3. The Renaissance of  Welsh Music in the 18th and 19th    Centuries

3.1 Harp Music and "Penillion Singing"

In the 18th and early 19th centuries you could find many itinerant harpists, fiddlers and ballad singers such as Dick Dywll, who was famous for his performances in the pubs and brothels of the notorious China district of Merthyr Tydfil.

Public houses were often the only refuge open to the Penillion singers. Singers, crwth players, harpers and Penillion singers – were regarded (especially by prude Nonconform­ists) with suspicion.[1]

The Society of Gwneddigion (founded in 1771) and "Canorion" (founded in 1820) promoted the old art of penillion singing to harp accompaniment. However the original songs of the middle ages were lost forever.

Many of the early harpists became favourites of the English Establishment. One of them – John Parry – gave concerts in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin in the mid-18th century.

But the lower classes were excluded from this highly developed art of harp playing ("artificially constructed to the delectation of metropolitan sophisticates" [2]).


[1] cf. Williams, W.S.G., p. 86
[2]
Williams, G., Valleys of Song, Music and Society in Wales 1840 – 1914, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1998, p. 9

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