New work by Welsh composer Gareth Glyn

maggie williams

New Member
100 years Celebration Concert of the Anglesey Eisteddfod
Sunday 7th May 7.30pm at Mona Show Ground, Anglesey

Beaumaris Band will be treading on new ground in a few weeks time when they will perform a world premier in the form of an unbroken Cantata lasting just over 50 minutes in length. Musical Director Gwyn M Evans gets together with leading Welsh composer Gareth Glyn to ask him what was the inspiration behind this magnificent piece.

DIRION DIR for vocal soloists, choir and brass band by GARETH GLYN

Dirion Dir (Gentle Land) is an extended cantata (lasting an unbroken 50 minutes) for four vocal soloists, five different kinds of choirs, and brass band - it may well be the only work of its kind ever written!

It came about because of the Welsh tradition of holding "Proclamation" concerts, exactly a year before major events such as the competitive cultural festival called an Eisteddfod, and in the same part of the country. One of Wales's foremost event of this kind is the Anglesey Eisteddfod (Eisteddfod Môn), which will be celebrating its centenary in 2007. Because of this, the organizing committee decided to commission, for the 2006 Proclamation, a large-scale celebratory work from Gareth Glyn, a successful composer who has lived on the island for close on 30 years, and whose work has been performed by major orchestras all around the world, and by soloists including Charlotte Church and Bryn Terfel.
The brief for the Proclamation piece was to involve as many as possible of Anglesey's many choirs (male, female, large and small mixed, children); so many responded that about 500 people will be on stage for the event.
The committee's initial idea for instrumental forces was to put together an ad-hoc ensemble of individual players, but Gareth Glyn was eager to use the existing Anglesey talent of the prize-winning Beaumaris Band, and was delighted when they agreed without hesitation.
The words to be set in the cantata were left to the composer to select, and he decided upon a series of poems and prose passages from various sources outlining the history of Anglesey from prehistory to the present day. It's a colourful story, taking in neolithic burial chambers and megaliths; the assault on the Druids by the Romans under Paulinus Suetonius; the ancestral home of the Tudor dynasty; the shipwreck of the Royal Charter with the loss of many lives in 1859; the Britannia Bridge fire of 1970 and so on.
The literature is set for varying vocal forces, from the whole company of four soloists and multiple choirs right down to the solo singers, so the matter of sound balance between the vocalists and band is a vital one. Gareth composed the setting with this in mind from the very start, so the solo movements pare the instrumental involvement right down to chamber forces - sometimes no more than two instruments - where appropriate; conversely, the whole might of the band is brought to bear during the climaxes for the full company, and at the times when nobody is actually singing.
The band has the stage to itself, as it were, at two points in the score – firstly the overture, which is based on the theme from the final movement, and secondly an instrumental depiction of the wild Anglesey festival of olden days called Gwylmabsant: a movement which marks the central point of the whole work.
Gareth's connection with the band goes back a long way - he has written and arranged several pieces for them - but he's indebted to them for the fact that he's a passable euphonium player. About 14 years ago, one of his young sons was playing baritone with the children's band; Gareth sat at the back of the bandroom throughout the rehearsals, so the conductor told him he might as well learn an instrument too! A grounding in the euph was the result, which stood him in good stead for honing his brass band compositional skills.
Years before, Gareth had been commissioned by the BTM band to write an extended piece for them - he came up with Cadernid Gwynedd, a competition-type work which has since been given stunning performances by the National Youth Brass Band of Wales. It was noticed at the time that the writing for band didn't follow traditional practices - Gareth's only experience was meeting the band and asking about their instruments' characters and ranges - and this freedom from preconceptions is something he has kept for Dirion Dir.
The style of the new work was something that needed a good deal of thinking about. Gareth Glyn is well-known in Wales as a composer who writes gratefully for choirs of all kinds, and many of his choral pieces are virtually standards, recorded by many choirs. He always writes to the abilities of the performers, so his works for local mixed choirs call for a technical ability different to that of, say, his setting for professional soloists. In a work such as this, the performers range from internationally-renowned singers to amateur choirs who are more used to diatonic, homophonic anthems, so they all need to be accommodated without obvious variations in style. However, over the years Gareth has developed a voice which is very much his own, but still based on diatonicism. This has enabled him to compose a work which encompasses the requirements of all the performers while at the same time producing a piece that will (he hopes) please and excite the audience.

Anno Draconis

Well-Known Member
maggie williams said:
Gareth had been commissioned by the BTM band to write an extended piece for them - he came up with Cadernid Gwynedd, a competition-type work which has since been given stunning performances by the National Youth Brass Band of Wales.

Played this with the NYBBW and liked it a lot, especially the slow central section. Sounds as though this new work will be interesting!​


Active Member
What a fantastic experience and piece this is , big thanks to Alwyn Humphries who directed the cantata and to Gareth for a massive work which deserves more performances of this piece. the audience loved it , I think it is to be broadcast on Radio Cymru in the next week or so, and click on "Radio ar Alw" (=radio on demand). I don't yet know whether it'll be then available on demand for the following week, as is usual on the BBC, but I'll check when I can.
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