Live recording of the première of the "The Gregynog Suite" by Catrin Finch at the 2013 Gregynog Festival.
The Gregynog Suite
Prelude – Toccata – Nocturne – Scherzo – Hymn (Bryn Myrddin)
When I was first asked to write this work my very first decision was as to the type of work I wished to compose. Being a strong believer in both tradition and synchronicity, I looked to other works in the harp repertoire and their possible links with Gregynog and the subject matter of the Festival. Very quickly, Benjamin Britten’s Suite for Harp became the obvious work to take as my starting point.
Just as Britten wrote for, arguably, the leading harpist of his day, Osian Ellis, so I had been asked to write for Catrin Finch, the leading harpist of my time, in a concert to celebrate both Britten and Ellis. Furthermore, my teacher, mentor and friend, Alun Hoddinott, had been a good friend to both men and had been a guest at Gregynog during the lifetime of the Davies sisters. To complete the equation, in 1998 I was privileged to win the Gregynog Composer’s Award and my winning work, The Vyrnwy Sonata, had been premiered in the Music Room at Gregynog by Elinor Bennett, Catrin’s teacher.
I have followed the broad pattern of Britten’s suite but have substituted the Prelude and Scherzo for the Overture and Fugue.
The Prelude is built on two contrasting ideas – the first being flowing semiquavers and the second block chords and is conceived as a technical exercise to test both performer and instrument. The following Toccata is written as a fast, dance-like, movement with flavours of the Spanish flamenco. The third movement, Nocturne, moves from twilight with tolling distant bells (built on a ground bass) to complete darkness with occasional scurrying’s of the “creatures of the night” and back to a misty sunrise with the morning breezes blowing away the mist and the church bells once again sounding from afar. There follows a “Hoddinottian” Scherzo as an homage to my dear teacher and friend without whom I would have achieved nothing. The piece concludes with Hymn which is a setting of “Bryn Myrddin”, by Port Talbot composer J Morgan Nicholas, which was suggested by my good friend Osian Rowlands. Osian, who is a harpist, was a tremendous help whilst I was writing this piece, offering me much useful advice. Sadly, as I was about to start work on Hymn, Osian and his wife Fflur suffered a personal tragedy and, with their permission, I have dedicated this movement to the memory of their baby son, Ioan.