Searching for Songs
By: Chris Jones
Posted in: Welsh American music and song
Searching for Songs
Hi my name is Chris Jones, I'm a traditional folk singer and musician from Wales. A member here on Americymru who is interested in the Welsh musical history and heritage of America. I suppose I'm doing the opposite to Welsh Americans who investigate their Welsh ancestry. My project is the reverse as I'm particularly interested in investigating Welsh folk music that would have been taken to America by the ancestors of today's Welsh Americans and rediscovering (hopefully) sources that still exist-particularly those that remain undiscovered, uncatalogued and unpublished.
Perhaps there are collections that exist which Americymru members may be aware of, catalogued or yet to be catalogued in community or city museums? Perhaps you know of collections bequeathed to Universities or colleges and may be unresearched? Perhaps some members here know of unpublished PHD theses that studied Welsh history particularly our folk music, song and lore.
In addition I'm looking for archived collections, as I'm also very interested in family, community and personal accounts and stories remembered till this day. Family heirlooms such as books or documents and collections which may contain or reference song lyrics or tunes from Wales. And, of course families memories, written accounts of the Welsh immigrant experience in America: memoirs, biographical or autobiographical that members here might want to share. Are there Welsh folk songs waiting to be rediscovered?
My project is primarily looking for Welsh folk songs that might have made it across the Atlantic and sung in Welsh communities in America, but have been "lost". And my long term plan is to collect enough rediscovered songs to reintroduce them into the Welsh repertoire and record them onto an album. But please do respond with any information regarding the Welsh American immigrant experience in either Welsh or English, as who knows what gems may be found?
If you are curious about my music and want to hear what I do then please click this link to my new website on:
Yn Ddiffuant (sincerely)
And thanks for asking on my behalf! 🙂
I don't know if you've seen the comment from J.S. Crail in the Disqus comments below. As per his suggestion I thought it might be a good idea to concentrate your search in the Appalachian area. With that goal in mind I approached the site creator at fotmd.com (Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer - a musical network based in the Appalachians). Here is her reply:-
Perhaps you can pass along to your friend that he should join my site and I can then guide him to a Welsh member we have and to areas where we do discuss the old tunes and ballads that came across the ocean to America so long ago and were preserved in rural pockets of the Appalachian area. My site often discusses such related topics as your friends is investigating, because the mountain dulcimer was used in the 1800s by early settlers/immigrants to accompany very old ballads from Scotland, England, Ireland, etc. Send him our way, we may have some folks who can be helpful. https://fotmd.com/
Worth checking out?
Hi Ceri, thanks for drawing this to my attention! I'll definitely get in touch with friends of the mountain dulcimer. I was wondering whether the Appalachians would be a place to search as I've heard and enjoyed loads of Appalachian song variants particularly from England and Scotland.
Hi Andrew, thanks for jogging my memory regarding Y Drych and Ninnau, I used to read them when I came across them occassionally in local shops here in Wales. It's an excellent idea. Do you have an email or contact for Jeff? He sounds a very interesting man.
jeffwarner.com is Jeff's site.
As a second generation collector of traditional songs, if he can't help directly, I'd expect him to be able to point you in the direction of someone who can.
Like you, I'm actually in Wales (Denbighshire). A while back I was researching the roots of a song that might be of some interest: The Maid of Llanwellyn. It's not strictly what you posted about but it is in the same ballpark.
I've attached a PDF of the story behind it.
You can also try getting in touch with Jeff Warner. He's an American folk song collector who's spent many years researching connections between UK and US traditional songs. He visits Wales occasionally and has played at our club several times over the years, bringing back songs we exported.
Andrew W-R (Dogsbody-in-Residence @ Rhyl Folk Club)
P.S. If you take a look at the website for Ninnau & Y Drych (America's oldest Welsh periodical, still published), there are links to a huge number of Welsh societies in individual states. Pennsylvania would be my suggestion to start making inquiries as the existence of a postal district called Bala Cynwyd points to a high number of North Wales immigrants settling there.
This is a right swell idea. I am a music-hobbyist myself, and cannot think of any tunes that fit the bill, but I want to keep an ear out!
Thanks Mathew, I'll be much obliged if you hear of anything or anyone who can help.