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Programme Notes: Symphonic Poems



Cycle of Nine Symphonic Poems: Fy Ngwlad - My Country



Meinir  Opus 61

Following tradition, in Nant Gwrtheyrn a bride would run and hide on the morning of her wedding. When the day of the wedding of Rhys and Meinir arrived, everybody gathered in Clynnog Church, except for Meinir who headed for the hills. Playing their part, Rhys’ friends searched high and low for Meinir, but to no avail. On discovering his bride was missing, Rhys returned to the Nant and frantically searched for Meinir’s hiding place.

Fraught with worry, Rhys spent months searching for his sweetheart, and slowly lost his mind. Then one stormy night, while out wandering the heath, Rhys took shelter beneath his favourite oak tree. As he cowered beneath the tree, a bolt of lightning struck the trunk, splitting it in half. To Rhys’ disbelief the splintered tree revealed a skeleton wearing a wedding dress. Overcome by emotion, poor Rhys collapsed and died beside his beloved bride.  

Awarded the Meirion Williams Prize, National Eisteddfod of Wales, 1993

Limpertsberg, Luxembourg, 1992   


Cilmeri  Opus 69 

Cilmeri: the place where on December 11th, 1282, Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, was betrayed, killed and butchered by English invaders. The blackest day in the history of Wales.   

Limpertsberg, Luxembourg, 1993  


Dolbadarn  Opus 122

An attempt to evoke the autumnal Dolbadarn Castle in Llanberis, one of the last sites of Welsh resistance.. I was born a few hundred metres from this historic place, and took its name as my own Bardic name.

Buschdorf, Luxembourg and Fachwen, Wales, 1999

Y Chwarel (The Quarry)  Opus 123 

Inspired by many things, including this photo of a lone bugler (actually from the Penrhyn Quarry), the Dinorwic Quarry near which I was born and where many, many relatives worked, by the bell of the Quarry Hospital, the relentless water-driven industrial machinery and by the need to remember how many lives were used up and spat out by the foreign owners of what is now an industrial wasteland. Hence the quotations from my favourite Welsh Hymn: In Memoriam.  

Fachwen, Wales, 1999 


Owain Glyndŵr  Opus 125

This heroic Symphonic Poem evokes the very last Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndŵr, who led the bitter resistance to English colonial oppression in the 15th century. He appeared, fought and disappeared into time, and may one day come again, fully armed, to save his country.

Buschdorf, Luxembourg, 2000

Garth Celyn  Opus 174

An attempt to evoke the panic and broken dreams during the period after the murder of Llywelyn, Prince of Wales, in December 1282. Garth Celyn, the royal home of the Princes, is in turmoil ... impossible dreams of freedom persist ...

Canach, Luxembourg, 2007

Talaith  Opus 177

Talaith: the golden band, crown of Wales, paraded through the streets of London after its theft following the English conquest of Wales in 1282. Bitterness and gloating pageant contrast with visions of lost freedom and Celtic inspiration. One of a group of symphonic poems based on Welsh history, places and legends. 

Canach, Luxembourg, 2007

Caer Engan  Opus 181

The penultimate work in my cycle of 9 symphonic poems based on Welsh history and legend. From a fiercely inspiring place in Gwynedd  thought by some to be the basis and location of the 'King Arthur' legend/history.

Fachwen, Wales, 2008    


Tŵr Llewelyn  Opus 239

Tŵr Llywelyn - Llywelyn's Tower

A Symphonic Poem, evoking the history of Garth Celyn, Palace of the Princes of Wales before the English conquest in 1282. The work is dedicated to Kathryn Gibson, owner, custodian and dedicated historical researcher. Our country, Wales, has suffered so much assault and indignity over the years, but still survives as a distinct Celtic civilisation. Let us be optimistic in these changing times!

Canach, Luxembourg, 2014


Symphonic Poems



Bergkristall  Opus 199

A moving story by Adalbert Stifter about two children who get lost in the Austrian Alps after a visit to their grandmother on Christmas Eve. The return journey begins well, but unexpected heavy snow causes Konrad and his little sister Sanna to lose their way. They wander higher and higher until they are forced to spend the clear, freezing night in an ice-cave. A mystical if frozen experience. On Christmas Day they are eventually rescued. Konrad is represented by confident clarinets, Sanna by questioning flute, oboe and english horn.

Stifters rührende Geschichte über die Rettung zweier Kinder in den österreichischen Alpen. Konrad und Sanna gehen am Tag vor Weihnachten von ihrem abgelegenen Bergdorf ins dahinterliegende Tal, um die Großmutter zu besuchen. Das Wetter ist schön, und der Gang ist ihnen vertraut. Auf dem Heimweg aber beginnt es plötzlich heftig zu schneien: sie verlieren die Orientierung und suchen in einer Eishöhle Zuflucht. Das ganze Dorf bricht zur Suche auf und rettet die Kinder.

Hinterthal, Austria, 2011

Moselherbst  Opus 161a

Dark autumnal music f, with a Wagner joke in the middle, combining with lines of the Moselhymne.

Canach, Luxembourg, 2006 

Wintersea  Opus 202

Dedicated to Kathryn Gibson who took an inspiring photo of a bleak and static winter seascape in North Wales.

Canach, Luxembourg, January 2012 

Sommerstein  Opus 206

An ascent before dawn, the darkness clearing just before the summit, a shape looming through mist, disguised by haze, finally to emerge with the sun giving power, warmth and perspective. Below, the sound of a trumpet and horn, playing a traditional melody for themselves ..... Sommerstein, a small but imposing peak above Maria Alm in Austria.

Hinterthal, Austria, 28th-29th October, 2012

1666  Opus 227

Dedicated to Jan Houter (Jan van Vlieland).

An evocation of distance, menace, mist, smoke, fire and destruction as perhaps experienced by the onlookers on the island of Vlieland in August 1666, when a British fleet under Rear Admiral Sir Robert Holmes returned to destroy over a hundred Dutch merchant ships seeking shelter in what were presumed to be safe waters.

The naval port of the Admiralty of Friesland, Harlingen, lies at the southern edge of the Waddenzee, the vast stretch of mudflats between the Frisian Isles and the continental coast. Harlingen's exit to the North Sea, located 20 miles (32 km) to the northwest, is the Vlie, the ancient estuary of the IJssel river, between the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling. The channel was often used as moorage and it was, correctly, assumed that a large number of merchantmen were at anchor here, sheltering from the English fleet and waiting to resume their voyage to the Baltic, each year the destination of thousands of Dutch vessels.

On 21 August (11 August Old Style), Holmes returned to the main fleet and could report that he had destroyed "about 150 ships", captured an old flyboat (with twelve cannon) at the south shore of Vlieland and destroyed ter Schelling. A day earlier, the secretary of Prince Rupert, James Hayes, had already written to England: "On the 9th, at noon, smoke was seen rising from several places in the island of Vlie, and the 10th brought news that Sir Robert had burned in the enemy's harbour 160 outward-bound valuable merchantmen and three men-of-war, and taken a little pleasure boat and eight guns in four hours. The loss is computed at a million sterling, and will make great confusion when the people see themselves in the power of the English at their very doors. Sir Robert then landed his forces, and is burning the houses in Vlie and Schelling as bonfires for his good success at sea."

Towards the end a line from the 17th century Dutch hymn by Valerius (1626) is quoted:

Wilt heden nu treden voor God den Heere,
Hem boven al loven van herten seer,
End' maken groot zijns lieven namens eere,
Die daar nu onsen vijan slaat terneer.

Vlieland, Luxembourg and Hinterthal, Austria, 2014

Ritterburg am Rhein  Opus 241

Ritterburg Am Rhein - Rhine Castle
Far above the brutality and violence below him, a Knight contemplates the shining vision of his castle as it slowly emerges from the early autumn morning mist ....

Canach, Luxembourg, 2014 

Nosso Lar  Opus 243

Nosso Lar - Our Home … from Death to Life … the return to the home we once left.

Canach, Luxembourg - Salzburg, Hinterthal, Austria - Canach, Luxembourg
Allerheiligen 2014

The Quickening Tide  Opus 255

The liquid, golden light as the sun sets over the Irish Sea. Stasis, stillness, the turning tide waits before returning in a rush. 

Hinterthal, Austria, August 6th 2016

Die schlafende Jungfrau von Hinterthal  Opus 280


Die schlafende Jungfrau von Hinterthal
(The Sleeping Maiden of Hinterthal)

She sleeps, dreams, knows, remembers ........

Dedicated to Roswitha Foch on the occasion of our exhibition/presentation 'Die schlafende Jungfrau von Hinterthal' in Maria Alm - Hinterthal, 2018

Hinterthal, September 16th, 2018

Genesis  Opus 291

Genesis - a Symphonic Poem directly inspired by the magnificent painting 'Genesis' by Roswitha Foch, who lives and works in Maria Alm, Austria. Trumpet calls announce the various stages of Creation: Earth, Fire, Wind and Water. 

Hinterthal, Austria, August 2019.

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