Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars #4

I’m in the middle of developing a composition for choir for the opening of the renovated ‘Llwyn Celyn’ house by Landmark Trust. The sheer wealth of material about the place, landscape, history, language and nature gathered by research, by knowledgable commissioners, professionals, friends and colleagues is such a treat, I’ll be blogging little snippets to share the joy.

Llwyn Celyn is one of the finest surviving medieval hall houses in the heart of the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons, which is being restored into it’s full glory by the Landmark Trust. Click on the links to read more.

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photo from a Gwenhwyseg glossary archived by Iolo Morgannwg

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Gwenhwyseg

is a nearly extinct Welsh dialect from the Gwent region, it was spoken in the area around Llwyn Celyn. We want to bring the sounds of the language back into the valley, just for a moment, as such the lyrics of both works from ‘Enduring Like A Tree Under The Curious Stars’ will be in Gwenhwyseg.

Artist Stefhan Caddick is the creative producer and sound sculptor of the Llwyn Celyn opening performance on October 5-6 and he has been visiting the Gwenhwyseg dialect as part of his research for this project. He found some great glossary examples archived by Iolo Morgannwg, which brought him to the umbrella title of the production ‘as a Raven knows of singing’, freely translated from ‘cywnefin Bran a chann’. The glossaries are held in the archive at St Fagan’s National Museum of History.

If you would like to hear what Gwenhwyseg sounds like, Elin Jones is one of the last remaining speakers and Llwyn Celyn’s poet-in-residence Clare Potter interviewed her http://www.walesartsreview.org/a-i-r-dewch-gyda-ni-come-with-us/

Clare Potter: “As our conversation draws to an end, Elin compares this language we share to the river—’changing, staying the same, flowing on, endlessly different but still the same river.’ And though it is lamentable that her way of expressing Welsh is coming to its end, it has nourished and allowed for a new wave of dialect. And, yes we speak our Welsh differently, but it is this, our one language that binds us.”

And it is this what deeply interests me on a personal level about ancient dialects and languages of Western Europe. My native language is Limburgs rather than Dutch, spoken on the borders of Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. It’s a severely endangered ancient oral language which receives little research or protection. Yet, there are some strong indicators of it influencing modern English language, for example. From working on projects like Llwyn Celyn, I’m learning about synchronisities with other languages and origins of sounds used, as well as a certain sense of humor or sarcasm, the language in between the words, genetic to their linguistic characteristics, to find more background about my own deeply rooted heritage.

“No matter if the river water is different, it touches the same stones.”

 

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