This week I’m staying very close to home (especially with living along the border of these two countries), for a seasonal video including music from Wales and England.
The first tune is an instrumental version of the Mari Lwyd which I follow with the Copper Family’s ‘Christmas Song’.
I hope you enjoy my festive offering, and I wish you all a safe and peaceful Christmas, with as much joy as is possible at the moment.
The Mari Lwyd, (Y Fari Lwyd in Welsh), does not seem to have a definitive translation and there has been much academic debate as to whether it means ‘The Grey Mare’ or the ‘Holy Mary’.
A wassailing folk custom from South Wales, the Mari Lwyd takes the form of a hobby horse (made from a horse’s skull mounted on a pole) and is carried by an individual hidden under a sackcloth. Traditionally on New Year’s Eve, the Mari Lwyd makes its way from pub to pub, or house to house, singing outside the doors in order to be let in. After the inhabitants respond to the singing with their own verses – a performing tradition called ‘pwnco’ – the Mari Lwyd is allowed to enter the pub/house and then proceeds to cause general mischief and havoc as the evening goes on!
The Mari Lwyd represents a regional variation of the “hooded animal” tradition that appears throughout Great Britain.
It was only last year that I found out in full about the tradition of this mysterious hooded horse; at Calan’s Christmas gig in Llanfyllin. They performed a fantastic rendition of the Mari Lwyd and I was so mesmerised by it that I learnt the tune. I also had a go at making one to put up in the house, but the effect is slightly lost when using an old kitchen roll tube and a music stand instead of the horse’s skull and a pole!
If you are interested in reading more about the Mari Lwyd tradition, there is a great article put together by the Llantrisant Folk Club here, and Pat has a wonderful Mari Lwyd in her house, who I had the pleasure of meeting last year! THE MARI LWYD (folk.wales)
Hopping over the border to England, in particular the county of Sussex, for the second part of the set; the Copper Family’s Christmas Song, also known as The Trees Are All Bare, is a song I came across in the book ‘Song for Every Season’, written by Bob Copper. It is a lovely, traditional English folk song with verses which can transport you to a beautiful, rural and wintery landscape in Sussex.
I hope you enjoy!