. These days, however, 2 rounds is the norm, or 3 if there aren’t many performers taking part. After the last round everyone who has taken part in the service comes to the front of the church to sing Carol y Swper. The song is supposed to refer to the last supper but I always think the singers are probably thinking more about the supper they’re about to experience in the church / village hall after two hours of singing!

I love the way the Plygain service takes place without leadership or order but with lots of respect shown towards the experienced parties. I have heard that at some revived Plygains a list of the parties taking part is made and the singers are put in an order ahead of the event. I’d encourage these people to try the traditional way of arranging the evening.

Plygain songs are usually sung by trios or quartets although there have always been soloists and duets. Originally the parties were all-male affairs with each singer taking a line each and the singers usually coming from the same family. Someone in the family would write the words in an exercise book and the singers would learn the melody orally. Sometimes it was a new melody, sometimes they were borrowed from popular folk songs. Some poets became famous for writing lots of Plygain carols such as Huw Morys (Eos Ceiriog), Jonathan Huws and Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain).

Things have changed a bit by now, of course. Women can now join the parties (hooray!), but they still don’t get to sing Carol y Swper ar the end of the night in Montgomeryshire. I think this might be different in other places. You also get big parties of about 12 people where 3 – 4 people sing each line and some people even sing from printed books with musical notation!

Plygain

Plygain singers, from the St Fagans website http://www.museumwales.ac.uk

Originally, as parties wrote their own words and sometimes their own melodies, it was rude to sing someone else’s song in the same service. There are families who still come to the services with thin exercise books, in Montgomeryshire at least, but, as most people now sing out of books (Hen Garolau Cymru is very popular) there’s more of a chance that someone will sing what you were intending to sing. You therefore have to go to a Plygain with enough songs up your sleeve!

In terms of the music, there is a wide range of Plygain carols from powerful, declamatory songs to quiet, contemplative ones. Lots of Plygain carols are completely homophonic and many sound like hymns (such as Teg Wawriodd) but there are also several which have a question and answer element (such as Carol Eliseus and Deffrown! Deffrown!). Phrasing is very important in Plygain carols and you’ll often find a pause on important words. Plygain carols are always performed a cappella.

Finally, a note on the words. Plygain song lyrics are usually very intense, complicated and poetic. They not only talk about Christ’s birth but also about his life, his death and how people can attempt to be good Christians.

Christmas Came

Having said that Plygain songs don’t always focus on Jesus’ birth, Daeth Nadolig is a very Christmassy song. The lyrics talk about the baby in a manger, the star, the shepherds and the wise men. It also paints a pretty picture of the weather we sometimes experience at Christmas time – the trees wearing a “white cloak” of snow.

The melody is pretty and the harmonies are close and warm, as is typical of Plygain carols. Patrick Dean (from The Foxglove Trio) and Hedd Thomas (my brother) are singing with me here. I love singing with such rich voices.

Origins

Daeth Nadolig is sung to the same melody as the secular folk song Deio Bach. Parti Cut Lloi sing this song and they say on their website that it comes from the first half of the 20th century. Hen Garolau Cymru says that it’s by “John Jones, Llangollen, 1801 – 1856” which implies that the Plygain song is older than the secular one.

Where next

You can hear Daeth Nadolig sung by Cogia Llanfihangel on these CDs:

  • Gwŷl y Baban, Sain, 2005, SCD 2519,
  • 101 o Garolau a Chaneuon Nadolig, Sain, 2010
  • Ar Dymor Gaeaf (Carolau Plygain Carols), Sain, 2010

In the last post I mentioned the CD produced by Rhys Mwyn called Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Plygain (Anhrefn Records, 2010). Lleuwen Steffan did a version of Daeth Nadolig on this CD.

There are several good books and leaflets about the Plygain tradition:

  • Trefor M. Owen, Welsh Folk Customs, 1959, pp. 28-33
  • Arfon Gwilym and Sioned Webb (Eds), Hen Garolau Cymru, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwen, 2006
  • Enid R Morgan (Ed), Cadw Gŵyl: Llawlyfr i’r Traddodiad Plygain, Bwrdd Cenhadau’r Eglwys yng Nghymru, 2000

For Plygain musical notation generally look at:

  • Hen Garolau Cymru, Arfon Gwilym and Sioned Webb (Eds), Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwyn, 2006
  • Yn Dyrfa Weddus: Carolau Ar Gyfer Y Plygain, Rhiannon Ifans (Ed), Cymdeithas Lyfrau Ceredigion, 2003
  • Hen Garolau, collected by Geraint Vaughan-Jones, Y Lolfa, 1987
  • Mwy o Garolau Plygain, collected by Geraint Vaughan-Jones, Y Lolfa, 1992

Lyrics

Christmas came as usual,
It came as in the days gone by,
With its snow, with its coldness,
With its ice and roaring wind,
Instead of leaves to dress the trees,
They wear a white cloak,
And every bird’s music
In the valley has ceased.

Christmas came as usual,
The world is in silence,
As we remember the story
Of the baby in the cradle,
Remember the shining star,
Remember the poor manger,
Remember the angels proclaiming
God’s birth dressed in flesh.

Christmas came as usual
And there’s music everywhere,
Music of those going to the Plygain,
The church bells’ sweet music,
We must go with the wise men
And the shepherds to catch a glimpse
Of the one who’s been born
In a manger in Bethlehem.

We rejoice and we praise,
The Saviour of the world is born,
Jesus Christ remains
A friend to all sinners,
Jesus is the king of peace
And his appearance is peaceful,
This is the king of kings
Who taught us to bury the sword.

I’d like to dedicate this blog post to Arwyn Tyisa, a member of many Montgomeryshire Plygain parties who died earlier in 2013. He was an active member of Aelwyd Penllys and I’ve no doubt that many of today’s young Plygain singers would not have had as many opportunities to get involved in the tradition had it not been for Arwyn’s encouragement and chauffeuring.

Myn Mair

[scroll down for English]

Gan ein bod ni dipyn o’r ffordd mewn i adfent yn barod dwi’n teimlo y ddylwn i fod yn sgwennu am gân Plygain. Yn anffodus dwi ddim wedi cael y cyfle i recordio carol Plygain tri llais eto ond dwi’n gobeithio gwneud yr erthygl nesaf ar gân Plygain adnabyddus. Yn lle, dyma gân sydd yn ymddangos mewn rhai llyfrau Plygain (megis Hen Garolau Cymru: 60 o Garolau Plygain gan Arfon Gwilym a Sioned Webb) ond sydd, yn fy marn i, ddim yn gân Plygain go iawn. Rydym yn meddwl amdani fel gân Plygain oherwydd ei bod hi’n dod o’r oes cywir ac yn gân grefyddol a Phabyddol. Ond mae pwrpas y gân yn wahanol i’r caneuon Plygain arferol.

Candle

Canwyll. Gan @Kkalyan ar flick

Byddaf yn egluro mwy am y draddodiad Plygain y tro nesaf ond, yn fras, mae carolau Plygain yn cael eu canu adeg Nadolig er mwyn dathlu geni Crist (fel carolau Nadolig pob diwylliant!) ond hefyd er mwyn meddwl am ymhlygiadau o fywyd a marwolaeth Iesu. Yn aml maen’t yn efengylaidd ac yn ganeuon mawr swmpus sy’n cael eu canu efo balchder a lleisiau uchel.

Mae Myn Mair yn wahanol – mae’n gân mewnblyg, trist a theimladwy sy’n cael ei ganu o safbwynt galarwr. Mae’r alarwr yn cynnig popeth gallai – arian, canwyllion a gweddion – er mwyn achub enaid ei ffrind / cariad felly mae pwrpas y gân yn wahanol i’r ganeuon Plygain arferol. Am ryw reswm dwi wastad yn dychmygu taw merch ifanc sy’n canu’r gân a bod ei gŵr wedi cael ei ladd mewn rhyfel a bod y merch ddim yn mynd i gael ei gorff yn ôl i’w gladdu. Mae’r nodiadau yng nghefn Canu’r Cymry II gan Phyllis Kinney a Meredydd Evans yn awgrymu rhywbeth ychydig llai rhamantus…

Gwreiddiau

Yn ôl Canu’r Cymry II cafodd Myn Mair ei gasglu gan Myra Evans o Geinewydd, Ceredigion. Roedd hi wedi dysgu’r gân oddi wrth ei hendaid Daniel Williams, hefyd o Geinewydd, a dwedodd o bod y gân arfer cael ei ganu mewn achlysuron ‘gwylnos’, sef y noson cyn angladd. Mae hwn yn awgrymu bod y cân yn cael ei ganu gan ffrindiau, nid partneriad torcalonus yn unig.

Mae’r geiriau yn gwneud hi’n amlwg taw gân Babyddol yw hi ac mae hi felly yn dyddio nôl i’r adegau cyn y diwygiad Protestanaidd yn y 16fed ganrif. Rydym hefyd yn gwybod bod hyn yn gân Babyddol gan fod Daniel Williams wedi dweud wrth mam Myra i beidio canu’r gân neu bydd y ddau ohonynt yn cael eu taflu allan o’r capel roeddent yn mynychu!

Ble nesaf

Gallwch dod o hyd i’r geiriau yn:
Hen Garolau Cymru: 60 o Garolau Plygain gan Arfon Gwilym a Sioned Webb, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwynn, 2006
Caneuon Traddodiadol y Cymry / Traditional Songs of the Welsh gan Arfon Gwilym, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwynn, 2006
Canu’r Cymry II: Detholiad o Ganeuon Gwerin (Welsh Folk Songs) gan Phyllis Kinney a Meredydd Evans, Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru, 1997.

Mae ychydig o gorau yn canu gosodiad clasurol o’r gân:
Cantorian Cywrig, 101 o Garolau, Sain, 2010
Cor Coleg Sant Ioan Caergrawnt (conductor George Guest), Sain, 1988

Ychydig o flynyddoedd yn ôl gwneaeth Rhys Mwyn, cyn gerddor pync, penderfynnu archwilio i’w gefndir cerddorol (mae’n dod yn wreiddiol o Lanfair Caereinion ym Maldwyn lle mae’r traddodiad Plygain dal yn gryf). Aeth i sawl gwasanaeth Plygain a gwnaeth rhaglen deledu ynglŷn â’r traddodiad. Yn ogystal, gwahoddodd nifer o gantorion gwerin cyfoes Cymru i ail-drefnu a recordio fersiynnau newydd o ganeuon Plygain. 9Bach cafodd y fraint o wneud Myn Mair:
9Bach, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Plygain, Anhrefn Records, 2010

Fel arfer dwi’n hoff iawn o fandiau cyfoes yn chwarae o gwmpas efo caneuon gwerin, yn ychwanegu alawon newydd ac yn defnyddio offerynnau sydd ddim yn draddodiadol i ddehongli’r hen ganeuon mewn ffyrdd newydd. Ond am ryw reswm, efallai gan fy mod i wedi tyfu fyny yn mynychu gwasauthau Plygain traddodiadol, mae’n well gen i berfformiadau o ganeuon Plygain sy’n ddigyfeiliant ac heb ormod o addurniad, megis rhein:
Meredydd Evans, Merêd, Sain, 2010
Elin Manahan Thomas, In Memoriam: Music for Funerals, WMC Records, 2007 – gwrandewch ger youtube

Geiriau

Fy hatling offrymaf dros enaid dan glo,
Fy nghanwyll gyflwynaf yn eglwys y fro,
‘R offeren weddïa’ saith seithwaith yn daer
Er cadw ei enaid anfarwol, Myn Mair.
Myn Mair, Myn Mair.

Sant Pawl a Sant Peder, holl seintiau y nef,
A Mair, Mam y Duwdod, eiriolwch yn gref
Dros iddo gael heddwch, a gwerthfawr ryddhad,
Paradwys agored, a breichiau ei Dad.
Myn Mair, Myn Mair.

Mam Iesu’r brydferthaf o ferched y byd,
Morwynig Frenhines y nefoedd i gyd,
Dlos lili y dyffryn, gwiw rosyn y nef,
Eiriolwch dros enaid fy nghyfaill yn gref.
Myn Mair, Myn Mair.

Nodyn bach ar Trad2Mad

Efallai byddwch wedi sylwi fy mod i’n cyflwyno’r fideo uchod trwy dweud rhywbeth am “Trad2Mad”. Dyma gystadleuaeth wych sy’n cael ei redeg gan Clwb Gwerin Islington yn Llundian. I gymryd rhan mae’n rhaid recordio eich hyn yn canu cân ddigyfeiliant – unrhywbeth o gân draddodiadol (trad) hyd at gân ychydig yn ddoniol neu wallgof (mad) – a’i roi ar youtube. Mae’n gystadleuaeth mor dda achos gall unrhywun cymryd rhan o unrhywle yn y byd. Dwi wedi cymryd rhan am y dair mlynedd dwethaf, yn rhannol gan bod hi’n esgus da i ddysgu a recordio cân sy’n newydd i mi, ond dyma’r tro cyntaf i mi ganu cân Cymreig. Basau’n dda gweld mwy o gystadleuwyr o Gymru yn 2014!

In Mary’s Name

As we’re a fair way into advent already I feel I should write about a Plygain song. Unfortunately I haven’t yet had a chance to record a three part Plygain carol but I’m hoping to do the next article on a well known Plygain song. Instead, here’s a song which appears in some Plygain books (such as Hen Garolau Cymru: 60 o Garolau Plygain by Arfon Gwilym) but which, in my opinion, isn’t really a Plygain song. We think of it as a Plygain song because it comes from the right period and because it has religious and Catholic lyrics. But the purpose of the song is different from that of the typical Plygain song.

Hail Mary, Full of Grace

Mary by @Raymond Brown via flickr

I’ll explain more about the Plygain tradition next time but, briefly, Plygain carols are sung at Christmas time to celebrate the birth of Christ (as with every culture’s Christmas carols!) but also to think about the implications of Jesus’ life and death. Often the lyrics are evangelistic and they are big songs which are sung proudly in loud voices.

Myn Mair is different – it’s an introverted, sad and poignant song which is sung by a mourner. The mourner offers everything – money, candles and prayers – in order to save the soul of their friend / lover so the purpose of the song is very different from the usual Plygain songs. For some reason I always imagine the song to be sung from the point of view of a young woman whose husband has been killed in a war and that she won’t be getting his body back to bury him. The notes in the back of Canu’r Cymry II by Phyllis Kinney and Meredydd Evans suggest something a little less romantic…

Origins

According to Canu’r Cymry II, Myn Mair was collected from Myra Evans from Newquay, Ceredigion. She’d learnt the song from her great-grandfather Daniel Williams, also from Newquay, who said that the song used to be sung in ‘gwylnos’ evenings (a vigil, literally ‘night festival’) the night before a funeral. This implies that it was often sung by friends, not just heartbroken partners.

The lyrics make it obvious that this is a Catholic song so it dates back to the times before the 16th century Protestant reformation. We also know it’s a Catholic song because Daniel Williams told Myra’s mother that they shouldn’t sing it or they’d both be thrown out of the chapel they belonged to!

Lyrics

I’ve translated the title as In Mary’s Name although this isn’t strictly what it means. Other people translate the song as ‘O Mary’ which I think sounds a little weak for such a powerful song. Others, including Phyllis Kinney and Meredydd Evans, translate is as ‘By Mary’ because ‘myn’ is used in expressions such as ‘myn Duw’ (the equivalent of ‘by Jove’). However the word ‘mynnu’ in Welsh means to insist so I think Myn Mair literally means ‘I insist on it Mary’, which isn’t a very poetic title. If anyone can offer a better translation I’d be interested in hearing it!

My half farthing I offer for a soul in prison,
My candle I present in the district church,
The Mass I’ll pray earnestly, seven times seven,
To save his immortal soul, O Mary.
O Mary, O Mary.

St. Paul and St. Peter, all the saints of heaven,
And Mary, God’s Mother, plead strongly
That he may have peace and precious relief,
Paradise open, and the arms of his Father.
O Mary, O Mary.

Mother of Jesus, the most beautiful of earth’s women,
Maidenly Queen of all of the heavens,
Lovely lily of the valley, worthy rose of heaven,
Intercede strongly for the soul of my friend.
O Mary, O Mary.

Where next

You can find the lyrics and tune printed in:
Hen Garolau Cymru: 60 o Garolau Plygain by Arfon Gwilym and Sioned Webb, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwynn, 2006
Caneuon Traddodiadol y Cymry / Traditional Songs of the Welsh by Arfon Gwilym, Cwmni Cyhoeddi Gwynn, 2006
Canu’r Cymry II: Detholiad o Ganeuon Gwerin (Welsh Folk Songs) by Phyllis Kinney and Meredydd Evans, Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru, 1997.

A few choirs sing a classical arrangement:
Cantorian Cywrig, 101 o Garolau, Sain, 2010
Cor Coleg Sant Ioan Caergrawnt (conductor George Guest), Sain, 1988

A few years ago Rhys Mwyn, the former punk musician, decided to research his musical background (he comes from Llanfair Caereinion in Montgomeryshire where the Plygain tradition is still very strong). He went to several Plygain services and make a TV programme about the tradition. He also invited some contemporary Welsh folk musicians to rearrange and record new versions of Plygain songs. 9Bach had the privilege of doing Myn Mair:
9Bach, Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Plygain, Anhrefn Records, 2010

I usually really like it when contemporary bands play around with folk songs, adding new tunes and using non-traditional instruments to interpret the old songs in new ways. But, for some reason, perhaps because I grew up attending traditional Plygain services, I prefer Plygain songs to be performed unaccompanied and with minimal ornamentation, such as these:
Meredydd Evans, Merêd, Sain, 2010
Elin Manahan Thomas, In Memoriam: Music for Funerals, WMC Records, 2007 – listen via youtube

A note about Trad2Mad

You might have noticed that I introduce the video above by saying something about “Trad2Mad”. This is a great competition which is run by Islington Folk Club in London. To take part you record yourself singing an unaccompanied song – anything from a traditional song (trad) to something a little more humorous or crazy (mad) – and put it on youtube. It’s a good competition because anyone can take part from anywhere in the world. I’ve entered three times, partly because it’s a good excuse to learn and record a new song, but this is the first time I’ve entered with a Welsh song. It would be great to see more competitors from Wales in 2014!

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