Chris Roberts, Director of Music at St. Mary’s Conwy, has been finding hope for the future (as any Welshman would) in Poetry and Song …
Siân Wyn Gibson yn canu ‘Nantglyn’
Cyfarchwch eich gilydd â salmau ac emynau a chaniadau ysbrydol;
canwch a phynciwch o’ch calon i’r Arglwydd.
Diolchwch bob amser am bob dim i Dduw y Tad
yn enw ein Harglwydd Iesu Grist.’
‘Be filled with the Spirit as you sing psalms and hymns
and spiritual songs among yourselves,
singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,
giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
Chris Roberts writes:
Normally Spring is a busy time for me as I finalise plans for the annual Classical Music Festival, which should have been taking place in Conwy this week. Sadly this year it wasn’t meant to be, and so I have found myself with a lot more free time to fill. One of the things I have done during lockdown is to compose.
25 years and more spent encouraging students to compose their GCSE and A level pieces, and of tidying up their compositions, had rather dented my own desire to compose. However it was reawakened just prior to lockdown when a member of the choir at St. Mary’s suggested that I write a set of responses for the Evensong at which the new chancel lighting and seat cushions at Conwy were dedicated in memory of my parents.
Although at present we have no idea when we shall be allowed to sing again, settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis, St. John Henry Newman’s prayer ‘O Lord, support us all the day long’ and a congregational communion service have followed. I have named that service ’The Mass of St. Celynnin’ and inscribed it to David, in celebration of his 25 years in the ordained ministry, and to Eryl, in anticipation of her ordination to the Priesthood later this year.
In addition I have composed three songs in Welsh. One of them, ‘Nantglyn’, is a tribute to the tiny village, 5 miles outside Denbigh and nestling in its beautiful valley below the moors, which some of you may know. It was there that my Father was born and brought up, and where I spent many happy holidays as a boy on my Aunt and Uncle’s farm.
The words ‘Nantglyn’ are by the poet Griffith John Roberts, who won the Chair at the 1947 National Eisteddfod in Colwyn Bay. Griffith John was a priest in the Church in Wales. He was Rector of Nantglyn from 1945 to 1948, where he knew my Taid and Nain, and my Dad. From 1956 to 1969 he was Vicar of Conwy. Here in Conwy he officiated at my parents’ wedding, and christened me too, so my family’s association with him goes back a long way.
In the poem, Griffith John Roberts describes Nantglyn through the seasons, mentioning some of the houses and farms in the vicinity. He starts by describing a quiet Summer evening in the woods of the Plas, and then goes on to describe the Autumn bracken near Tan y Gyrt. In verse three, Winter has come and the tiny River Lliwen is frozen solid. In verse four, even though everywhere is in the grip of Winter, signs of new life can be seen in the hedgerows round Rhyd y Gerwin, to burst out triumphantly into Spring in the final verse where Segrwyd Goch is mentioned.
Thus the poem ends on an optimistic note, describing the natural rebirth seen in Spring as a ‘Pasg di-gloch’, an ‘Easter without a bell‘, connecting nature with Jesus’ resurrection.
At the moment though we are in a kind of ‘Winter in Summer’, locked in a coronavirus world, slowly signs of hope are beginning to emerge. Let us keep faith like Griffith John Roberts in our Lord’s resurrection, and in the yearly wonder of Spring. Let us say with confidence that we shall meet again, we shall sing again.
In the recording above, ‘Nantglyn’ is sung by my good friend Siân Wyn Gibson, who should have been singing at the Festival this week.
Ein Duw cariadlon,
diolchwn i ti am y modd y mae cerddoriaeth a chân
yn cyfoethogi ein haddoliad:
eu gallu i ddal ein dychymyg
a siarad am dy bresenoldeb,
eu nerth i egluro ein ffydd
a chrynhoi ein hymateb,
eu dawn i gasglu ynghyd ein mawl
a chyhoeddi ein teyrngarwch i Grist.
Fy nghalon sy’n gorfoleddu,
a rhoddaf ddiolch â’m cân.
we thank you for the way that music and song
enrich our worship:
their ability to capture our imagination
and speak of your presence,
their power to articulate our faith
and encapsulate our response,
their capacity to sum up our praise
and declare our allegiance to Christ.
My heart exults,
and with my song I will give thanks.
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