Professor Mark Bowden's song cycle released on Tŷ Cerdd label
Date24 June 2021
Celebrating 100 years of Welsh Song, this new release features Professor Mark Bowden's song cycle 'The Soul Candle'.
Performed by Gareth Brynmor John and Andrew Matthews Owen, The Soul Candle is a setting of texts by former National Poet of Wales Gwyneth Lewis. Live performances are planned later in the year, and an excerpt of Mark's music on the disc can be heard here:
Programme note from CD liner notes for The Soul Candle:
Gwyneth Lewis, the first National Poet of Wales, is renowned for her explorations of cynghanedd, (a system of rhyme and alliteration used in Welsh-language poetry) paired with a rhythmic propulsion recollecting Dylan Thomas or Gerard Manley Hopkins. Mark Bowden retains Lewis's devices in his setting of a selection of her poems, which comprise the three songs of The Soul Candle. Bowden's faithfulness to Lewis's tightly organised structure conversely allows singer and pianist space to illuminate the words and sentiments of the poems.
The first song, ‘One day, feeling hungry,’ begins with a fluid opening gesture which gives way to a recitative-like melody, this in turn unfolds seamlessly into an ostinato-like figure, concluding the opening song skyward. The dryness of ‘Drought' is reinforced through bleak, unpredictable, single-note syncopations in the piano, which cut across the vocal line and give way to more expansive, icy gestures as the fevered music cools. A cheerily raucous ostinato theme introduces the third and final song, ‘Spring'. The action moves into a darker middle section before Bowden adopts a Schumann-esque approach by ending with a miniature song-without-words for the pianist which echoes the work's opening.