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2015 Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer

Mick Tems 04 Mar 15 - 06:08 AM
Mick Tems 04 Mar 15 - 06:28 AM
maeve 04 Mar 15 - 06:57 AM
maeve 04 Mar 15 - 07:01 AM
Newport Boy 04 Mar 15 - 04:50 PM
Waddon Pete 05 Mar 15 - 07:29 AM
GUEST,Eifion Pennar 06 Mar 15 - 09:23 PM
GUEST,Hefin Williams 12 May 15 - 09:20 PM
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Subject: Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: Mick Tems
Date: 04 Mar 15 - 06:08 AM

The great Welsh icon Mered Evans - wonderful folk singer, Welsh language activist who campaigned for non-violent and peaceful protests, Doctor of Philosophy, folksong collector and writer - died on February 21, 2015 after a short illness at the age of 95. We had come back from The Gathering traditional festival in County Kerry, Ireland, and were saddened to hear the bad news. The Sain record company and trac (the all-Wales folk development organisation) said that Wales has lost the mainspring of the nation's folk tradition - but the Mudcat posts made no mention of Mered's passing. Just to put the record straight...

There are many websites concerning Mered, his activities and his achievements, but I just wanted to point Mudcatters to: Mered Evans - Welsh Folk Songs. Here, he tells of his childhood in North Wales and how Mo Asch recorded him for the American Smithsonian Folkways company.

In 2004, I wrote an article for Welsh folk magazine Taplas on Sain releasing a double CD of Mered's folksongs. This is it:

"Sain, leaders in the Welsh language, have just released a sparkling diamond – a double-CD comprising 50 rare old folk songs going back 30 or 40 years, all beautifully and expertly crafted by Mered Evans, a veritable institution and an icon for many people in Wales.

On it are the Delyse 1962 recordings, which sound very plush now - A Concert Of Welsh Folk Songs, with Mered's American-born wife, professional singer Phyllis Kinney ("Tradition dressed up to suit the audience," according to Phyllis), Russian harpist Maria Korchinska and a bevy of singers and players; two tracks previously published on Folk Songs; and four tracks from the debut Sain LP, Canu'r Werin.

The brightest star, however, is the landmark 1977 Mered album, which Meredophiles have been awaiting with bated breath. About 30 years have gone by, but Merêd still sounds as fresh and vibrant as ever, the master revelling in the simple, unaccompanied, controlled and assured voice. D. Roy Saer, who has since retired from his post at St Fagans Museum, Cardiff, does an admirable job introducing Mered's skilful handling of the 28 folksongs. It is, truly, a remarkable reproduction, which Sain have put together with just a touch of TLC. It's one to be treasured.

Mered's remarkable life had its first chapter when he was born in Llanegryn, Meirionnydd, on December 9, 1919, and was brought up in Tanygrisiau, Ffestiniog, the eleventh child in the family. His father was a quarryman who died of 'the dust' when Mered was just 17. His mother learned folksongs from a 'hwsmon' at the farm where she worked - she sang the songs to her children and Mered learned many from hearing her.

"The traditional songs of Wales have been very important to him - in singing them, in hearing others sing them, and in talking about them in lecture halls, on the radio, or in small groups of other folksong enthusiasts," says Phyllis.

Mered, school-leaver at 14, started preparing for the Calvinistic Methodist ministry. A convinced pacifist, he was registered as a conscientious objector and was granted unconditional exemption by a tribunal early in 1940. The war years saw him gaining a First in Philosophy, and he was appointed Tutor in Philosophy and Political Theory at Coleg Harlech in 1947 and worked there until the 1950s, following up as assistant editor of the Welsh newspaper Y Cymro.

When Phyllis was a musical student, her imagination was fired by her brilliant Welsh teacher, Gomer Llewelyn Jones. "I'm from Pontiac, Detroit," she says. "I'd never heard of Wales." Phyllis learned to love the Welsh language. She came to Wales when she was in an opera company, met Mered, who was by now working for the BBC, and subsequently married. Their daughter, Eluned, was born a year later.

Phyllis was getting a lot of work from the BBC, but America still beckoned. The family went to the States, where Mered entered Princeton University, graduated with a Ph.D in Philosophy and got a job as an Instructor in Philosophy at Boston.

Mered loved folk song and was always singing at parties. He and Phyllis were inseparable – they often performed together at events. By now, Merêd had a considerable reputation, and Mo Asch recorded him for Folkways (the great Mo said: "I can't understand a word, but I like it.") The New York Times awarded Mered's LP, Welsh Folk Songs, in the top ten of the year. Much later, when Mered and Phyllis had settled in Anglesey, the legendary US radio presenter Studs Terkel, an avid fan, rang. He had journeyed to Britain to interview two famous people – Mered and Bertrand Russell!

Merêd and Phyllis have a house, Afallon, in the village of Cwmystwyth. Merêd is 86 now, and Phyllis is 83, but Afallon is a hive of activity. Mered works on a computer in his own vast library, on the history of Welsh folksong, while Phyllis is two years from completing an academic ten-year book on the history of Welsh folk music. I've had no choice but to leave out the myriad events in Mered's crowded life – "You could write a book about it," said Phyllis. I certainly will…"

Mick Tems

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Subject: RE: Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: Mick Tems
Date: 04 Mar 15 - 06:28 AM

I have omitted the circumflex (the to bach) from the second "e" in Mered's name - this was because I wasn't sure how Mudcat treats circumflexes. In other posts, Mudcat makes a right old dog's dinner where circumflexes are concerned; here, they are about right. Sorry!

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Subject: RE: Obit: Merêd Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: maeve
Date: 04 Mar 15 - 06:57 AM

Thank you for your post honoring Merêd Evans. I am glad to know something of his life and contributions. The only way Mudcat gets obituary notices for most musicians is when people like yourself link or write them here.

Mered (Merêd) [Eng CC] [2014]

Meredydd Evans: The Power of the Welsh Language and Cultural Identity Smithsoni

Meredydd Evans: Welsh Folk Songs

At sylw Gweinidog y Gymraeg - Dr Meredydd Evans ar Ddiwylliant Cymru

Just for fun

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Subject: RE: Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: maeve
Date: 04 Mar 15 - 07:01 AM

Here's the link I was particularly looking for:

There are several other songs from the Smithsonian album on YouTube.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: Newport Boy
Date: 04 Mar 15 - 04:50 PM

A sad loss. As a young lad in the mid-1940s, I used to listen to a Welsh children's programme on radio. Although I'm not a Welsh speaker, a male trio made an impression on me. Thirty years later I tried to trace them - all I remembered was that they were Meredydd, Emlyn & something. No luck.

Four years a go I gave a talk on unaccompanied and harmony singing and mentioned the trio as an early influence. A Welsh speaker in my audience gave me a note afterwards, identifying them as 'Triawd y Coleg'. Googling gave me a few hits, including a photograph, and I tracked down an album on CD. They sound as good as 60 years ago. (My Welsh speaker helpfully translated the trio name as 'The College Threesome', but Googling that wasn't a success!)

I've since obtained a number of Mered's recordings and thoroughly enjoyed them. He will certainly be missed.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: Waddon Pete
Date: 05 Mar 15 - 07:29 AM

A sad loss. Thanks for all the links and clues to where we can hear more. I have added Mered to the "In Memoriam" thread. May he rest in peace.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: GUEST,Eifion Pennar
Date: 06 Mar 15 - 09:23 PM

Diolch for your memories of Mered; he was a true traditional singer.

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Subject: RE: 2015 Obit: Mered Evans, much-loved folk-singer
From: GUEST,Hefin Williams
Date: 12 May 15 - 09:20 PM

Having been a great fan of "Triawd y Coleg", Mered, Cledwyn and Robin since the 1940's.It was indeed sad to hear of Mered's passing.
We,the Welsh Nation will be forever grateful for the contribution they made to our culture. Thankfully, Cledwyn is still with us and I'm privileged to be in contact with him and have enjoyed his company on many occasion. We at Friars School Bangor were indeed privileged to have been taught by Cledwyn during his time at Friars. Cledwyn is still involved with the Friars Old Dominican Association for ex-pupils, he is also the current president of the Association.

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