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Artist Share - Sian James


Music reflects the state of one’s soul. It expresses, most profoundly, feelings. For me, these feelings often involve yearning or longing for something inexpressible – something I desperately want, something that feels almost within reach, but sadly is not – something I understand and experience just enough to desire it at my deepest and innermost level, yet am denied. I am simultaneously left in competing yet complimentary states of sorrow and beauty: a response to life that I find so moving and true that there is little I would accept in exchange for it. I tend to call this condition an awareness of God.

Listen to Sian James’ “Cariad Cyntaf” and you will see what I mean. Listen to the harp’s beautiful opening, Ms. James’ voice, which alternates so skillfully between airy, pure, and vibrato. As her voice carries the melody straight into your heart, the harp’s movement above and below ornaments the piece in a way that engages your mind and reminds you that beauty at its deepest level is something to be experienced with one’s whole body and soul – with both intellect and emotion. Again, that awareness of God.

And then there is Ms. James’ ornamentation of her voice during the last three refrains of the chorus. What are we to make of that? To my mind, she is suggesting we celebrate in the midst of pathos – that we emerge from the depths smiling and dancing. What a wonderful way to end this journey with her!

Some notes about the piece itself.

“Cariad Cyntaf” is a traditional Welsh song. It is translated “First Love”. The lyrics are as follows:

There is beauty only second to Eden

In your warm bosom, fair maiden.

Dear loved one, bright and happy;

Beautiful star, hear this lovesick one.

Promise your love to me tonight,

We’ll make vows before we leave

To engage, come what may.

Place your trust, and say you’ll come.

Bright happier one, love of my breast

Best and fairest that I ever loved

I will take you as a partner

Place your trust, and say you’ll come.

In your eyes I find truth

That shines like stars of grace and virtue;

For me, seeing you is a joy.

Beautiful star, hear this lovesick one.

Ms. James’ first rendition of this song (performed with piano and low whistle) was done for an album called Gweini Tymor on the SAIN label in 1993. The harp rendition (the one you can listen to by clicking on the link above) is on the album PUR, which she recorded in 2001. It was the first album she released on her own label.

My heartfelt thanks to Ms. James for giving me permission to upload her recording to this site.


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