A legendary Welsh tale is to be given a new twist by pupils from primary schools in Rhyl and Prestatyn who’ve been working with top composer involved in the London 2012 Olympics.
Branwen and her Scary Brothers is a new piece of music written by Gareth Glyn and was commissioned by the North Wales International Music Festival for their Education Day on September 26.
The inspiration for the new Gareth Glyn work comes from Britain’s earliest known prose literature and Wales’ classic fables the Mabinogion.
Now children from eight primary schools are working with poet and narrator, Aled Lewis Evans to put lyrics to the music but in the style of famous storyteller and author, Roald Dahl, to mark the centenary of his Cardiff birth.
The festival at St Asaph Cathedral, which starts on Saturday, September 17, will be held with the support of the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and Literature Wales, and continues until Saturday, October 1.
Aled, who is based in Wrexham, says he is visiting primary schools to work with children so they can write lyrics for both an English and Welsh language performance of Branwen and Her Scary Brothers.
He said: “The story of Branwen from the Mabinogion is quite a dark, complex and grim story but I want to get the children’s take on the tale and get them to think and write in the style of Roald Dahl.
“Gareth Glyn has already written the music and the words will be used during interludes in the music. The narrators, which I hope will be pupils from each school rather than me, will tell the story and the music that follows will help to illustrate the story.
“When we combine the words and narration with the music it’s going to be very interesting. It’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Aled says he is working on the project with pupils from both Welsh and English medium Denbighshire schools.
He said: “I started with Year 6 pupils at Ysgol Llys, Prestatyn, and have also worked with pupils from Trefnant and Llanbedr Schools, Ysgol Carrog and Ysgol Caer Drewyn, Corwen, Ysgol Henllan at Denbigh, Ysgol Bishop Morgan, St Asaph and Ysgol Dewi Sant, Rhyl.
“Children love Roald Dahl and it’s all about getting them to work in both English and Welsh and think about words and how to compose lyrical prose. We have been looking at the lighter parts of the story. It has been a bit of a challenge but really good fun too.”
He added: “Ensemble Cymru will be performing the music and the schools will present their lyrics. I’m also narrating Hogan Fach Goch, Little Red Riding Hood, from Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, which is an amusing take on traditional stories.
“And it isn’t just about words as we have artists Ben Davis and Jude Wood working with children too. They are producing artwork that compliments both the lyrics and the music.
“This year’s Education Day at the North Wales International Music Festival is going to be a wonderful event and something I’m really excited about.”
“It is important pupils have the opportunity to hear classical music played by wonderful musicians.”
Composer Gareth Glyn Glyn previously worked with Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle to provide one of the musical arrangements for the spectacular opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
He said: “It’s been a bit unusual as normally the words or lyrics are written first and then the music is composed. However, this time we have done it the other way around and I wrote the score first.
“It’s then been down to Aled, and the artists, to go into the schools and work with the children to come up with the rhyming couplets to tell the tale of Branwen.
“It’s a very old tale and tells of Branwen’s marriage to an Irish king. She is unhappy and her two unstable brothers, Efnysien and Bendigeidfran, go to Ireland to rescue her.
“Efnysien is scary as he wrecks everything he touches and even crushes the heads of the warriors of the Irish army.
“And Bendigeidfran is so huge he walks to Ireland across the sea. He was so huge people thought his head, sticking out of the water as he walked, was an island.”
He added: “The composition is made up of 25 pieces of music which describe the spoken word from the rhyming couplet that precedes it. It has been a wonderful project and I’m very much looking forward to seeing how it all comes together at the North Wales International Music Festival.”
Ann Atkinson, the North Wales International Music Festival’s artistic director said: “It’s going to be a very special occasion. I’m delighted Gareth Glyn accepted our commission and agreed to write the music for Branwen and her Scary Brothers.
“The result is fantastic and I’m delighted with how the whole project has come together. The children who have worked on the project have come up with some brilliant ideas and rhyming couplets that Roald Dahl would have been very proud of.”
She added: “We have a fantastic and varied programme for this year’s festival including an Aspire/Inspire concert featuring the Royal harpist, Anne Denholm, as well as pianists Iwan Llewelyn Jones and Siwan Rhys and pupils from Ysgol Glan Clwyd.
“We also have concert performances by classical guitarist Miloš Karadaglić, virtuoso violinist Janina Fialkowska, West End soprano Margaret Preece, who will perform songs inspired by Rodgers and Hammerstein, NEW Sinfonia, violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, and vocal groups Ex Cathedra, The Vale of Clwyd Singers and the Festival Choir.
“And our community tour, supported by Arts & Business Cymru, Cartrefi Conwy and R M Jones Joinery will include the school and tots concerts at St Asaph Cathedral. There really is something for everyone at this year’s festival.”
Branwen and her Scary Brothers will be performed on Monday, September 26 at St Asaph Cathedral, in English at 10:30am and in Welsh at 1pm. Tickets for these performances are available from the Festival Office – firstname.lastname@example.org or 01745 584508. Festival evening concert tickets are available by booking online or from Theatr Clwyd on 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames on 01745 582929. For further information about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com.