Astudiaeth fywiog o gyfoeth hanes diwylliannol a chymdeithasol Cymru, trwy gyfrwng golwg gyfareddol gan hanesydd toreithiog, ar amrywiaeth y gweithgareddau cerddorol, lleisiol ac offerynnol, corawl a cherddorfaol, crefyddol a chystadleuol, yng nghymoedd De Cymru, 1840-1914. 16 llun du-a-gwyn. Cyhoeddwyd gyntaf ym mis Tachwedd 1998.
A vivid study of the richness of Welsh cultural and social history, in a captivating account by a prolific historian, of the variety of musical activities, vocal and instrumental, choral and orchestral, religious and competitive, in the South Wales valleys , 1840-1914. 16 black-and-white illustrations. First published in November 1998.
The study of Welsh history has enjoyed a vigorous popularity over the last thirty years, and scores of scholarly volumes in Welsh and English have poured forth from our presses. The last twenty years in particular have also witnessed a tremendous growth in the study of local history, and series such as Studies in Welsh History, published by the University of Wales Press, Cof Cenedl and Cyfres y Cymoedd, published by Gwasg Gomer, have made valuable contributions to Welsh historiography. However, the social history of Welsh music has apparently escaped the attention of both students and scholars alike, though a handful of energetic music historians, such as Lyn Davies, Rhidian Griffiths, Huw Williams and John Hugh Thomas, have published articles and essays over the years.
This volume consists of an introduction and ten substantial chapters, written with freshness and authority. The author shows that the legacy of the Welsh music of the Middle Ages was kept alive by harpists such as John Parry, Edward Jones and John Parry (Bardd Alaw), who published their own collections of Welsh music in the eighteenth century. He then traces both English and European influences on John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia) and Brinley Richards, arguing that the development of choral singing in Wales was a recent and sudden phenomenon following the success of the eisteddfod movement and other institutions, such as the cymanfa ganu, from around 1860 onwards. The temperance movement fostered other institutions that played a prominent part in Welsh nonconformity, namely the Band of Hope, and the ysgol gân, and there grew a demand for music grammars and textbooks, scores of which were produced by entrepreneurial publishers such as the Mills family of Llanidloes. This was also the age of the tonic sol-fa movement, which enabled generations of chapel congregations to read music for the first time.
Griffith Rhys Jones (Caradog) and his Côr Mawr successfully competed at competitions in the Crystal Palace in 1872 and 1873, and this choir represented the peak of twenty years of strenuous and various endeavour in the Cynon valley, its successes having been regarded by many as a vindication of the Welsh against the accusations of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales in 1847. The key figures in music-making in Merthyr Tydfil were John Thomas (Ieuan Ddu), Abraham Bowen, Rosser Beynon and Megan Watts Hughes, as well as Joseph Parry, Waless first university-educated professional musician. The fierce battles between the Dowlais and Merthyr choirs are also discussed in detail, as well as the tempestuous career of Dan Davies, the conductor of the Dowlais Harmonic Society and, later, the Merthyr Philharmonic Society. As in Aberdare and Merthyr, the Rhondda Valley also had its singing teachers and conductors. Music tours became popular during this period, and the author provides a detailed and amusing account of the Treorci Male Voice Choirs visit to Windsor in 1895. The perils of competition are also discussed, and rivalry between local choirs frequently ended up in court.
The author attributes the decline in Welsh choral singing to several causes, the most obvious being the decline in Welsh nonconformity itself. Choirs were also formed for competition purposes only, then promptly disbanded till the next competition. Petty jealousies between conductors and choristers, and rivalry between choirs, frequently got out of hand. Each choir had its following of enthusiastic and boisterous supporters, among whom the practice of gambling and laying wagers on competitions was rife. As a result, disorderly scenes and rowdyism were frequent occurrences at competitions.
Much has been written in recent years on diwylliant gwerin, and the late T.J. Morgan, in his inaugural address as Professor of Welsh at Swansea and in his volume of essays, Diwylliant Gwerin, made an appeal for a comprehensive study of this peasant, or amateur, culture. This volume makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the amateur musical culture of the industrial communities of Glamorgan and Gwent. Drawing on a long and extensive acquaintance with the primary and secondary sources, the author provides a wide-ranging survey of the epidemic of concerts and the contagion of eisteddfodau that became prominent features of valley life between 1840 and 1914. But Gareth Williams does not idealise the people of these communities and he does not make extravagant claims about their achievements.
Rupert Christiansen, in a feature entitled Can the Welsh Still Sing? for an issue of The Daily Telegraph, lamented the decline of the Welsh choral tradition during the last twenty years. But Gareth Williams clearly shows that this tradition had already reached its zenith by the early years of the twentieth century, and belonged to a world of which the people of modern day cool Cymru have no conception.
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgement should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddior adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.