Pwyll ap Siôn premieres new work

The latest composition of Dr Pwyll ap Siôn, senior lecturer in the School of Music, has been premiered by soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and the European Union Chamber Orchestra at the Galeri, Caernarfon on 24 January 2013; it will be given again at the Hall for Cornwall, Truro, on 31 January 2013.

Sevi (Cornish for ‘Strawberries’) was commissioned by the Galeri Arts Centre, Caernarfon and the European Union Chamber Orchestra, with funding from the ‘Beyond Borders’ scheme supported by the PRS for Music Foundation, Creative Scotland, Arts Council Northern Ireland, Arts Council Wales and the Colwinston Trust.

A twenty-minute work in four sections for Soprano, Piano and String Orchestra, Sevi forms the central part of Un Llais (‘One Voice’) – a creative, research-based project spanning eighteen months, whose main aim was to explore and develop cultural, musical and linguistic connections between the Celtic regions of Wales and Cornwall. In addition to commissioning new texts by poet Twm Morys, who speaks Welsh and Cornish, the project also involved collecting and comparing over one hundred folk melodies from both regions, identifying similar characteristics between them (such as intervallic and melodic design, rhythmic character and shape) and then composing a seamless melodic weave from these melodic and rhythmic ‘cells’.

In the words of Dr ap Sion: ‘Sevi does not quote explicitly from folk sources, apart from one Welsh lullaby, but rather places into practice the notion of the “intertextual weave” – a concept proposed by Robert Worby in his discussion of Michael Nyman’s music, and developed in my book on the composer [The Music of Michael Nyman (Ashgate, 2007)]. The origins of Nyman’s melodies are often difficult to trace, as they often belong to a number of different sources. Likewise in Sevi, distinctions and differences are deliberately blurred between the Welsh and Cornish sources, yielding hybrid melodies that belong at once to both and yet to neither. The aim was to compose a work that replicates the aural tradition’s inherent intertextuality – of melodies changing gradually through transmission from one generation to the next.’

Publication date: 30 January 2013