We’re continuing the Homegrown Plus series with Vrï, a trio from Wales in the U.K., whose members describe their music as ‘chamber-folk.’ (Find the whole series here!) The idea of the series is to gather concert videos, video interviews with the musicians, and connections to Library of Congress collections together in one place for our subscribers…so here we go!
Bringing together the experience of Jordan Price Williams (cello, voice) Patrick Rimes (violin, viola, foot percussion, voice) and Aneirin Jones (violin, voice) Vrï plays tunes and songs from the Celtic nations and beyond, attempting to combine the energy of a rowdy pub session with the style and finesse of the Viennese string quartet. They combine high-energy dance music and stately traditional melodies with delicate arrangements, and sing in both Welsh and English.
Patrick Rimes has extensive touring experience across three continents with Calan and the Cerys Matthews Band. Jordan Price and Aneirin Jones are members of award-winning bands NoGood Boyo and Pendevig. Together as Vrï, they have earned widespread critical acclaim for their intricate and infectious interpretations of Welsh traditional melodies and songs. Their debut album Ty Ein Tadau (House Of Our Fathers) received Best Album and Best Traditional Welsh Language Track in the Wales Folk Awards and a nomination at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards for Best Traditional Song, as well as a nomination for the Welsh Music Prize. Find out more at their website.
At the American Folklife Center, we’ve known about Vrï for a few years through hanging out in the British Underground room at Folk Alliance International, where colleagues and I have spent at least one evening a year for over a decade. Typically, Trac Cymru, a Welsh music development nonprofit, sponsors a few of the showcases, and that’s how we found out first about Patrick (through his other band Calan), and eventually about Vrï. We were delighted to invite them to perform in our virtual series. When we got their video, we were impressed not only with their music and singing, but with their use of the beautiful chapel space, and with the aerial footage showing off lovely Wales. See the video below!
In our interview, I talked with all three members of Vrï about a wide range of topics. They described the Welsh hymn-singing tradition, the history of Welsh folksong, and the centrality of the harp to Welsh instrumental music. They credited the Romani population of Wales for keeping folk music traditions alive when it fell out of fashion with other Welsh people. Watch it in the player below!
If you enjoyed the concert and interview, check out the Collection Connections below. You’ll find links to archival collections, guides, and other materials related to Vrï ‘s concert, including earlier recordings of some of the same songs they performed!
The American Folklife Center has manuscripts and a few recordings of songs collected on the Barry docks in Cardiff, Wales, in 1928. The collector was James Madison Carpenter, and the songs are mostly sea shanties sung in English. Find the manuscripts and audio at this link on the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library website.
AFC also has recordings of Welsh-language hymns and traditional songs made in Wisconsin by Helene Stratman Thomas in the 1940s. These recordings were made with equipment and discs loaned by the Library of Congress to the University of Wisconsin, and copies of the recordings reside at both institutions. The sound recordings are online at this link on the UW site. To find the Welsh recordings, visit “browse the collection,” select “language,” and then select “Welsh.”
AFC has field recordings made by Alan Lomax in Treorci, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales, in 1953, including hymns, folksongs, jokes, and interviews in English and Welsh. Lomax also made dubs of English-language singer Phil Tanner from the Gower peninsula in Wales, and scattered other Welsh recordings. Find them all online at the Lomax Digital Archive.
The National Jukebox from the Library of Congress has several early commercial Welsh-language recordings from the Pedwarawd Wilkes-Barre [i.e., Wilkes-Barre Quartet] in Pennsylvania. These include a version of Crug y Bar, which was sung by Vrï in their concert. Find them, along with a few other Welsh-related items, online at this link.
In 1947, in Centralia, Pennsylvania, Welsh American miner Dan Walsh sang an English-language miner’s song for George Korson, which he identified as an “old Welsh ballad.” Find it at this link.
In 2009, Gwilym Morus from Wrecsam, Wales, then a fellow at the British Arts and Humanities Council and at the Library of Congress’s John W. Kluge Center, spoke on the topic of “The Evolution of Welsh Music.” He discussed the history of the Welsh folk music tradition and performed some pieces of modern folk music. Find the video at this link.
Guides and Essays
“James P. Leary and Folksongs of Another America” contains a discussion of Helene Stratman-Thomas’s recordings from Wisconsin, as well as an embedded Welsh song.
“‘Mustache on a Cabbage Head’: Three Centuries’ Experience with ‘Our Goodman’” features a link to a Welsh-language version of this traditional ballad, along with a discussion of the song’s history and many other versions in English and Irish.
“How Green These Valleys Were, As Well …” announces the addition of 167 color Photocrom travel views of Wales from 1890-1900 to the Library of Congress’s Flickr photostream, with links to some of the photos–including the ruins at Aberystwyth, below. (You can scroll backward and forward in our photostream once you get to Flickr to see them all.)
Thanks for watching, listening, and reading! The American Folklife Center’s Homegrown Concert Series brings music, dance, and spoken arts from across the country, and some from further afield, to the Library of Congress. For information on current concerts, visit the Folklife Concerts page at Concerts from the Library of Congress. For past concerts, including links to webcasts and other information, visit the Homegrown Concerts Online Archive.