Cwmwl Tystion at Mold and Bangor
TRUMPETER Tomos Williams and his group of brilliant Welsh musicians visit Theatr Clwyd on Thursday and Pontio, Bangor on June 29 to perform a new suite of music which reflects on the extraordinary times that we live in.
Touring Wales Witness will perform the newly composed ‘Witness Suite’ (funded by the Welsh music body Tŷ Cerdd) incorporating elements of jazz, the avant-garde, improvisation and Welsh folk music.
Tomos wanted to write new music that reflected on current political and societal ills, as well as a suite that reflected on the Welsh experience and recent Welsh history.
The name ‘Cwmwl Tystion / Witness’ is derived from a poem by the great Welsh poet, nationalist and pacifist Waldo Williams (1904-1971) – and the music ‘bears witness’ to these complex and difficult times.
Movements have titles such as ‘Tryweryn,’ The Blue Books, and Welsh Not in memory of recent and not so distant Welsh history, while Mynyddoedd Cymru (The Welsh Mountains) and Paul Robeson and the Miners Eisteddfod 1957, celebrate the Welsh landscape and culture.
The final movement ‘Pa Beth yw Dyn’?, (What is man?) directly references the Waldo Williams’ poem and places the work outside the boundaries of national identity and asks a more fundamental universal question.
Pianist Huw Warren has been at the forefront of British Jazz since the 1980s, and has recently released two albums on ECM with Quercus (alongside Iain Ballamy and June Tabor), as well as releasing his new piano trio Everything in Between in March this year on CamJazz. Huw has been a central figure on the Welsh jazz scene for decades, and his ability to play both on the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ is crucial to this project and the overall band sound.
Rhodri Davies, a harpist from Aberystwyth, is one of the leading figures of free improvisation and contemporary composition both nationally and internationally. He has played with a who’s who of improvising musicians (Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, John Butcher, Butch Morris, Pat Thomas) as well as being the harpist of choice for contemporary composer Eliane Radigue and many others. Recently he has formed the avant-pop band Hen Ogledd with Richard Dawson. The avant-garde and improvisatory element that Rhodri contributes sets the music apart and is a central voice throughout the entire Suite.
Huw Warren and Rhodri have never shared a stage or performed together, so Cwmwl Tystion / Witness will deliver an important first in this regard.
Huw V Williams is known for his ‘Hon’ band and album that was released a few years ago. Francesca Simmons is a violin (and saw) player from North Wales who is comfortable improvising or delivering a folk melody, while Mark O’Connor is Wales’ pre-eminent drummer who’s worked with Tomos over the past decade (touring internationally with both Burum and the Indo-Welsh fusion band Khamira), as well as playing with Huw Warren and Paula Gardiner amongst many others.
Simon Proffitt, a visual artist and designer will also be accompanying the performances with live visuals.
Dafydd Rhys, Director of Aberystwyth Arts Centre – who have also been central in supporting this new venture and will host the opening concert of the tour – says: “It’s important that Aberystwyth Arts Centre supports new and confident Welsh Art and music. When Tomos suggested his idea I was instantly interested in trying to assist with the success of this project. A new work combining music, Welsh identity and politics is absolutely crucial in these difficult times.”
Tomos adds: “I’m very grateful to Tŷ Cerdd for funding the Cwmwl Tystion Suite and to the Arts Council of Wales for supporting the tour – and I’m looking forward to performing with this great group of unique musicians. I can’t wait to get started.”
‘The Cwmwl Tystion Suite’ has been funded by Tŷ Cerdd, and the tour is made possible by generous Arts Council of Wales financial support.
Cwmwl Tystion / Witness will perform in Theatr Clwyd and Pontio this month