The courage and genius of a Welsh music legend is being saluted nearly a decade after his untimely death.
Alun “Sbardun” Huws, a founder member of the trailblazing group, Y Tebot Piws, in the 1960s and early 70s, wrote a raft of the most memorable folk and pop songs ever performed in the Welsh language.
The work of the acclaimed songwriter, who was born in Bangor and raised in Penrhyndeudraeth, will be featured in a special episode of the popular S4C entertainment show, Noson Lawen, on Saturday, December 30.
His widow, Gwenno Huws, is the special guest in the show that was recorded over the summer.
She said that hearing and seeing some of Welsh music’s biggest names performing a selection of the hits he wrote was a “bittersweet” experience.
The programme, made by Cwmni Da, the award winning Caernarfon-based production company, looks back at his career and the influence he’s had on musicians across Wales.
Some of his best-known and loved songs, like Dawnsio ar y Dibyn (Dancing on the Edge), were inspired by his experience as a recovering alcoholic, something that also impelled him to support anybody who might be struggling with addiction.
Sbardun died at the Heath Hospital in Cardiff in December 2014 aged 66 years old.
As well as being a founder of Y Tebot Piws, who revolutionised the Welsh music scene, he had also been a member of other well-known bands such as Mynediad am Ddim and Ac Eraill with whom he co-wrote the first Welsh rock opera, Nia Ben Aur, in 1974.
He also accompanied Tecwyn Ifan but perhaps his biggest contribution was the collection of classic songs he wrote for other singers and bands like Bryn Fôn, Brigyn, Linda Griffiths and John ac Alun.
His legacy also includes a huge number of television programmes he worked on for the BBC and ITV as a researcher, scriptwriter, director and producer over many years.
Gwenno said: “The whole programme was bittersweet because they are songs so familiar to everyone but I know their background and I can read between the lines. On the one hand it was a lovely experience but on the other hand it was quite painful too.
“Sbard would be thrilled that his songs are so highly regarded – but he’d be quite humbled by it too. Of course I’m really proud of his work but I’m more proud of the fact that so many people thought the world of him.”
The programme features musical contributions from Pedair, Elidyr Glyn, Linda Griffiths, Lleucu Gwawr and Parti’r Eifl who sing some of his best known songs.
In addition to hosting the programme, Bryn Fôn also sings two of Sbardun’s most iconic songs, one of which focuses on Sbardun’s battle with alcohol.
Bryn said: “It takes talent to write a memorable song but it takes courage to write a song about personal experiences and Sbardun did that several times.
“He had a period of excessive drinking and indeed he became addicted to the bottle for a while but he faced his problem with Gwenno by his side.
“Sbardun then went on to help dozens of other people through Alcoholics Anonymous and wrote a song about it, the powerful epic Dawnsio ar y Dibyn (Dancing on the Edge).”
Gwenno added: “He lived in Cardiff for many years but his heart was always in Penrhyndeudraeth and Penrhyn meant the world to him.”
Also taking part in the programme was Dewi Pws, a fellow member of Y Tebot Piws, who met Sbardun for the first time while they were both students in Cardiff in the late 1960s.
“They were wild times and he had a different humour and a roguish glint in his eye. He wrote about old times, almost in the style of traditional folk songs but also in his own very special way”, said Dewi.
“He wrote like a bard, but also had the talent to put music to his words. Sbardun lives on through his music.”
Noson Lawen producer Olwen Meredydd said: “We’ll be celebrating the talent of a man who has contributed so much to Welsh popular culture; a genius lyricist and master of the memorable tunes such as Cwsg Osian, Dawnsio ar y Dibyn, Hiraeth am y Glaw and Strydoedd Aberstalwm which are still so familiar to us all.
“Themes such as ‘belonging’ and ‘community’ were big themes in his song writing. The song ‘Strydoedd Aberstalwm’ is a tribute to his hometown, Penrhyndeudraeth, and is now regarded as one of the most important songs in the history of popular Welsh music.”
Another special episode of Noson Lawen will be shown on S4C just before Christmas on Saturday, December 23.
The drama series Rownd a Rownd is set in the fictional harbour town of Glanrafon on Anglesey.
Shown on S4C since September 1995 it was the first Celtic-related language soap specifically directed at a youth audience. It has since broadened its appeal but the main focus remains on the younger characters.
Over the years many of its cast have gone on to play starring roles in the West End and in Hollywood blockbuster films. Owain Arthur, who took over the role of Francis Henshall from James Cordon in the West End hit comedy One Man: Two Guvnors, and in a multi-million dollar version of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, started out in the series.
In the show to be broadcast on December 23, current cast members get an opportunity to show off their talent as singers
Olwen Meredydd said: “Many of the actors in Rownd a Rownd have performed on the Noson Lawen stage in the past but a few are stepping onto the famous stage for the first time.
“With plenty of singing, laughing and a sack full of talented stars from the village of Glanrafon this special yuletide episode will help start the seasons celebrations in style.
“Speaking of which, anybody wanting a bit of festive, singalong fun can also use our new karaoke service, Carioci Noson Lawen, which is free to use on our YouTube channel.”