The Mountains of Wales is Part 1 of the Cwmwl Tystion / Witness Suite composed by Tomos Williams. A CD of the entire performance will be released by Tŷ Cerdd during the Autumn 2020. This footage was recorded live at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea.
Composer and band leader Tomos Williams:
The formation of Cwmwl Tystion/Witness and the music we performed on tour in 2019 came about as a culmination of ideas, aspirations and inspirations. The social and political climate seemed to demand a work centred on Wales, its history and culture, and the intriguing, ever-present question of identity, both past and present.
I had been listening to – and moved by – a lot of overtly political music (Wadada Leo Smith and Ambrose Akinmusire in particular), and I felt that the time was right for a Welsh contribution to this landscape. I wanted to create a piece that both celebrated and questioned the idea of Welshness and referenced notable events in recent Welsh history. The result was Cwmwl Tystion / Witness – a paean to the nation and its people, performed and toured by a band of some of the finest musicians in Wales.
The title, ‘Cwmwl Tystion’, although Biblical in its source, is derived in this instance from a poem by the Welsh poet, pacifist and nationalist Waldo Williams (1904-1971), ‘Pa Beth yw Dyn?‘ (What is Man?), in which he confronts the existential issues of his time.
The resulting music was performed by a group of extraordinary musicians and our performances augmented by live visuals by Simon Proffitt – these visuals were an integral element of each concert.
I am extremely grateful to Tŷ Cerdd for funding the composition of Cwmwl Tystion, to Canolfan y Celfyddydau Aberystwyth Arts Centre, where we rehearsed and premiered the work, and to the Arts Council of Wales for providing funding for the tour back in 2019.
Tomos Williams (trumpet / flugelhorn) hails from Aberystwyth, and now lives in Cardiff. He composed the suite and brought together the musicians for Cwmwl Tystion/Witness. As a trumpeter, he leads numerous bands in Wales including the jazz/folk sextet, Burum, and the Wales-Indian collaboration, Khamira. He has recorded an album with Welsh triple harpist Llio Rhydderch, Carn Ingli, and has been a member of Welsh folk pioneers fernhill for almost twenty years. https://www.burum.org/ https://www.khamira.net/
Huw Warren (piano) has been at the forefront of European Jazz since the 1980s. He has recently released two acclaimed albums on ECM with Quercus (his trio with Iain Ballamy and June Tabor) as well as recordings on the Italian label Camjazz. His ability to play both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ was a central element to the Cwmwl Tystion/Witness Suite. https://huwwarren.wordpress.com/
Rhodri Davies (harp / electronics), from Aberystwyth, is a leading figure in free improvisation and contemporary composition both nationally and internationally. He has played with a veritable Who’s Who of improvising musicians, as well as being the harpist of choice for contemporary composer Eliane Radigue amongst others. . http://www.rhodridavies.com/
Huw V Williams (double bass) Bangor-born and now London-based, Huw is one of the most exciting new arrivals on the jazz and improvised music scene in the last five years. He has been associated with the finest practitioners of the international avant-garde music scene, including Jim Black and Jeff Williams, and has collaborated with many of his contemporaries such as Devin Gray and George Crowley. Huw also curates his own podcast, ‘Improvised Music Agenda’. https://www.huwvwilliams.com/
Francesca Simmons (violin / saw), from Clwyd, is equally comfortable improvising or delivering a folk melody. She works regularly as performer and composer with live animation outfits 1927 and The Paper Cinema, touring internationally, alongside working with her own folk-improv trio Rock of Eye and ad hoc work with artists such as Sam Lee and Rambert Ballet @madamceski
Mark O’Connor (drums), from Hengoed, is Wales’s pre-eminent drummer. He has worked with Tomos Williams over the past decade (with both Burum and Khamira), is a member of numerous other bands, and performs regularly with Huw Warren and Paula Gardiner among many others.
Simon Proffitt (visuals) is a multi-disciplinary artist, musician and designer based in north east Wales. He works mainly with photography, video, installation and sound. http://www.simonproffitt.com
Taliesin Arts Centre performance recorded by Dylan Fowler on 28th June 2019
Tomos Williams – trwmped, flugelhorn / trumpet, flugelhorn
Francesca Simmons – ffidil, llif / violin, saw
Rhodri Davies – telyn, effeithiau trydanol / harp, electronics
Huw Warren – piano
Huw V Williams – bas / bass
Mark O’Connor – drymiau / drums
Simon Proffitt – delweddau byw / live visuals