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Dancing ClarinetsClarinet ar Ddawns

It’s been a busy few months, and my work with Ensemble Cymru is well under way. So far there have been a great deal of concerts, educational work and of course, lots of new music!

Last summer I was lucky enough to be awarded Arts Council of Wales funding to create a projcet. My project involved working with a dancer, composer and Ensemble Cyrmu to create and perform a new work, as well as to learn and perform a pre existing work by  the late avant gard composer, Karlheiz Stockhausen. The initial stages of the project involved deciding upon who to work with – these decisions were quite easy for me to make. I have admired Chris Painter’s music for years, and was really eager for him to compose the new work. As for choosing a dancer, I decided upon Rosalind Haf Brooks after seeing some of the great work that she has done with dance company Earthfall. I then only needed to convince them to work with me!!! My brief to Chris was to compose a work for solo clarinet player and dancer, in multiple movements. I was eager for the work to exist not only as a duo, but as a piece that could be performed by solo clarinet player alone. I also requested that the individual movements could be performed separately as well as part of the whole suite.  After some discussion, Chris and I were both agreed that it would be really exciting to base the work on an element of ‘Y Mabinogi’, and that is how ‘Taliesin’s Tale’ began.

Taliesin’s Tale

Taliesin began life as Gwion Bach, a servant to the enchantress Ceridwen. Ceridwen had a beautiful daughter and an ugly son named Morfran, whose appearance no magic could cure. Ceridwen sought to give him the gift of wisdom as compensation and cooked a potion, which had to be constantly stirred and cooked for a year and a day. A blind man named Morda tended the fire beneath the cauldron, while Gwion Bach stirred. The first three drops of liquid from this cauldron would give wisdom; the rest was a fatal poison. Three hot drops spilled onto Gwion’s thumb as he stirred, and he instinctively put his thumb in his mouth, instantly gaining wisdom and knowledge. The first thought that occurred to him was that Ceridwen would kill him, so he ran away. All too soon he heard her fury and the sound of her pursuit. He turned himself into a hare on the land and she became a greyhound. He turned himself into a fish and jumped into a  river: she then turned into an otter. He turned into a bird in the air, and in response she became a hawk. Exhausted, he turned into a single grain of corn and she became a hen and ate him. She became pregnant. She resolved to kill the child, knowing it was Gwion, but when he was born he was so beautiful that she couldn’t, so she threw him in the ocean in a leather bag. The baby was found by Elffin, the son of Gwyddno Garanhir, ‘Lord of Ceredigion’, while fishing for  salmon. Surprised at the whiteness of the boy’s brow, he exclaimed “dyma Dal Iesin“, meaning “this is a radiant brow.” Taliesin, thus named, began to recite beautiful poetry.

During the period that Chris was composing I took the oportunity to meet up with Rosalind and start working on Stockhausen’s Der Kleine Harlekin – a work for solo clarinet player who takes on the role of a Harlequin. For this piece it’s not acceptable to just play the clarinet! I am required to move, make gestures, use footwork to create percussive effects and….dress up! We had great fun during the rehearsals and Rosalind was a great help. She definitely had her work cut out – as I don’t look or move like a dancer!

Closing your eyes, playing clarinet and crouching = a good chance of falling over!
Playing clarinet on one leg….asking for trouble!

Whilst all this was going on Chris was busy with Hanes Taliesin – and by the end of the summer I had the first draft of the score, and was very excited! I immediately got on with practising it, and at that time was mainly focusing on the first movement ‘The cauldron of rebirth’. This, as well as ‘Der Kleine Harlekin’ were on the October 2011 programme for my first performance representing Ensemble Cymru’s Ambassador for New Music. We toured across various venues around North Wales, and had a great time.

The next few months were a mixture of practising and leading educational workshops with some amazing young people for Ensemble Cymru. I will dedicate another blog spot to my educational work. Out of respect for all the fabulous people involved – they deserve a page to themselves! Watch this space…

After Christmas I spent a week in Cardiff rehearsing Taliesin’s Tale with Rosalind. I had provided her with a recording of the whole work a few months earlier so she could have some time to think of choreography. The rehearsals were very productive, and Rosalind had come up with some great ideas. The music really does lend itself brilliantly to dance.

Rosalind mid-move!
Rosalind mid-air!

On my return from Cardiff, preparations for the Ensemble Cymru February tour were well under way, and it was time for me to really focus on the second movement of the Painter; ‘Gwion’s flight and the birth of Taliesin’, as well as Paul Mealor’s ‘Solemn Liturgy’ for solo clarinet. The work was composed in 2006 for Ian Mitchell – who was one of my tutors while I was studying in Trinity College of Music in 2005. I had the privilege of playing the work to the composer last September when I had been invited to perform it as part of a Modern Music workshop for the North Wales International Music Festival. Paul was very complimentary, which was a big relief!

Now the run of February concerts are over – it’s time to focus on the big one! I’m very excited about our National tour in a couple of weeks! Rosalind will be joining me to perform the Painter and the Stockhausen, and I will be joining the Ensemble to perform part of their programme. I was in London a couple of weeks ago rehearsing the March programme with Ensemble Cymru, which was great. As much as I love covering the solo clarinet repertoire, I’m very excited about sharing the stage with Rosalind and Ensemble Cymru, it gets a bit lonely by myself sometimes!

Hope to see lots of you in March and April!

Sioned

Mae’r ychydig fisoedd diwethaf wedi bod yn hynod brysur, ac rwyf wedi bod yn ymrafael â fy ngwaith âg Ensemble Cymru i’r eithaf. Hyd yn hyn, rwyf wedi bod yn rhan o dorraeth o gyngherddau, arwain nifer o weithdai addysgiadol, ac wrth gwrs, chwarae llwyth o gerddoriaeth newydd!
Haf diwethaf, roeddwn yn ffodus i dderbyn grant gan Gyngor Celfyddydau Cymru i greu prosiect newydd.  Un o brif amcanion y prosiect oedd i weithio gyda dawnsiwr, cyfansoddwr ac Ensemble Cymru i greu a pherfformio gwaith newydd. I gydfynd â hynny penderfynais ddysgu a pherfformio’r gwaith Der Kleine Harlekin, a gyfansoddwyd gan y diweddar Karlheinz Stockhausen. Camau cyntaf y prosiect oedd penderfynu pwy i weithio gyda – nid oedd hwnnw’n benderfyniad anodd. Rwyf wedi edmygu Chris Painter fel cyfansoddwr ers blynyddoedd, ac roeddwn yn awyddus iddo fo gyfansoddi’r gwaith newydd. O ran dewis dawnsiwr/dawnswraig, pendrefynais ofyn wrth Rosalind Haf Brooks fel canlyniad i weld y gwaith ardderchog y mae hi’n ei wneud gyda’r cwmni dawns, Earthfall. Y cam nesaf oedd cael Rosalind a Chris i gytuno i weithio gyda fi!!!
Fy nghyfarwyddiadau i Chris oedd i gyfansoddi gwaith ar gyfer clarinetydd unigol a dawnswraig, mewn nifer o symudiadau. Roeddwn yn awyddus i’r gwaith fod ddigon hyblyg i’w gael ei berfformio fel deuawd yn ogystal â chan glarinetydd ar ei ben/ei phen ei hun. Roeddwn hefyd yn awyddus i’r symudiadau unigol fedru cael eu perfformio ar eu pen eu hunain yn ogystal â chael eu perfformio fel rhan o’r cyfanwaith. Ar ôl cryn drafod, penderfynom seilio’r gwaith ar elfen o’rMabinogi, a dyna ddechrau Hanes Taliesin.

Hanes Taliesin

Roedd gan Ceridwen a’i gŵr Tegid Foel ddau blentyn. Roedd y ferch, Creirwy, yn arbennig o hardd, ond roedd y mab, Morfran, yn eithriadol o hyll. Gan ei fod mor hyll, penderfynodd Ceridwen y byddai’n rhoi “awen a gwybodaeth” iddo i wneud iawn am hynny. Bu’n berwi cymysgedd yn y pair am flwyddyn a diwrnod, gyda’r bwriad fod Morfan yn ei yfed ac yn cael yr awen. Roedd hen ŵr dall o’r enw Morda yn cadw’r tân dan y pair, a Gwion Bach yn gofalu am y pair. Pan oedd y gymysgedd bron yn barod, tasgodd tri dafn o’r pair ar law Gwion Bach, a chan eu bod mor boeth, fe’i rhoes yn ei geg. Sylweddolodd Ceridwen ar unwaith ei fod ef wedi ei gynysgaeddu â’r awen yn lle ei mab, a dechreuodd ei ymlid. Newidiodd Gwion Bach ei ffurf yn ysgyfarnog, ond newidiodd Ceridwen ei hyn yn filiast i’w ymlid. Yna trodd Gwion yn bysgodyn, a Ceridwen yn ddyfrgi. Trodd Gwion ei hun yn aderyn, a throdd Ceridwen yn walch i’w ymlid; yna pan oedd y gwalch bron a’i ddal, gwelodd Gwion bentwr o wenith. Trodd ei hun yn ronyn gwenith ynghanol y pentwr, ond trodd Ceridwen ei hun yn iar a’i fwyta. Wedi bwyta Gwion beichiogodd Ceridwen, a naw mis yn ddiweddarach ganwyd plentyn iddi. Gwyddai Ceridwen mai Gwion Bach oedd y plentyn, ond roedd mor dlws fel na allai ei ladd. Gosododd ef mewn cwdyn o groen a’i daflu i’r môr. Fe wnaeth dyn or enw Elffin ddarganfod y baban yn y cwdyn. Cododd Elffin y baban a dywedodd wrth ei was “Llyma dal iesin” (‘Dyma dalcen teg’).

Tra’r oedd Chris yn cyfansoddi, cefais gyfle i gwrdd â Rosalind, a chychwyn ymarfer Der Kleine Harlekin – gwaith ar gyfer clarinetydd unigol sy’n chwarae rol harlecwin. Ar gyfer perfformio’r gwaith hwn, nid yw chwarae clarinet yn unig yn ddigonol! Mae’n ofynnol i mi symud, creu ystumiau, creu effeithiau taro gyda fy nhraed a…..gwisgo i fyny! Cawsom hwyl yn ymarfer, ac roedd Rosalind o help mawr. Roedd ganddi dipyn o waith i’w gyflawni o ystyried nad wyf i’n edrych nag yn symud fel dawnswraig!

Cau eich llygaid, chwarae clarinet a chwrcwd = siawns o syrthio!

Chwarae clarinet ar un goes…gofyn am drwbwl!

Tra’r oedd hyn i gyd yn digwydd, roedd Chris yn brysur yn cyfansoddi, ac erbyn diwedd yr Haf derbyniais ddrafft cyntaf Hanes Taliesin! Dechreuais ymarfer yn syth, gan ganolbwyntio ar y symudiad cyntaf – Pair Dadeni. Y symudiad yma, ynghyd â Der Kleine Harlekin oedd fy rhaglen ar gyfer fy nhaith gyntaf yn cynrychioli Llysgenad Cerddoriaeth Newydd Ensemble Cymru ym mis Hydref. Fe wnaethom berfformio cyngherddau hyd a lled Gogledd Cymru, a chawsom amser gwych. Canolbwynt gwaith yr ychydig fisoedd canlynol oedd cymysgedd o ymarfer ac arwain cyfresi o weithdai addysgiadol i Ensemble Cymru – a hynny gyda chriw o bobl ifanc arbennig iawn. Fe wnaf greu blog ar wahân i hwn i son am y gwaith hwnnw. Mae’r rheini oedd yn rhan o’r gwaith yn haeddu tudalen gyfan i’w hunain!

Ar ôl y Nadolig treuliais wythnos yng Nghaerdydd yn ymarfer Hanes Taliesin gyda Rosalind. Roeddwn wedi creu recordiad o’r gwaith iddi ychydig fisoedd ynghynt, er mwyn iddi gael cyfle i feddwl am y symudiadau. Roedd yr ymarferion yn gynhyrchiol iawn, ac roedd gan Rosalind syniadau gwych. Mae’r gerddoriaeth yn cydfynd â dawns i’r dim.

Rosalind ar y llawr!
Rosalind yn yr awyr!

Ar ôl dychwelyd o Gaerdydd, rhaid oedd i mi ddechrau paratoi ar gyfer ail daith Ensemble Cymru ym mis Chwefror. Treuliais yr amser yn canolbwyntio ar ail symudiad Hanes Taliesin – Gwion yn Hedfan a Genedigaeth Taliesin, ac ar waith Paul Mealor ar gyfer clarinet unigol ‘Solemn Liturgy’. Cafodd y gwaith ei gyfansoddi yn 2006 ar gyfer fy nghyn athro Ian Mitchell. Cefais y fraint o gael perfformio’r gwaith i’r cyfansoddwr ym mis Medi 2011, fel canlyniad i gael gwahoddiad gan Wyl Gerdd Ryngwladol Gogledd Cymru i berfformio mewn gweithdy cerddoriaeth fodern. Roedd Paul yn gadarnhaol iawn, a oedd yn ryddhad mawr! Nawr fod cyngherddau mis Chwefror drosodd, mae’n bryd i mi ganolbwyntio ar brif ddigwyddiad y flwyddyn – Taith Genedlaethol Ensemble Cymru, ac rwy’n edrych ymlaen yn fawr! Bydd Rosalind yn ymuno â mi i berfformio’r Painter a’r Stockhausen, ac mi fydda innau’n ymuno âg Ensemble Cymru am ran o’u rhaglen. Roeddwn yn Llundain ychydig wythnosau yn ôl yn ymarfer gyda’r Ensemble, a oedd yn brofiad gwych. Er fy mod wrth fy modd yn perfformio gweithiau unigol ar gyfer y clarinet, rwy’n hynod o gyffrous o gael y cael y cyfle i rannu’r llwyfan â Rosalind ag Ensemble Cymru – mae perfformio ar ben fy hun o hyd weithiau’n mynd yn unig! Rwy’n gobeithio’n fawr cael cwrdd a llawer ohonoch ym misoedd Mawrth ag Ebrill! Hwyl am y tro! Sioned