Archive for St David’s Day

A Song for St David’s Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on March 1, 2013 by telescoper

It’s St David’s Day today, so

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

I’m about to head off to three hours of mandatory Health and Safety Training so I’ll do a quick but appropriate post. I have posted this before, but I think it’s beautiful so make no apology for posting it again. It’s called Children’s Song and it’s by the great Welsh poet, R.S. Thomas.

We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.

by R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)

St David’s Day Poem

Posted in Poetry with tags , , , on March 1, 2012 by telescoper

Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus!

As has become traditional on this blog, I’ve decided to mark St David’s Day (Dydd Gŵyl Dewi) by posting a poem by R.S. Thomas. This one is called To a Young Poet, but  if you change “poet” to “physicist” it’s not far off the mark either. Perhaps there is more than one young physicist that this speaks to!

For the first twenty years you are still growing
Bodily that is: as a poet, of course,
You are not born yet. It’s the next ten
You cut your teeth on to emerge smirking
For your brash courtship of the muse.
You will take seriously those first affairs
With young poems, but no attachments
Formed then but come to shame you,
When love has changed to a grave service
Of a cold queen.

From forty on
You learn from the sharp cuts and jags
Of poems that have come to pieces
In your crude hands how to assemble
With more skill the arbitrary parts
Of ode or sonnet, while time fosters
A new impulse to conceal your wounds
From her and from a bold public,
Given to pry.

You are old now
As years reckon, but in that slower
World of the poet you are just coming
To sad manhood, knowing the smile
On her proud face is not for you.

 

St David’s Day Concert

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by telescoper

I’ve finally found a few minutes before dinner to post a quick review of last night’s St David’s Day concert at St David’s Hall here in Cardiff.

I was very lucky with the tickets for this because when I first went on the on-line booking system there didn’t seem to be any blocks of good seats available, and I was hoping to go with a contingent of work colleagues and their partners. However, I was then distracted by work things and decided to try again later. When I logged on again, a set of front-row seats had mysteriously appeared. I snapped them all up for £20 quid each and had no problem finding buyers for them all. And so it was that we took our seats last night just a few feet from the edge of the stage for the performance, which was broadcast Live on BBC Radio 3.

The main item on the bill was the perennial Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, which accounted for the huge number of singers ranged up behind the stage. These included not only the BBC National Chorus of Wales (on the right of the stage) but also massed County Youth Choirs from all across the Principality (in the centre) and a choir of very young children from Ysgol Gymreig Pwll Coch to the left. The latter, I should say, in case I forget later, were absolutely terrific.

However, before the interval the divers choirs had a chance simply to listen to the BBC National Orchestra of Wales play Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini, Op. 43 by Sergei Rachmaninov, featuring Welsh pianist Llŷr Williams. It was a pleasant enough warm-up, with flashes of virtuosic brilliance as well as lots of changes of mood, although I did think it took soloist and Orchestra quite a while to gel together. Incidentally, the “theme by Paganini” used as the basis of this piece is the same one that was used for the musical introduction to the South Bank Show, although I think quite a lot of people know that.

Anyway, it’s quite a short piece so the interval came up quickly. In the bar we found free Welsh cakes and bara brith, which was delicious, and 20 minutes later we were back in the hall for the main event.

The Carmina Burana is of course an extremely popular concert piece, but the fact that it’s so well known hasn’t resulted in it becoming a commonplace experience. It’s one of those works that can sound fresh and exciting no matter how many times you’ve heard it before. In fact, last night’s performance was gripping right from the start.

It’s probably a dangerous trick for a composer to use their best idea right at the start, but it works in this case. The opening O Fortuna made it clear to every one in the hall that we were in for a treat, as the sense of controlled power from the massed voices was quite spine-tingling. There’s only a  problem with starting  brilliantly if you can’t sustain it, but that’s not the case with the Carmina Burana. The text is taken from a curious collection of 13th century poems – mainly in ecclesiastical latin, but with smatterings of German and Provencal. Curious because, although they were written by monks, they are decidedly secular in subject matter including bawdy drinking songs and lewd lyrics about sexual lust. The music is quite varied too, using bits of plain chant alongside more modern-sounding sections. In other words, there are enough contrasts in both subject matter and musical style you keep you hooked all the way through; at least that what I felt.

As well as the massed choirs there are three solo vocalists, although the work isn’t shared equally. Baritone Christopher Maltman had by far the most to do and he certainly earned his crust. Soprano Sarah Tynan sang her pieces very nicely, especially when she was teamed up with the splendid children’s choir. Tenor Allan Clayton only had one piece to do – a song about a swan being roasted on a spit – but he didn’t fluff it when his chance finally came.

Conductor Andrew Litton (left) cut an engaging figure on the podium. Bouncing up and down with an energy that belied his rotund appearance I thought he looked like a cross between John Sessions and Jocky Wilson.  He also kept the enormous orchestral and choral forces together quite superbly and managed to conjure up an excellent performance from all concerned. When we made it to a local restaurant after the performance we found him sitting just one table away. He’d certainly earned his dinner!

Carmina Burana ends with a recapitulation of the initial number O Fortuna – best known perhaps for being used in the film The Omen – after which much applause reverberated around the hall. Rightly so, as it was a really wonderful concert.

It didn’t end quite there, however. Since it was St David’s Day there was a final rendition of the Welsh National Anthem Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau which the audience joined in. With the massed choirs belting it out as if their lives depended on it I’m not sure how much we were heard on the Radio, but I can tell you that it sounded great inside the hall.


Share/Bookmark

Another Poem for Another St David’s Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on March 1, 2011 by telescoper

It’s St David’s Day again. Tonight I’m off to the St David’s Day concert at St David’s Hall, which is being broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and which should have a cracking atmosphere because it’s sold out. Since we’ve got front-row seats you might even hear me coughing! I’ll try to post a review in due course, either this evening or tomorrow morning.

In case you’re wondering, I’m up early this morning in order to get a full day’s work in before the concert which starts at 7pm and which will need me to leave work earlier than usual.

Last year I marked the occasion of St David’s Day with a poem by Dylan Thomas and I’ve noticed that quite a few people have been reading that post in the last few days. It seems appropriate therefore to post another poem this year. It’s only since coming to Wales – which I did less than four years ago – that I’ve discovered the poetry of R.S. Thomas and in that short time I’ve developed a respect bordering on reverence for his work. It seems entirely fitting that I put up an example of his poems on St David’s Day. I hope you enjoy it!

There Is A Being, They Say by R. S. Thomas (1913-2000)

There is a being, they say,
neither body nor spirit,
that is more power than reason, more reason
than love, whose origins
are unknown, who is apart
and with us, the silence
to which we appeal, the architect
of our failure. It takes the genes
and experiments with them and our children
are born blind, or seeing have
smooth hands that are the instruments
of destruction. It is the spoor
in the world’s dark leading away
from the discovered victim, the expression
the sky shows us after
an excess of spleen. It has gifts it
distributes to those least fitted
to use them. It is everywhere and
nowhere, and looks sideways into the shocked face
of life, challenging it to disown it.

And here is the poet himself reading it


Share/Bookmark

A Poem for St David’s Day

Posted in Poetry with tags , , on March 1, 2010 by telescoper

Today is St David’s Day, and it seems apt to celebrate it with a poem by Dylan Thomas. I’ve loved this particular one since I first heard it when I was a student many years ago. I say “heard it” rather than “read it” because it was through buying a tape of the man himself reading his poems that got me hooked. Fern Hill reflects about the passage of time, the loss of childhood happiness and the inevitability of death but its mood is defiant rather than gloomy. It’s full of vibrant imagery, but it’s also written with a wonderful feeling for the natural rhythms and cadences of the English language. You can listen to Dylan Thomas reading this exactly as if it were music.

 Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
     About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
       The night above the dingle starry,
         Time let me hail and climb
       Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
     And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
     And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
         Trail with daisies and barley
       Down the rivers of the windfall light.

     And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
     About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
       In the sun that is young once only,
         Time let me play and be
       Golden in the mercy of his means,
     And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
     Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
         And the sabbath rang slowly
       In the pebbles of the holy streams.

     All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
     Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
       And playing, lovely and watery
         And fire green as grass.
       And nightly under the simple stars
     As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
     All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
       Flying with the ricks, and the horses
         Flashing into the dark.

     And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
     With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
       Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
         The sky gathered again
       And the sun grew round that very day.
     So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
     In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
       Out of the whinnying green stable
         On to the fields of praise.

     And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
     Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
       In the sun born over and over,
         I ran my heedless ways,
       My wishes raced through the house high hay
     And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
     In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
       Before the children green and golden
         Follow him out of grace.

     Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
     Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
       In the moon that is always rising,
         Nor that riding to sleep
       I should hear him fly with the high fields
     And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
     Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
         Time held me green and dying
       Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,469 other followers