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.