DR. MEREDYDD EVANS
Meredydd Evans is the foremost authority on Welsh folk singing, as a singer himself, as a collector and academic, and as one who is passionately involved in the promotion of the Welsh language and its culture.
Born in Llanegryn, Meirionnydd, and brought up in Blaenau Ffestiniog, he heard folk songs and melodies sung by his mother from a very young age. Later, as a student at Bangor University, he was influenced by Enid Parry (wife of Dr. Thomas Parry), who began his lifelong addiction to the musical heritage of Wales. The third woman to play a big part in his work is his wife Phyllis Kinney, an American opera singer whom he met while lecturing in America during the 1950s.
As a student, he formed the close-harmony trio Triawd y Coleg (see SAIN SCD 2568) and they became household names in Wales through the “Noson Lawen” BBC radio programme, releasing several records of popular songs, mostly composed by Mered himself. His first album of folk songs was released in 1954 on the “Folkways” label during his time in the USA, and it was named one of the 12 best folk records of that year. After returning to Wales with his wife, he became a university lecturer before being appointed Head of Light Entertainment with BBC Wales, and was responsible for many successful popular music and comedy programmes in the early days of Welsh language TV.
After leaving the BBC, he returned to his academic work, and became active in Welsh language campaigns, especially the campaigns to establish a Welsh language TV channel and a Welsh Medium Federal College.
The double-CD album released in 2005 contains much of his best recorded tracks, taken from two a cappella LPs on the SAIN label, a 1962 release by Delysé entitled “A Concert of Welsh Songs”, with Phyllis Kinney, The Tryfan Octet, the Russian harpist Maria Korchinska and a London orchestra, and tracks from a Dryw label EP.
Review from “Living Tradition”, Edition 65
Merêd – Caneuon Gwerin SAIN SCD2414
‘Dr Meredydd Evans got sucked into the Welsh language revival spearheaded by SAIN in the 1970’s, sitting oddly alongside Welsh rock and roll, protest song and plain pop as well as revival folk. However, he always gave the impression the songs were the most important thing to him. It was a measure of his eminence when the title album in his box set first came out in 1977; it defied the label’s Welsh only rule* and included an English translation. This is repeated here, the song notes by Roy Saer from the Welsh Folk Museum have been turned into an informative booklet, which has a typeface that makes lyrics and translations far more accessible than they were in the worthy, but cramped, insert of twenty five years ago. The second CD includes Evans other recorded work form various albums, including what must be a very rare one of a concert released back in 1962*.
As is often the case with unaccompanied ballad singers, the CD format brings out the best in their recordings. Evans is recorded as a relatively young man at the height of his singing powers, contrasting him with many of the English and Scottish source singers. In many ways, Meredydd Evans was the Hamish Henderson of Welsh music, certainly in the academic field. With fifty tracks here it is possible to trace the different traditions of Welsh folk song : from the lyrical, more melodic song originally composed in the Welsh language – ‘Ar lan y Môr’ and ‘Myn Mair’, to Welsh translations of English language songs*, and songs in Welsh but aping the English broadside tradition*, which were often produced by printing shops near the border who saw a ready market in both languages.
A review of an entire folk culture. Fasciniating stuff.’
Bob Hogan *SAIN does not necessarily concur with these statements, interesting as they may sound!
- YR HEN WYDDELES
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