… sur le bout des doigts …
Pwt ar y bys is a Welsh fiddle tune that I’ve known for years – it was a favourite of one of my colleagues when I worked at Caerphilly Music Service. I don’t know why it started whirring around my head during the summer but I couldn’t shift this particular ear-worm when Peter Geraghty asked me about writing or arranging something for Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra to play for a lockdown recording project.
The musical imagination can be capricious, even mischievous, with ideas merging and morphing with one another until something quite different emerges. This little Welsh folk tune began, in my mind at least, to sound increasingly Slavic.
While Peter initially suggested I “set the bar fairly low” the piece gradually developed from something short and straightforward to occupy a few ASO members to this rather more elaborate musing on the fanciful notion that Rimsky-Korsakov might have had some Welsh ancestry.
A brief word on the title: Pwt ar y bys is variously translated as under the fingers; put on the finger; lift the latch; and even (according to Google Translate) Buttered Peas! I also found a French or Breton source for the tune which led to the original title Sur le bout des doigts or on the fingertips. This being a bit of a mouthful to say let alone to type in every message, Buttered Peas (which I’d used a shorthand for my Sibelius file names) seems to have stuck and now seems somehow appropriate. So Buttered Peas it is!
© Iestyn Harding/Silurian Music 2021