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Cefn Ydfa and Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn

Cefn Ydfa

Back in the summer, one of the distinctive experiences we had whilst preparing for our “Octet” tour was a visit to the home of Ann Thomas, Cefn Ydfa; the subject of the Welsh folk song, Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn(Shepherding the White Wheat).

Background
If you’re not familiar with the background of the song, it describes the tragic loving relationship between Wil Hopcyn and Ann Thomas. Ann belonged to a family of affluent farmers from a small village in South Wales, Llangynwyd near Maesteg, but Wil was only a local thatcher and poet. Ann’s motherwas adamany  that Wil wasn’t good enough for her daughter and therefore she forced Ann to marry the son of a local squire and a few days before the wedding, Wil left the village for Bristol.  Months later, he returned home and when he arrived, he discovered that Ann was dying. As Wil held Ann in his arms, she relaxed and smiled because of her love for him, and then died. Ann was 23 and Wil died 14 years later after writing a song in memory of their love. Both are now buried in Llangynwyd.

The Song
Composer John Metcalf, and two of the Ensemble’s members had the opportunity to have their photos talen in front of Cefn Ydfa and it was a great opportunity for the musicians to play the main melody of the song on the farmyard. This is Peryn and Nicola reminding you of the melody.

 

John Metcalf

 

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Touch Tour for the Blind Veterans of Llandudno

One of the highlights of our tour in the autumn was our visit to the Blind Veterans Centre in north Wales. The centre in Llandudno is where blind veterans or veterans with sight impairment are given respite, training and rehabilitation and where they can be asessed and given support.  The building on the outskirts of Llandudno was built back at the beginning of the last century by the Forresters’ family as a convalescence home for shale miners, but is now Blind Veterans UK’s newest centre.

During Remembrance Week, the Ensemble had the opportunity to visit the centre and perform to the veterans.  Following a performance of Schubert’s Octet, the residents had a chance to feel and touch the instruments and chat with the musicians about music and the musical instruments.  Then, following the break, there was a performance of Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn by John Metcalf. The melody was obviously familiar to many as they sang with the Ensemble, and a tear or two were spotted on some faces of audience members.

 

 

 

 

 

Nick Ireson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Schubert and Metcalf Octet Reviews

Schubert Metcalf Reviews

We received outstanding reviews from everyone who came to hear us perform the octet by Schubert and a new octet by John Metcalf across Wales.  If you had a chance to come to hear us, we hope you too enjoyed it!

Here are some of the reviews we received on John Metcalf’s and Schubert’s Octet:

‘ Thanks Ensemble Cymru for a fantastic evening… a very memorable evening ‘ Theatr Colwyn, Colwyn Bay

‘ I heard this lovely programme in Ucheldre. Don’t miss it ‘.

‘And me! I totally agree, don’t miss it.’ Ucheldre, Holyhead.

‘Thanks for the concert in Pwllheli. I enjoyed it very much.’

‘A fantastic concert on Friday night. It was very well received by those there, who included many strangers! Congratulations!’ Cilcain, Mold.

‘ A brilliant performance tonight…Totally blown away….The concert was really amazing… A full house, which is fantastic.’ Cilcain

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Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro… just round the corner

Marriage of Figaro Mozart

Ensemble Cymru will join Mid Wales Opera in the spring in a new production of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.  Using Amanda Holden’s English translation which tells the story of the Figaro and his prospective wife Susanna’s troubles in striving to deceive their masters, the audience are sure to be in stitches!  The production has been tailored especially for the Welsh audience and joining international performers on stage will be young talented singers from the Wales International Academy of Voice.

Make a note in your diaries for Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro:

Saturday February 29 Hafren, Newtown

Wednesday March 4 Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

Sunday March 8 Theatr Clwyd, Mold

Tuesday March 10 Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Friday March 13 Operatif @ Pontio Bangor

Saturday March 14 Pontio, Bangor

Wednesday March 18 The Torch, Milford Haven

Saturday March 21 The Riverfront, Newport

Wednesday March 25 Ffwrnes, Llanelli

Saturday March 28 Courtyard, Hereford

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An extract from the tour’s programme

Coming to know Schubert’s Octet

Schubert:

Native to Austria, Franz Schubert (1797-1828) was a prolific composer who made substantial contributions to the symphonic genre, chamber music and German Lied. He drew on the Viennese Classical tradition, but also forged his own path within the Romantic period, composing a complex yet subtle musical language at the same time. Although, during his lifetime, much appreciation was limited to close circles, his works became far more widely recognised after his death and he became eventually one of the most influential composers during the 19th century.
It is believed that syphilis was the cause of Schubert’s early death and, in accordance with his wishes, the 31-year-old was buried in Vienna near Beethoven.
So taken was Count Troyer with Beethoven’s Septet, Op. 20, that he commissioned a similar work from Schubert. Unlike Beethoven’s piece, a second violin was added to this Octet, resulting in the unusual combination of a string quartet, plus clarinet, horn, bassoon, and double bass.
Although Schubert was in poor health while composing the Octet, the overall character of the composition is lively, with only occasional, brief spells of darkness that foreshadow the melancholy of his later music.

The Octet

Franz Schubert – Octet in F major  D. 803 (1824)
I. Adagio – Allegro – Più allegro
II. Adagio
III. Allegro vivace – Trio – Allegro vivace
IV. Andante – variations. Un poco più mosso – Più lento
V. Menuetto. Allegretto – Trio – Menuetto – Coda
VI. Andante molto – Allegro – Andante molto – Allegro molto

The opening movement pronounces the home key of F major and a jumpy rhythmic idea that re-appears throughout the work.The Adagio, or the second movement opens with a singing clarinet solo that blossoms into a duet alongside the violin. A shadow passes over the end of this movement, as a pizzicato F note on the cello and anguished chords punctuate the coda.Returning to F major, the next movement reasserts the dotted rhythms introduced at the beginning.
The fourth movement features a set of variations on a theme from the operetta Die Freunde von Salamanka. The theme passes cleverly around the ensemble, affirming the equal relationship between the eight instruments.
The lighter atmosphere of the fifth movement seems welcome after the complexity of what has come before; the architecture of this Minuet and Trio looks to a Classical style.
It is followed by the troubled opening of the last movement which soon gives way to a fast and jolly theme. But, the F major chord that begins this melody is somewhat hard-won over the slow introduction, which features the use of tremolo – the fast repetition of a single note on the cello. The movement then proceeds with some uncertainty, exploring various keys and coming to a halt more than once before culminating in a rushing and energetic finish.

Coming to Know John Metcalf’s Octet

by  John Metcalf

John Metcalf

In November 2014, I started work on some Welsh folk songs settings. The originals are, of course, very expressive and characterful none more so than the almost heartbreaking beautiful Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn. After setting it, I immediately made sketches for further development of and variations on the song and shortly after wrote the piano piece CHANT based on it. When, last year, Peryn Clement-Evans asked me to write an Octet for Ensemble Cymru I knew at once which ideas and sketches I wanted to develop.
The combination of instruments for which Schubert wrote his monumental Octet – Clarinet, Horn, Bassoon and String Quintet (with Double Bass) – is both sonorous and sombre and gives full rein to the singing qualities of his music. Wales is also renowned for its singing and the instrumentation is a real gift, perhaps particularly for a Welsh composer. The singing that I have referenced here is hymn singing and I have accentuated that choice by the use of a pedal note ‘A’ throughout the entire piece.
In composing the work, I was conscious too of the well-known jibe that the only thing to do after playing a folk-song was to play it again louder. In an attempt to belie this, and in the search for a musical experience that would develop and evolve during the playing time, I took as my starting point the fact that this beautiful song commemorates the fate of star-crossed lovers – Ann Maddocks and Wil Hopcyn.

While not following this tragic love story sequentially, I have tried to reflect both its highs and lows, and these find their further expression in the deliberate use of opposites in the work, male and female, question and answer, major and minor modalities.
At times, the (male) wind instruments counterpoint the (female) string instruments, each group acting in the manner of subliminal alter egos. The folk song arrangement is placed at the end of the piece in an attempt to contextualise it within the continuity of human experience in our age-old country.
There are seven sections to this 2O’ work – Introduction;Variation 1; Variation 11; Variation 111; Variation 1V; Variation V; Theme.
Finally, I wish to record my grateful thanks to Ensemble Cymru for commissioning such an ambitious work at a time of great financial stringency in the arts in Wales.

Tu allan i Gefn Ydfa

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Celebration of Melodies

November Tour

With the Austrian National Day taking place last Saturday, (October 26), Ensemble Cymru is delighted to announce that a Welsh tribute to Austrian composer Franz Schubert will be heard at some of Wales’ main concert halls during November.

Wales’s finest chamber music group, Ensemble Cymru will be performing works by one of the world’s greatest composers, Octet in F Major by Schubert and Octet by Welsh composer John Metcalf, in nine different concerts across the length and breadth of Wales next month. Both Octets will be performed by violin, viola, cello, double bass, clarinet, bass and French Horn in locations ranging from Holyhead, Bangor, Pwllheli, Llandudno, Colwyn Bay, Cilcain, Newport (Pembs.), to Brecon and Aberystwyth between November 2 and 17. Continue reading Celebration of Melodies

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Thank You (Gloddaeth, Llandudno)

We wish to thank everybody who came to the Thank You concert at Gloddaeth Church, Llandudno. It was lovely to see so many people there, and it became obvious during chats over a cup of tea/coffee and bara brith, that a great number of you were keen for Ensemble Cymru to return! So watch this space!

S4C’s flagship magazine programme, Heno, filmed the event – here’s a link to the programme (see the concert feature at 10 minutes in):

www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p078skt5/heno-thu-23-may-2019

And here is a selection of photos taken at the concert by photographer Iolo Penri.

Gerallt Pennant interviewing Peryn for the ‘Heno’ programme..
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Ensemble Cymru return to St David’s Hall with Schubert masterpiece

November Tour

Wales’s leading chamber music group, Ensemble Cymru, make a welcome return to the Welsh capital this November when they bring a special concert to St David’s Hall which includes the rarely performed masterpiece, the Schubert Octet, alongside a brand-new commission from the pen of Welsh composer, John Metcalf.

Continue reading Ensemble Cymru return to St David’s Hall with Schubert masterpiece

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Help Ensemble Cymru double its notes with the Big Give


The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2018 has STARTED

Over the next 7 days, every gift donated to Ensemble Cymru via the Big Give will be DOUBLED by match funding.

As a small organisation, every gift, no matter it’s size, will have a huge impact on our work.

Click here to donate

On behalf of everyone at Ensemble Cymru, thank you very much

Continue reading Help Ensemble Cymru double its notes with the Big Give