Wales - Music and Dance
Wales is music. Although it has every type of music – it is best known for its hymns. In the 18th Century, there was a great Welsh Methodist religious revival, Starting in the 1600’s, during he Baroque period, a new form of vocal music started to appear, this was four-part harmony. At first was not for hymns. Religious music was still a chanting style. Folk music in the Celtic world did use harmony, but with the Welsh Methodist Revival, hymn composers started writing new religious music, sometimes adding religious lyrics to popular or folk tunes. Folk music didn’t die out, but Welsh Hymns became to be the dominant vocal choice for most people in Wales. The style of signing hymns was different in Wales. It was sung with great fervor, and loud. At the end of the church service if you weren’t somewhat hoarse, you hadn’t done well! There is a Welsh saying “If you don’t know your part by age 3, then you are not a Christian!” Wales produced many superior hymn writers. Probably the most famous would be William Williams Pantycelyn who wrote the great hymn “Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah, sung to the tune Cwm Rhondda. This hymn is sung by many denominations. The Welsh National Anthem was written by a father-son team, Evan and James James.
Examples of Welsh music are plentiful. Just query Welsh music on YouTube, and you can find many examples.
Each year, in many places in the world, those of Welsh descent gather together for an event known as a Gymanfa Ganu, (in English Singing Festival). This is a religious service, but not in a format of any particular denomination. When first conceived in Wales, it was a time when the different groups, Methodist, Congregational, Baptist, etc. got together primarily to enjoy singing. It lives on today. The Welsh (usually a Welsh Society) rent a facility, a church or college chapel and have a Gymanfa Ganu (pronounced Gim-Ahn-Va Gahn-eee). Because of COVID-19 in 2020, these live events were sometimes conducted on-line, especially in the U.S. and Canada. The following Youtube video is one conducted by the Welsh Society of Central Ohio in October 2020 (of which your author is a member).
Hymn singing is just one aspect of Welsh Music. Wales has produced some of the world’s best musicians. Examples: (When available, I have included at least one YouTube link, in some cases there are many!
Bryn Terfel, – Opera – Bass-Baritone Non piu andrai (Le nozze di Figaro) – Bryn Terfel – YouTube
Tom Jones – Pop THE GREEN GREEN GRASS OF HOME…TOM JONES LIVE – YouTube
Gruff Rhys – Rock and Electro Pop Gruff Rhys – Frontier Man (Official Video) – YouTube
Shirley Bassey – Multi genres, pop, blues, jazz, and Soul. Sung background for three 007 movies Shirley Bassey: Light my fire – YouTube
Marina – Pop MARINA – To Be Human (Official Music Video) – YouTube
Mary Hopkin – Folk Mary Hopkin ”Turn Turn Turn” Opportunity Knocks July 1968 – YouTube
Shakin’ Stevens – Rock Shakin’ Stevens – You Drive Me Crazy (Official HD Video) – YouTube
Meic Stevens – Folk (Sings in Welsh) Meic Stevens – Cân Walter – YouTube
Ricky Valence – Pop & Rock (died in Plane crash with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper) – Ritchie Valens – Ooh My Head – YouTube
Katherine Jenkins – Mezzo-Soprano -Multi genre, Opera, Musical Theater, Hymns, Pop Time To Say Goodbye – Katherine Jenkins – YouTube
Charlotte Church – Classical, Pop, Political Activist, Songwriter, Actress Charlotte Church – Dream a Dream (Official Video) – YouTube
Aled Jones – started as a boy soprano in a choir, went on to be a singer, songwriter, TV announcer, and Actor Walking in the Air – Aled Jones Sings With His Younger Self | Classic FM Sessions – YouTube
Katrin Finch, Siân James, Clair Jones, Georgia Ruth and Robin High Bowen are all famous Welsh Harpists Catrin Finch – Lisa Lan (Celtic Harp Tune) – YouTube, Sian James – Y Glomen – YouTube, Pethe – Robin Huw Bowen – Dafydd y Carreg Wen – YouTube
Plethyn, Crasdant, Bob Delyn a’r Ebillion, Carreg Lafar, Henneseys are just a few of the many Welsh Folk or Folk Rock groups. Plethyn Seidir ddoe – YouTube, BOB DELYN A’R EBILLION – Y SWN – YouTube, Piping Live 2014 – Welsh Folk Group ‘Carreg Lafar’ (4) – YouTube, Rhys Meirion a Frank Hennessy – Ffarwel i’r Rhondda – YouTube
Many of these individuals and groups can be seen on YouTube or their music is available from Sain Records – Music from Wales
This list is just a sample of some of the better known musicians. To include all present and past vocal and instrumental musicians from Wales would create a list of hundreds.
Wales has country folk dancing. Compared to Irish or Scottish dancing, it is pretty calm. I see it as similar to American square or line dancing. I am not an expert, but I think it differs from the zeal seen in Irish and Scottish dancing because of the Calvinistic influence on life in general. Both the music and dance have been affected. Only in recent times, has influence from the outside world affected the style of both music and dance.
The following are examples of Welsh country dancing.