Crwth - Cass Meurig
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Cass Meurig
Fflach (

cd cover The crwth is probably Wales' most unique traditional instrument. With ancient roots extending back to Roman times, this bowed instrument looks like a cross between a fiddle and a lyre and sounds a bit like a hurdy-gurdy. Melodies can be fingered on four strings, with an additional two strings functioning as plucked or bowed drones. Unlike a violin with its arched bridge, the crwth's flat bridge and fingerboard enable all its strings to be played at the same time, resulting in a continuous, droning chordal accompaniment. In the hands of a sensitive player like Cass Meurig, the crwth produces earthy melodies against a Medieval-like backdrop.

Though crwth players were held in high esteem in the Middle Ages, the more refined modern violin eventually usurped the crwth and relegated it to a lower status associated with street music. Since the end of the 18th century the crwth has been virtually extinct, to be revived only in the last decade. This recording permits the ancient crwth to share the beauty of its unique voice with the world once again.

The tunes on this disc are as varied as the Welsh countryside, from fertile plains to rugged mountains. Meurig runs the instrument through its paces, using a variety of tunings and tempos to evoke different moods. "Y Grimson Felfed/Y Cowper Mwyn" (Crimson Velvet/The Gentle Cooper) exploits the husky sonorities of the gut strings in a haunting, reflective solo. On "Llawenydd Pob Llu" (Shepherd's Hey) she is joined by Bob Evans in a bouncy crwth duet. Although most of the tracks on the disc feature the crwth, a few selections include other instruments. "Gwl yr Adeilad/Y Fedle Fawr" (See the Building/The Great Medley) starts with stark melodic lines on Meurig's fiddle cavorting above ominous drones played by hurdy gurdy virtuoso Nigel Eaton, and builds to a majestic finale as the two instruments blend their rich sonorities in a stately minor processional.

Cass Meurig holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wales, Bangor in eighteenth century Welsh fiddle music. She has edited historical music manuscripts, and is a teacher and frequent speaker on Welsh music history. She is also a member of Welsh bands Fernhill and Pigyn Clust. Her heritage, credentials and musicianship make her the perfect modern ambassador for this ancient instrument. - Barry Hall

CD available from cdRoots

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