From the Land of Song
Cello and piano
Winner, 2010 NINNAU & Y Drych Eisteddfod
Recorded by Christine Thomas Tsen
- Pant Corlan yr Wyn (Let Now the Harp)
- Tros y Garreg (Over the Stone)
- Yn Nyffryn Clwyd (The Missing Boat)
- Ar hyd y nos (All Through the Night)
- Dwfn Yw’r môr (Well I Know This Lovely Place)
The country of Wales (Cymru), on the west coast of Britain, is a land of rich natural beauty, with snowy mountains, deep green valleys, rugged coastlines and an ancient culture that preceded the Roman occupation 2,000 years ago. Wales is often called the “Land of Song,” and the harp, along with the Red Dragon and the daffodil, is one of its national symbols.
Cellist Christine Tsen dreamed of a suite of folk songs from Wales—often called the “Land of Song”—for the cello and piano combination. She sent me a list of favorite tunes; I chose five that make a little journey through the repertoire, as well as a display piece for her talents. The result is From the Land of Song (O Gwlad y Gân). It was the least a brother could do. The songs are played without pause.
Approaching as a light across the water, the cheerful “Let Now the Harp” is answered by its inverted form, and cello and piano dialogue in sonata style. “Over the Stone” recalls Fauré in its siciliana setting. “The Missing Boat” has special significance for the Thomas family.
My great-great-grandfather, John Thomas of Aberaeron, was the Master of the clipper-built schooner Clifton, which ran aground in a “mountainous sea” at the entrance to Bideford harbor on the morning of March 12, 1859, drowning Thomas and three of his crew.
The Captain’s son, Thomas Bennett, emigrated to the U.S. in 1868 aboard the SS Minnesota to found the American branch of the family. “All Through the Night” is perhaps the best known Welsh folk song. Its first notes are echoed by “Well I Know,” making a smooth bridge to a spirited finale.
Christine Thomas Tsen and pianist Narine Babadjanian recorded From the Land of Song in 2010. The work received its concert premiere by Laura Sewell and Sonja Thompson in Saint Paul in November 2019. It was a great pleasure to be present at Laura and Sonja’s recording sessions in August 2020, and I was moved to fine-tune the end of the work, making this the final version.
Laura Sewell’s THREESCORE has been released: Purchase from Innova
David Evan Thomas has been honored with two McKnight Foundation Artist Fellowships, an Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and commissions from the Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Born in Rochester, New York in 1958, Thomas studied at Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, and with Dominick Argento at the University of Minnesota. His music is published by ECS, MorningStar, Augsburg Fortress and several other publishers. Thomas lives in Minneapolis.
From the Land of Song received First Prize (The Myfanwy Bajaj Prize) in the 2010 Ninnau and Y Drych Music Eisteddfod. It’s one of several works Thomas has written on Welsh themes, including Diadem for solo harp (Adlais), Three Welsh Folk Songs (ALRY) and Preludes on Welsh Tunes (Augsburg Fortress).