The overture was commissioned by Abergavenny Symphony Orchestra for first performance in June 2013. The character of the music comes partly from two ideas going through my mind when writing it. One was the wish to pay tribute to Maria Jane Williams, who was a harpist in the early nineteenth century and a pioneer in the collecting of Welsh folk songs. She lived in this district and travelled around listening to the singers and notating their songs, and she presented her collection of fifty of them to the Abergavenny Eisteddfod in 1837, for which she was awarded a special prize. Hence the use of some of these melodies and the prominence of the harp in the overture.
The other idea was suggested by a poster I saw here last year advertising Abergavenny as a town with mountains and markets. Well, there are, of course, three mountains, and so the overture was cast in three sections, each one starting with a short improvisation on the harp, leading into one of Maria Jane’s lovely slow melodies, representing, perhaps, the beauty and peace of the mountain. After each of these a traditional fiddle tune is heard (though only the first time is it played by a solo violin) leading into the hustle and bustle of the markets with a medley of other songs and dance tunes – there are eleven in all, listed below. The harp doesn’t take part in the dancing until right at the end when I thought Maria Jane might perhaps let her hair down a little!
Melodies used in the overture
- Y Gwŷdd (The Weaver’s Song)
- O’er the Hill and Away
- Y Fwyalchen (The Blackbird)
- Craig y Ddinas (Dinas Rock)
- Fy Nghalon (My Heart)
- Kick the World Before Me
- Adar Mân y Mynydd (Little Birds of the Mountain)
- Ym Mhontypridd (In Pontypridd is my Lover)
- Tra Bo Dau (While There Are Two)
- What Cato Advises
- Hela’r ‘Sgyvarnog (Hunting the Hare)