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There are male voice, female or mixed choirs in almost every corner of the country. Tŷ Cerdd – Music Centre Wales has a list of them all on its website. If you just want to listen, try Sain or search online for a wide choice of choral music CDs.
Cerdd Dant is a unique Welsh musical form dating back to the Middle Ages. The literal translation is ‘string music’ but it generally means singing poetry to the accompaniment of a harp. The catch is that the singer and the harp both follow different melodies – but have to finish the same time. And that’s only one of Cerdd Dant’s many rules.
Those rules though aren’t a deterrent. Cerdd Dant competitions are a popular part of the Urdd and National Eisteddfod, as well as small, local eisteddfodau. There’s also an annual Cerdd Dant Festival organised by the Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant Cymru whose website will tell you more about this centuries-old tradition.
Opera and Classical
Established in 1943, Welsh National Opera (WNO) is the UK’s largest touring opera company. With its home in Cardiff, the company is famous across the globe for its productions.
Mid Wales Opera has also made its marks. Since it was established in 1988, the company has won two Prudential awards for “excellence, creativity, innovation and accessibility.”
One of the highlights of the National Eisteddfod is the Blue Ribband prize which is presented every year to the best classical soloist. Another coveted classical completion is the BBC Singer of the World Cardiff, which is held every other year.
Like the Singer of the World contest, the BBC Welsh National Chorus was also started in 1983 and is now recognised as one of the UK’s leading mixed choruses. The Chorus works closely with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Numerous opera stars from Wales have won international acclaim - including Bryn Terfel, Rebecca Evans, Elin Manahan Thomas, Wynne Evans and Katherine Jenkins. Karl Jenkins and the late Alun Hoddinot are among several Welsh composers who’ve made their name on the international stage.
Orchestras and Bands
Formed in 1928, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales is both a broadcasting orchestra and the national symphony orchestra of Wales.
The Arts Council of Wales supports the Orchestra, along with many other music groups and organisations.
The Wales Chamber Orchestra also performs throughout the country.
Wales has a long tradition of brass bands. The City of Cardiff Melingriffith Brass Band, for example, dates back to 1789 while Llanrug can trace its roots back to 1830. There’s a list of brass bands and orchestras on the Tŷ Cerdd website.
Such is the popularity of the brass band in Wales that S4C has started a television talent series to find the best called Band Cymru.
Along with the rest of the western world, Wales started swinging in the 1960s and 70s. Dafydd Iwan, Meic Stevens, Heather Jones, Geraint Jarman and Edward H. Dafis are just a few of the artists who brought Welsh pop music to the masses back in the day. And they’re all still gigging today.
The launch of Welsh language record label Sain in 1969 was a significant milestone in the development of the Welsh music scene. Over the years, Radio Cymru (launched in 1977) and S4C (which started broadcasting in 1982) have also provided an important platform for Welsh language popular music.
Pembrokeshire author Hefin Wyn has written two books about Welsh pop music, which are available to buy on gwales.com: Be Bop a Lula’r Delyn Aur traces the development of the Welsh music scene from the 1940s until the late 1970s while Ble Wyt ti Rhwng looks at the period between 1980 and 2000.
There are numerous articles about Welsh music on Wikipedia and a comprehensive list of Welsh language artists on Radio Cymru’s website. There’s also more information on our contemporary music pages.
Folk and Jazz
The Cerdd Dant Festival, the National Eisteddfod, Urdd and Llangollen Eisteddfodau all lend a stage to Welsh folk music. The Welsh Folk Song Society publishes a magazine, ‘Canu Gwerin’ (Folk Singing), every August and holds activities during the National Eisteddfod.
Tŷ Siamas, in Dolgellau, is Wales’ National Centre for folk music.
There’s a lively jazz scene in Wales too, with the extremely popular Brecon Jazz drawing in crowds year after year. You’ll find more information on the websites of Jazz Heritage Wales and North Wales Jazz and the Jazz in Wales blog.
You’ll find details on Wales’ youth choir, orchestra, wind band, brass band, jazz band and theatre on the National Youth Arts Wales website.
The aim of Tŷ Cerdd is to promote music in Wales. Wales Community Music organises music activities with groups and individuals. Wales Arts International has collated a World Music from Wales Guidebook.