Dylan

On November 3rd 2003, the Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, hosted the world première of Michael's song cycle for baritone and harp, performed by two great Welsh performers, Jeremy Huw Williams and Sioned Williams. Three days later London audiences had the chance to hear the greatly anticipated work at the Wigmore Hall.

 

“Dylan is an eight-part visionary work which takes the listener through many episodes in the poet's life. Stimpson artfully combines spoken excerpts and musical settings of Thomas's poems, letters, stories and, of course, Under Milk Wood, in to a ruminative and evocative monodrama of depth and originality. The most stunning musical episode was Stimpson's wonderful setting of Ceremony after a Fire Raid which received a heartfelt reading by Huw Williams, his plangent voice alternately tender and dramatic.” (South Wales Post)

1. Beginning
from Under Milk Wood (spoken)
from A Child's Christmas in Wales (sung)


2. Genesis
from Return Journey (spoken)
I dreamed my genesis (sung)


3. New Horizons
from Return Journey (spoken)
I have longed to move away (sung)


4. Caitlin
from letter to Vernon Watkins, 17th July 1937 (spoken)
I make this in a warring absence (sung)


5. Bottled God
from Under Milk Wood (spoken)
extracts from various letters (spoken with harp solo)


6. War
from letter to Albert Trick, 29th September 1939 (spoken)
Ceremony After a Fire Raid (sung)


7. Laugharne
from letter to John Davenport, 13th October 1949 (spoken)
from Prologue (sung)


8. The Thin Night Darkens
from Under Milk Wood (spoken)
The Visitor (sung) 

Michael said of his research into the works and personal correspondence of Dylan Thomas, 'Immediately the striking elements emerged; the controversy of his character, the poverty, alcoholism, the extraordinary relationship with his wife Caitlin, America, and of course the remarkable ability to write and speak so astutely and evocatively. The song cycle takes many of these components to give a chronological account of Dylan Thomas's life.'

The commission of this new work from Michael was in response to the success of his previous work for solo harp premièred to a capacity audience at the Purcell Room in 2001 by Sioned Williams, Principal harp of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Such was the critical acclaim for the piece and the demand for subsequent playings that a further collaboration was appropriate.

 

The performance at Brangwyn Hall on November 3rd was part of festivities presented by the Dylan Thomas Festival in Swansea all year but culminating in a pinnacle of celebrations in November, the month of Thomas's anniversary.

 

Programmed alongside the Stimpson première were works by Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott with his arrangement of Six Welsh Folk Songs, harp solos by Queen Victoria's harpist, John Thomas, and Schumann's 'Hebrew Melodies' Op. 95, performed in the original and rarely heard version with harp accompaniment. John Thomas prefaced his three harp solos with words by Byron, and words by this same poet were also the inspiration for Schumman.

 

The concerts encompassed a wide spectrum of artistic expression; poems, spoken word, and recitation of literary masters; the evocative settings of texts to song; and the première of a visionary contemporary work for harp.

 

 

 

Baritone: Roderick Williams

Harp: Sioned Williams

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© 2018 Michael Stimpson