VRÏ – Tŷ Ein Tadau (Erwydd Records ER002)

Tŷ Ein Tadau Tŷ Ein Tadau (Our Fathers’ House) is the stunning debut album from Welsh chamber-folk trio Vrï. First off, it’s blindingly obvious how great these guys (Aneirin Jones, Jordan Price Williams, Patrick Rimes) are together. They play off each other wonderfully well, with superb control of dynamics and nuance, excelling in subtle mood shifts, in delicate washes of light and shade. But more layers to this musical millefeuille lie in Vrï’s high-minded intent.

Vrï have attempted a respectful untangling of the complex role of Methodism in Welsh society leading to either the suppression of folk traditions and tunes or of their appropriation into the hymnal (per the tendency of any establishment to absorb perceived threats). Vrï seek to tease out and restore some tunes to their traditional roots, without undermining the importance of “chapel” in Wales’s social history. Reads like a PhD proposal: sounds like a dream.

The album opens with the mournful cello of ‘Dewch I’r Frwydr’ and a melody which glances off Dvořák’s New World Symphony. There’s darkness, too, in the exquisitely sad ‘Tôn Fechan Meifod’, with that same bleak bucolicism as Howard Shore’s Lord Of The Rings post-war “Shire” music.

‘Breow Kernow’ marries ‘Mount Hill’ with a lively Cornish ‘five-step’ whilst the the skipping, slurring jig triple set of ‘Cyw Bach’ melds short, firm bow strokes with big rounded percussion. ‘Taflu Rwdins’ weaves an agile polka into an epic vocalised chorus, in contrast with the clean, sedately classical lines of ‘Crug Y Bar’.

Beth Celyn lends her rich, round and soaring vocals to ‘Cob Malltraeth’ over strings which, starting as a gentle, long-bowed flow, acquire a nagging insistence. The other songs feature the voices of the band members and range from the sean-nós of ‘Aros Mae’r Mynyddau Mawr’ to ‘Ffoles Llantrisant’ presented like a hypnotic round. If ‘Clychau Aberdyfi’ strikes more oddly on the ears, it may not be down to the chiming bell rhythm, but rather to the suddenly harsh-sounding and intrusive English.

Final track, ‘Gŵr a’i Farch’ brings all the band’s elements together, kicking off with an unusual time signature hornpipe, working together folk and classical textures with great power and sensitivity.

So there’s something rather cerebral in their approach, yet their music absolutely glows with energy and life. This album reaches the head, the heart and the feet all at once – just take a listen.

Su O’Brien

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Cwlwm Celtaidd 2017 announces first children’s choir competition

Cwlwm CeltaiddThis year the inter-Celtic festival, Cwlwm Celtaidd, will host a choir competition for the first time as part of its annual event on March 12th, 2017 at the Grand Pavilion, Porthcawl.

On Sunday, March 12 2017 primary school children from South Wales will have the opportunity to perform and compete in Cwlwm Celtaidd’s first choir competition. Young competitors under the age of 11 will perform songs from the folk traditions of Wales and beyond.

The choral competition adds to Cwlwm Celtaidd’s Young Musician of the Festival competition that has been welcoming young performers aged 10 to 18 years old from the Celtic countries to compete and perform.

The Winner of the 2016 Young Musician of the Festival prize was Aneirin Jones, an 18-year-old violinist from Pontardawe. Aneirin will perform with the 2015 winner, Dylan Cairns-Howarth at the Festival this year. Aneirin says;

“The competition was a great experience in every respect with the judges giving useful advice on my performance, whether technical or commenting on how to further improve my performance skills. It has contributed hugely to the way I prepare, perform and practice my repertoire. “

Tickets for the competitions and concert on Sunday, March 12 are £5 – available here.