When I was 17 I got a copy of a book of poems by Dylan Thomas. The result of thrilling to those words was me peppering my family about questions about my Welsh ancestry. Perhaps I am 4 or 5 generations removed from Wales. And perhaps it is only from my mother's father's part of the family. And maybe I've only been to Wales once for barely a day but reading Dylan Thomas always makes me giddily proud that there's a bit of Welsh blood running around in me somewhere.
Which is a suitably poetic way to share the news to you today that Cerys Matthews, singer from one of my favorite Welsh bands, Catatonia, is releasing a double album of Dylan Thomas poems set to music.
Having heard the set, I can say that hearing Cerys' voice read these poems adds another layer of beauty to the already overwhelming beauty of the words. Let her explain it herself:
Dylan Thomas was always present in my life - we shared the same view of the crescent shaped Swansea bay, and my uncle Colin Edwards amassed the largest amount of interviews on him, starting in the years following Dylanʼs tragic death in New York City...Reading his work aloud, feeling those syllables roll around your mouth with the rhythms finding their own ebb and flow is one of life's greatest pleasures. In Welsh (and similarly in Somali) there is only one word to cover both music and poetry – the powerful, transformative qualities of each have always lead me to treat them both with a similar approach. I often hear music when I read great writing, especially Dylanʼs, which is so infused with melody and rhythm, and so the idea for this project was born.
Working with arranger and composer Mason Neely from Nashville, Cerys has done a remarkable thing here. Quite a few years ago, John Cale set some Dylan Thomas poems to music and the results were the profound Words for the Dying. But by focusing on the poems and arranging the music around them in a subtle fashion, Cerys and her crew -- Catrin Finch on harp, Alice Neary on cello, and David Adams on violin -- have turned the focus back to those glorious words themselves.
You can order A Child's Christmas, Poems and Tiger Eggs here.
Find more details on the official Cerys Matthews website.