KNOTWORK: A BLEND OF TRADITIONAL WELSH MELODIES
A collection of duets and trios for violin inspired by Welsh traditional music and arranged for collaborative playing. Classically trained violinist, pianist and composer Helen Adam has released her latest work, Knotwork, a collection of 12 arrangements for two or three violins. The tunes are based on Welsh traditional music and the customary way of playing music collectively.
The name Knotwork refers to the style in which these pieces are written, whereby different lines of melody are twisted and knotted together to produce satisfying ensemble music. It arose out of Helen’s passion for sociable music making – the kind of instrumental playing that you do in your sitting room with friends and family.
There has always been a strong history of domestic music making in Wales. Unfortunately these traditions were lost in the late 19th century partly due to the gradual breakdown in rural society and its close ties as a result of the Industrial Revolution, and partly to the Methodist Revivalists’ disapproval of non-religious music and dance.
Knotwork is an attempt to revive this heritage and bring collaborative music playing back as a way of socializing and enjoying time together.
Welsh harpist and composer Edward Jones, writing in 1784, explained: “Numbers of persons of both sexes assemble and sit around the harp. They alternately sing, drink and dance…”
“This kind of playing does not need to be at all stressful, no one worries about perfection, but it gives an opportunity to harmonise and make music with loved ones and friends, which is one of life’s greatest pleasures” – said Helen.
In its heyday, Welsh secular music was characterised by great creativity. Musicians were known for improvising around a known melody, as well as making up new words to songs to suit the occasion and listeners. This tradition is now to be heard again in the music of many of today’s performers.
The Knotwork pieces were originally written for violins but can be played, with a few small adaptions, by most melody instruments, such as: flutes, recorders, other string instruments and even harps. The tunes used include well-known song melodies, such as Bugelio’r Gwenith Gwen (Watching the White Wheat) as well as lesser known dance tunes.
About Helen Adam
Helen is a classically trained violinist, pianist and composer who works as a performer, teacher, workshop leader and therapeutic musician. She specialises in Welsh folk and music from the Klezmer (Jewish) tradition and is enchanted by the beauty and diversity of Welsh landscape, language and literature. As a cultural hybrid, she seeks to blend new and traditional styles with sensitivity and love. Most of Helen’s happiest social experiences have included live music. With Knotwork she hopes to share this pleasure with others and encourage musicians of all abilities to have fun playing together. Knotwork is dedicated to Helen’s sister, Rachel, with whom she plays whenever she can.
Play a track
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How to obtain Knotwork:
• Price: Book £8.50 CD £5.00
• See more at www.helenadam.com where you will find downloads of the tracks and be able to buy the booklet and CD.
• Available also direct from Helen email: email@example.com
• And local booksellers including College Books, Ammanford.
• And from the publisher, Cambria Books
About the Knotwork booklet
In the booklet of sheet music, the original melody is given in full, followed by the duets/trios, in clear and easy to read format. Performance notes and information about the music and its history are included. The pieces become a little harder progressing through the book, but all would be fine for an intermediate musician. One line is generally a little simpler than the other. They are ideal material for players seeking an introduction to Welsh music and for teachers to use with their students for sight-reading and ensemble practice. They can be used as the starting point for further variations and improvisation around these fine old tunes.
About the Knotwork CD
Using the accompanying CD makes understanding of any tricky rhythms much easier. The CD was recorded by Helen playing with well-known young violinist Abigail Hammett. Like Helen, Abigail is from Llandybie, Carmarthenshire, and now studies at the Royal Northern School of Music. The recording was produced by George Whitfield, with whom Helen plays in the popular duo Fiddlebox. The CD may be used with the booklet or enjoyed on its own.
The full listing of Knotwork tunes is:
Marwnad yr Ehedydd The Death of the Lark
Ffarwèl i’r Marian Farewell to the Shore
Merch Megan Megan’s Daughter
Y Derwydd The Druid
Nyth y Gwcw The Cuckoo’s Nest
Difyrrwch Gwyr Dyfi Valley The Delights of the Men of the Dyfi
Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwen Watching the White Wheat
Dafydd y Garreg Wen David of the White Rock
Ymdaith Caerffili The Caerffili March
Jig Arglwydd Caernarfon Lord of Caernarfon’s Jig
Ble Rwy’t ti’n Myned? Where Are You Going?
Ym Mhontypridd Mae Mwriad In Pontypridd Is My Intended
Photographs and cover artwork available on demand: credit: Jennie Caldwell