THE MEADOWS – Force Of The Tide (own label)

Force Of The TideA new addition to the folk family ranks, the Welsh Celtic-Classical crossover quartet line up, in age descending order, as Melody, Fantasia, Harvey and lead singer Titania, variously on violin, flute, piano, guitar and percussion, their debut album, Force Of The Tide, drawing on the stories and history of the British and Irish coastline.

Appropriately, then, Titania on crystal pure vocals, it opens with Fantasia haunting piano and Harvey’s violin notes of ‘Lovely On The Water’, a song collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams that, moving from summer idyll to the roar of cannons, comes from the fine tradition of a lass parted from her sailor lover by the call of war. Backdropped by rumbling bodhran and violin, a similar scenario provides the setting for ‘Maid In Bedlam’, the tragedy here being that, out of her mind at their parting, the unfortunate girl is locked up in the infamous mental asylum, intoning “I love my love because I know my love loves me.” Unusually, it all turns out well when her sailor returns and sets her free.

Featuring Melody on Irish whistle, Fantasia on piano and Harvey bodhran and mournful violin ‘Henry Martin’ is the Scottish ballad about three brothers, one of whom takes to the sea and eventually turns pirate to support his siblings, leading on to the Irish ballad ‘Maid Of Culmore’, again arranged around violin and piano with Melody on flute, Titania conjuring thoughts of Anne Briggs as she sings of a young lad, heartbroken that the Londonderry girl he’s fallen has gone off to America and vowing to follow and never return until he finds her.

Backed by violin and bodhran, everyone joins in for lusty take on the traditional shanty ‘High Barbary’, again a tale of sailors and pirates, only here it’s the former who have the upper hand, the musical mood shifting for a lovely piano ballad reading of ‘Lowlands Away’, Titania delivering the lyrics in a softly caressing lullaby style, complemented by dreamy violin and flute.

Things stay mellow as the girls’ joined voices croon the Welsh lullaby ‘Si Hei Lwli Babi’, remaining in the traditions of their native land for the first of three instrumental, the two-minute ‘Bedd Y Morw’r/Hen Ferchetan’, opening with Fantasia’s carousing solo violin before giving way to thumping bodhran, piano and recorder as it gathers to a climax. The second follows with ‘Heron on the Water’, perhaps better known as ‘The Swallow’s Tail’, a lively reel driven along on Fantasia’s violin and Harvey’s bodhran with a shake of tambourine from Titania.

Opening on and punctuated by dramatic guitar and piano notes before the fiddle carries things away, the album ends, Melody on in whistle, with the third instrumental, the traditional Irish jig ‘Dribbles Of Brandy’ with its shifting time signatures and tempo. Prior to that comes the album’s longest track, a five and a half minute ‘Spanish Ladies’, a slow and sombre shanty precursor dating from the late 18th century and relating British sailors sailing north from Spain to return home up the English Channel and having to determine their location by sounding the water’s depth, drowning their melancholy in in plenty of booze.

A mix of familiar and lesser known songs from the traditional repertoire, it’s a hugely confident and impressive debut that see them comfortably ride the tide to wider recognition.

Mike Davies

‘High Barbary’ – live:

Introducing The Meadows

Introducing The Meadows

The Meadows are a young and vibrant Celtic-Classical Crossover band who draw their inspiration from a wide range of musical genres including Celtic, classical, folk traditions from around the world, Tudor and contemporary. They perform regularly, having played concert tours and numerous sets including Cardiff’s Wales Millennium Centre (simulcast live), various festivals, Aberglasney – including a concert opening the newly restored Great Hall alongside stars of Welsh music and the Hollywood actor, Damien Lewis. They also present very popular interactive music workshops in schools. The enthusiastic response following their 2013-14 tour for the Velindre Cancer Centre spurred them on to play a wider-reaching tour for Wales Air Ambulance who they continue to support, and their charity work has recently added Rays Of Sunshine which helps very sick children. They regularly feature on radio, and airplay has included local, international and BBC Radio Wales, along with articles in the press including Celtic Guide and Celtic Life International.

MelodyMelody is the eldest of the siblings. Although she has played the piano since she could balance on the stool, followed by violin, she began to learn the flute later. Taking to this instrument like a duck to water, she devoured everything her teacher threw at her and achieved distinction at Grade 8 in little over two years and soon moved on to diploma. She continued to progress her art through regular violin masterclasses with Prof. Barry Haskey (retired associate leader of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Professor of Music at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama), Christopher Williams (pianist with BBC Chorus and BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Cardiff University and R.W.C.M.D.), Matthew Featherstone (Principle Flute of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and R.W.C.M.D.), Eva Stewart (Principle Piccolo of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and R.W.C.M.D.), and has studied cutting-edge extended techniques with the world-renowned flute composer Prof. Ian Clarke (Guildhall). He has encouraged her to explore creativity through composition along with her sister Fantasia on piano. As well as piano, violin and flute, Melody plays guitar, recorder and Irish whistle. Alongside her work with The Meadows, she has played solo Classical sets at Ammanford’s Miner’s Theatre, the Llandeilo Fawr Festival of Music and at the Wales Millennium Centre accompanied by Christopher Williams. She teaches piano and flute students, further enabling her to share her love of music with others.

FantasiaFantasia is a Celt at heart, loving the Traditional music of Celtic culture. She has masterclasses with Prof. Barry Haskey and Christopher Williams. In keeping with her love of Celtic music, she also enjoys playing Irish whistles. Having accompanied Melody on piano during her masterclasses with Ian Clarke, through his encouragement she discovered a love of writing music and in 2013 she debuted her composition ‘An Evening Stroll Through Aberglasney’. She teaches violin and piano, and enjoys writing novels for children, making rag dolls, dress-making and watercolour painting.

HarveyHarvey is the quiet ‘creator’ of the family. He has been taught piano by his eldest sister and was honoured to appear in an A.B.R.S.M. High Achiever’s Concert in Swansea. He takes violin masterclasses with Prof. Haskey, also enjoying playing guitar, bodhrán and composing. Harvey’s other passion is painting in oils and his work is being exhibited in fine art galleries in Cardiff and Carmarthenshire.

TitaniaTitania is the youngest member of the family. Growing up in a musical household made it almost inevitable that she too would become a musician. She takes piano and violin lessons under Fantasia and Melody’s tutelage and writes pieces of her own including ‘May Mountains Howl’ which debuted on BBC radio and was performed during the Wales Air Ambulance tour. When Titania was only a few months old, she astounded her family when, out of the blue, she joined in singing with her siblings before she could even talk and has not stopped since, pointing forward to her present role in the quartet! She loves performing and outside of her music she enjoys writing stories.

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