Songs for the Leri

I’ve been busy this last month or so with a music commission that may be of interest to some of you. Its part of a wider project of commissioned arts called Cymerau (Welsh for ‘river confluence’). Its aim is to inspire engagement with water and what it means to us as communities and people living in a particular landscape.

My own project, Penillion i’r Leri (‘Songs for the Leri’), is an opportunity for local folks to write folk lyrics for me to sing. In Wales, the folk tradition of ballads and old songs remains a prominent part of culture, and some folks will write folk lyrics in the traditional style, usually for nothing more than their own pleasure, but sometimes for friends, family and other locals. They are almost always on a local theme, and often mention local history or events prominent at the time.

I’ve been asking locals who live along the River Leri to compose penillion (‘folk lyrics’) on the topic of the river as she meanders her way from the high ground around Pumlumon down to the Dyfi estuary. Below is (probably a bad) translation of one recent contribution from Bleddyn Huws of Talybont (sorry Bleddyn if I’ve maimed it too much), followed by a test recording of myself performing it. Enjoy!

The River Leri

What’s the sound in River Leri
rushing on towards the sea?
What kind of chords are in her waters
swelling into one encore?

Is it the mournful sound of days long gone,
old melodies of congregations
roaring wild in her boiling waves
between the hills as she pours on?

Is it the sound of voices from the past
stirring me by night and day
that echo along her shores,
sometimes merry, sometimes sad?

Some say its the sound of her tears
heard endlessly every day
above the bracken in Braichgarw,
weather it be fine or rain.

I hear a song thats older than history
as she rushes to the sea,
the timeless song of vast centuries
drowning the brief moments of my hearing.

And here’s the first draft (which will change for the better as my sister joins me for harmony):

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3 thoughts on “Songs for the Leri

  1. What a great project 🙂 Reminds me a little of Alice Oswald’s ‘Dart’ but here local folk contribute alot more directly. I recently met up with Heron and we went for a walk across Cors Fochno meeting the Leri and the Clettwr to Taliesin’s grave so loved hearing this ‘river-song’ and being taken back to that landscape.

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