"The crwth is a medieval bowed lyre and ranks as one of Wales’s most exotic traditional instruments. It has six strings tuned e e‘ a’ a b‘ b’’ and a flat bridge and fingerboard. The gut strings produce a soft purring sound, earthy but tender. The melody is played on four of the six strings, with the other two acting as plucked or bowed drones and the octave doublings producing a constant chordal accompaniment.
The crwth has been played in Wales in one form or another since Roman times. It was an instrument of the highest status during the Middle Ages whose best players could earn a stable income in the courts of the Welsh aristocracy. Crwth players had to undergo years of apprenticeship and memorise twenty-four complex pieces of music. During the seventeenth century new instruments such as the fiddle came to Wales with their modern repertoire of country dance tunes. The crwth with its range of about an octave was unable to compete, and ceased to be played around the beginning of the nineteenth century. However the last ten years have seen a remarkable revival of the ancient instrument and there are now a number of both professional and amateur players and several crwth makers.
There are three surviving eighteenth-century crwths which are kept in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, The Museum of Welsh Life, St Fagans, Cardiff, and Warrington Museum. There are also some nineteenth century reproduction crwths in other European museums."
“Debut CD by Cass Meurig featuring guest musicians Nigel Eaton on hurdy-gurdy and Bob Evans on crwth, on the acclaimed Welsh traditional music label Fflach: tradd (2004). Produced by Ceri Rhys Matthews.”
"1 dugan y crythor du. blodau’r gogledd (the black crowther’s tune. flowers of the north)
Two tunes at least as old as the seventeenth century, both preserved in Morris Edward’s manuscript which he wrote in Anglesey around 1778.
2 y dryw bach. marged fwyn ach ifan. parsal y mesur (the little wren. gentle marged ach ifan. passim measures galliard)
Y dryw bach neu’r tri phlygiad bys’ and ‘parsal y mesur ‘ are also from Morris Edward’s manuscript. ‘Parsal y mesur’ is probably ‘passim measures galliard’ which turns up in a list of ‘Lute Lessons’ written by Philip Powell of Brecon in 1633. ‘Marged fwyn ach Ifan’ was first printed by John Parry of Rhiwabon in his book Antient British Music (1742).
3 sbonc bogel. y crythor pengoch pepper’s black. half hannikin
Both tunes were printed in Playford’s Dancing Master (1651). ‘pepr is blac’ is listed amongst the tunes possibly associated with the music for the Christmas festivities at Lleweni, Denbighshire c. 1595. It was used as a dance tune in the Welsh anterliwtiau and was recorded by John Thomas in 1752; the Welsh name ‘sbonc bogel’ which means ‘belly jerk’ may have referred to a dance performed to the tune.
4 y grimson felfed. y cowper mwyn (the gentle cooper). crimson velvet.
‘Crimson velvet’ is a sixteenth-century English ballad tune which became hugely popular in Wales during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The title ‘ffion felfed’ which means ‘velvet flower’ was given to it by the nineteenth-century collector Ifor Ceri. ‘Y cowper mwyn’ was a popular ballad tune in eighteenth-century Wales, also known as ‘dol y moch’ (‘pig meadow’).
5 ffarwel ned puw (ned puw’s farewell)
A seventeenth-century Welsh tune particularly popular for singing Christmas carols, which survived to the present day in the plygain carol tradition. There are at least nine different tunes called ‘Ffarwel Ned Puw’ (see track 12 for another one!).
6 dydd calan (new year’s day)
A tune written by Cass on New Year’s Day 2003 in Pwllgloyw.
7 llawenydd pob llu (shepherd’s hey)
A well-known English tune printed in Playford’s Dancing Master, which somehow acquired the Welsh title ‘llawenydd pob llu’ (‘everyone’s delight’).
8 hwbad i langoed. tri hanner tôn (a leap to llangoed. three half tunes)
‘hwbad i Langoed’ is a triple-time hornpipe recorded by John Thomas in 1752 and also known as ‘Punchanello’s hornpipe, or the three rusty swords’. The aptly named ‘tri hanner tôn’ was printed in Edward Jones’s Musical and Poetical Relicks of the Welsh Bards (1784).
9 dugan y pibydd coch. consêt gruffudd rowland y crythor (the red piper’s tune. gruffudd rowland the crowther’s tune)
Two more tunes recorded in Morris Edward’s 1778 manuscript but dating back at least to the seventeenth century.
10 hoffedd nia grace. dawns nicky. dawns jac
Tunes written by Cass for her niece Nia Grace and nephews Jack and Nicky, who like dancing.
11 gwêl yr adeilad. y fedle fawr (see the building. the great medley)
‘Gwêl yr adeilad’ derives from a probably early seventeenth-century ballad which begins ‘See the building, / where whilest my mistris lived in, / was pleasure’s essence’. It came to Wales during the seventeenth century and remained popular as a carol tune well into the ninteenth century. Both appear in John Thomas’s 1752 manuscript. ‘Y fedle fawr’, also known as ‘Aboute the banckes of Elicon’ can be dated back to the sixteenth century in Scotland and was used for a ballad called ‘Balet Gymraeg’ by Edmwnd Prys dated around 1600.
12 cil y fwyalch. plygiad y bedol fach. ffarwel ned puw ffordd arall (the blackbird’s retreat. little shoe bend. farewell ned puw another way)
All three tunes appear in John Thomas’s 1752 manuscript and probably date back at least to the seventeenth century. ‘Cil y Fwyalch’ may have been used for the declamation of Welsh poetry; the other two are dance tunes."