Gwenan Gibbard
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Gwenan Gibbard

Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom | INDIE

Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom | INDIE
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Harpist and scholar follows up her debut.

This is the second album by the young Welsh harpist from Llyn peninsula in north Wales. Sidan Glas (Blue Silk) is a beautiful record, featuring the brilliant guitarist Maartin Allcock, who has played with Fairport Convention, beth Nielsen Chapman and many others, on many of the 15 tracks. It covers ballads, shanties, jigs and reels from the Welsh tradition, as well as some stunning airs on Celtic harp that are a part of the ancient bardic art of Cerdd Dant – poetry sung to harp accompaniment. Gibbard is something of a scholar as well as a practitioner, having studied for a masters in Welsh music at Bangor and later at the Royal Academy of Music; she provides some valuable, concise notes to the songs to put what may be unfamiliar material into context. The opening track’s child-like, lilting harp melody is threaded around a hazily cosy lyric that sets us by a traditional hearthside wih some traditional folksong heartbreak. A trio of hornpipes follows, with playing of great finesse from Allcock and from calan’s fiddler Angharad Jenkins on the ballad ‘Tros y Môr’. Gibbard’s arrangements are delicate and nuanced, and she adds touches of accordion on a scattering of tracks, as well as taking spring-clear vocals on the likes of ‘Y Sgwner Tri Mast’; a rousing sea shanty from her native Llyn peninsula. It’s an easy record to get quite lost in – a bit like driving through deepest, darkest Wales’ web of country lanes. You won’t regret the journey.
- Songlines December 2009


Welsh folk doesn’t seem to get much exposure east of Offa’s Dyke, but Gwenan Gibbard’s second Welsh language album of airs, shanties, jigs and songs, including the bardic art of Cerdd Dant (poetry set to harp accompaniment), offers subtle and beautifully composed ensemble performances. Best are the duets between Gibbard and the fiddler Stephen Rees, unwinding their spells through lyrical, labyrinthine Celtic airs such as the beautiful ‘yr Hafren’. - The Independent August 2009


Whilst anything with even the most spurious claim to Irishness seems to be granted an instant worldwide audience, it’s a sad fact that other Celtic music, a few Scottish acts exepted, rarely reaches beyond its niche markets. So, why not do your part in bucking this pernicious trend by checking out the second album from this prodigiously talented Welsh harpist, singer and arranger?
So often Welsh folk music is perceived as being a bit faux and heritage-y – all doilies and carved spoons – yet Sidan Glas (Blue Silk) reveals a vibrant, multi-faceted tradition. It is testament to the expressiveness of Gibbard’s vocal delivery that even non-Welsh speakers will respond to the emotional range here, whether in the playful courting song, ‘liw Gwyn Rhosyn yr Haf’, or the aching ‘Tros y Môr’.
The heart of the album, however, is the harp, the voicings of which recall its Irish and, in particular, Breton siblings, nowhere more than on the lively dance tunes. ‘Hen Benillion’ is perhaps the most familiar song here, offering a celebration of the harp’s many virtues; and if you need to be convinced, just listen to the remaining tracks on this absorbing album.
- Rock N Reel October 2009


I was searching for a new young harpist to represent Wales at the 1999 edition of the Interceltic Festival in Lorient, Brittany and someone recommended Gwenan Gibbard, who was still a student at the Royal Academy of Music at the time. I booked her and waited to hear her perform at the concerts that I had arranged for her. At the most demanding concert, which took place in a large modern church, with wonderful acoustics, in the centre of the town she began her set with some delightful tunes, which were exactly what I had hoped for. She then took hold of the microphone and told the audience that she was going to accompany herself on the harp whilst she sang. The sound that filled the whole space was absolutely stunning; her voice was so beautiful,so clear and like a bell. The following day the French press exclaimed that a new ‘star’ was born and that Wales had another major talent to celebrate. I had booked a harpist and not realised that she sang as well!
I invited her back to the Festival in 2006 when she had recorded her first album Y Gwenith Gwynnaf . This album confirmed what I had come to know, that here was a major new talent from Wales. Some of her tunes were as good as anything that I had ever heard from Welsh folk music. I love it and still play it frequently as an example of every thing that is brilliant in our folk music tradition. So when I heard that Sain was bringing out her second album I couldn’t wait to hear it. Her first album announced to the world that Wales has a major talent in Gwenan Gibbard this second album confirms it, she should be given the status of “A National Treasure”.
Sidan Glas (Blue Silk) displays a whole range of her talents, as harpist and singer, as composer and arranger. This album is a collection of genuine Welsh folk music played with sincerity and style. It’s so enjoyable to listen to and captures everything that I feel Welsh music should have. Her knowledge and love of Welsh traditional music is evident in all the tracks and her obvious sympathy with the material is spell binding.
Can y Lleisoniaid and Can y Droell Fach are worth the cost of the CD alone and you get to hear her beautiful voice on many of the other tracks too. Gwenno Tir Mawn, where she accompanies herself on the accordion is one of my favourites, with the full range of her voice.
When the accompanying musicians are sensitive and add to the overall sound then they are a great addition, as in the polkas in track 7, but there are several tracks where she does not need any other instruments and the introduction of percussion on track 14 just isn’t necessary in my opinion and I’m a ‘drummer’!
When she plays and sings on her own she really does create something very special and rare indeed. She manages to convey an emotional depth through her arrangements of old standards seldom experienced nowadays.
To listen to Sidan Glas is to experience a professional musician confidently performing beautiful uniquely Welsh tunes full of exquisite subtlety. It has been, superbly mixed and engineered by Maartin Allcock and is one of the most enjoyable and glorious examples of Welsh culture that you will ever hear.

David Petersen.
- Cambria 2009


"Gwenan Gibbard’s harp and voice album is a well-considered project that ranges from soft lullabies and courtly tunes to boppish arrangements in which she uses the natural inflections of the Welsh language as colour and variation. Her rolled ‘r’ consonants and other vocal embellishments are especially nice counterpoints to her classically smooth harping. So too are the small contrasting bursts she uses throughout – quick cascades of notes that add backbeat, runs that sound more like slides than plucked notes, and rising scales that give her trained soprano Loreena McKennitt-like drama.

Gibbard’s mix is equally winning. ‘Gwenni aeth i ffair Pwllheli’ is a bouncy, cheerful folk song whose upbeat tempo sets the table for the polkas that follow, not to mention the several soft lullabies that come later. When she interprets a slip jig such as ‘Hoffedd ap Hywel’ or a hornpipe such as ‘Rhif Wyth’ she knows to attack her strings rather than being stately, as she is on ‘Ty a Gardd’, the latter a Danish song rendered in Welsh. She does the same vocally, punching out the notes to ‘Gwcw Fach’ with such vigour as to suggest a march. Gibbard is equally at home with the old ways and offers a truly lovely example of Penillion singing, the art of combining poetry and harp music, on ‘Y Delyn’. Gibbard’s stiching of old and new material produces a quilt that’s as colourful as it is tasteful".
R Weir, Sing Out!, Spring 2007

- 'Sing Out', Spring 2007


"Gwenan Gibbard plays both the small Celtic harp and the Welsh triple harp. She has studied the music of the harp at the University of Wales, Bangor and the Royal Academy of Music, London and has now returned to her roots in her home town of Pwllheli. Her lively style is at times reminiscent of the old crwth tradition. While many of the dance tunes will be familiar, Gwenan has come up with some excellent new arrangements with subtle and interesting variations. I particularly like the Welsh gipsy version of that old chestnut Llwyn Onn.
Her harp develops a rhythm all of it’s own on the hornpipe set Rhif Wyth/Pibddawns Abertawe and is here played with more swing than is normally associated with this instrument. Maartin Allcock provides superb accompaniment on this and other tracks. More ‘A list’ Welsh musicians appear throughout the recording but it’s Gwenan alone that really packs the punch. Her voice is as musical as her harp and the song Deryn Du may be short but it’s perfect. There’s plenty here to satisfy the hardened folk enthusiast but still the album remains very open and accessible to the average Joe. A cut above the rest.”
- Shreds and Patches


“An intriguing range of material…melodic intricacy and rhythmic drive with an emotional depth unusual in dance music.”
- Songlines, 2007


“Gwenan Gibbard, from North Wales, debuts with an album of traditional Welsh song and music, played chiefly on the small Celtic harp and the Welsh triple harp. Accompanied by Maartin Allcock on guitar, bass and bouzar, Huw Roberts and Stephen Rees on fiddle and Dafydd Roberts on flute and whistle, it’s nevertheless the vocal and instrumental talents of Gibbard that shine through. Whether in the infectious jollity of songs like Gwenni aeth i ffair Pwllheli or in the haunting Adar mân y mynydd, there’s a consistent warmth of delivery that makes this an engaging and accessible sound.”
- Rock n' Reel, Jan/Feb 2007


“From the Llyn peninsula, harper/vocalist Gwenan Gibbard hits stride with a debut in the knowing care of Maartin Allcock. Other support, from members of Ar Log, makes this a competent representation of Welsh trad sounds.”
- Folk Roots, 2007


“Her music is haunting and I hope that this will be the first of many recordings we can enjoy”.
- Wales United website


Gwenan Gibbard enthralled the audience throughout the Festival with her medley of Welsh music on the harp and her singing of the traditional and contemporary Welsh songs….What a beautiful performance by this accomplished musician.”
- Ninnau - North American Welsh Newspaper Oct 06


“A wonderful feature of the performance was the addition of Gwenan Gibbard, a master of the harp. Her playing brought down the house as she both played the harp and sang in a bell-tone clear voice….Gwenan is one of the up and coming younger musicians in Wales. Her consummate skill in playing a wide range of music was appreciated by all.”
- Ninnau - Nov 06


Scotland's Lauren McColl has her own distinctive 'voice' on fiddle, but the big surprise is Welsh singer/harpist Gwenan Gibbard whose wonderful Dod Dy Law seems to exist in its own time zone. - HMV Choice

- HMV Choice, 2007


Discography

- 15 track Album - 'Sidan Glas' SAIN SCD 2581 (played on BBC Radio Cymru, Radio Scotland, Radio Gaeltacht, Radio 2, Radio 3, local radios in the UK, Europe and America.
- 15 track Album - 'Y Gwenith Gwynnaf' SAIN SCD2504
- All tracks from the album available for download on i Tunes, and the album available to buy through Proper music distribution in the UK.
- 'Sidan Glas' has also been licensed as a whole album to the ABC Classics label in Australia, for release in Australia and New Zeland.

Tracks from the above albums also feature on numerous compilation albums released by Sain records.
Tracks licensed to other labels include the following compilations:
'Folk Rising' (Proper Records)
'Festival Interceltique de Lorient 2006' (Keltia Musique)
'Traditional Welsh Music' (Sunset France)
'Celtic Divas' (2012) (ABC Classics)
Celtic Colours (Oddesey Records, Canada)
'Miyazaki Hayao's Music World in Harp' (2012) (Grandview Culture, Hong Kong)
Gwenan also features on harp and vocals on the 'Hymns' album by Beth Nielsen Chapman (BNC Records), and will feature on the new forthcoming album by Cerys Matthews.

Photos

Bio

Gwenan, harpist and singer from the Llyn Peninsula in north west Wales, stands at the forefront of today’s thriving Welsh traditional music scene. She is a frequent performer at home and abroad and has appeared in festivals such as The Lorient Interceltic Festival (Britanny), The World Harp Congress (Dublin), The North American Festival of Wales (Cincinnati), Celtic Colours Festival (Nova Scotia, Canada), The Edinburgh International Harp Festival and Celtic Connections (Glasgow). She has released two albums, to much acclaim, ‘Y Gwenith Gwynnaf’, and, most recently, ‘Sidan Glas’, both of which include her own exciting, contemporary arrangements of Welsh traditional music and songs, the playing firmly rooted in the heart of the tradition, yet showing a fresh and innovative approach. Her performances include energetic instrumental arrangments, haunting folk songs and ‘Cerdd Dant’, the unique, ancient Welsh tradition of poetry singing to the accompaniment of the harp. (She is one of the very few performers in Wales who practises this unique art of self-accompanying singing). She is in demand as a teacher and holds classes and workshops at home and beyond. She has performed and recorded with numerous world renowned musicians, including Beth Nielsen Chapman, and will also feature on the forthcoming new album by Cerys Matthews. Gwenan’s recent projects include ‘Ancience’, a new commission by the PRS Foundation and Distill (Scotland), also featuring harpist Mary Macmaster, pipers Andy May and Tiarnan O Duinchann and sound artist Joe Acheson. She has also teamed up with Welsh singer-songwriter Meinir Gwilym to form a new duo, combining their singing and instrumental talent to create a fresh and exciting sound. Gwenan’s dates for 2013 include numerous concert at home here in Wales, and performances at Warengem Harp Festival (Belgium), Cairde na Cruit Festival (Ireland) and the Midsummer Festival (Ried, Fryslan). Gwenan has just been awarded a Research and Development Grant by the Arts Council of Wales to work on a project based on the Welsh musical tradition of 'Cerdd Dant', and looks forward to experiment and further develop her musical repertoire and ideas.