New book tells story of Llanelli musician who founded the North American Welsh Choir
A Llanelli born conductor who emigrated to the United States over 20 years ago has launched a new book telling of the experiences of Welsh people who venture across the pond to follow their musical dreams.
Musician and writer, Dr Mari Morgan moved to the USA in 1996 where she formed the North American Welsh choir – Côr Cymry Gogledd America.
Now a naturalised American citizen residing along the banks of the Susquehanna river in Pennsylvania, Dr Morgan has released her book, Braids of Song: Weaving Welsh Music into the America Soul.
The book launch coincided with a week long concert tour of Wales by over 50 members Côr Cymry Gogledd America to celebrate the choir’s twenty-fifth anniversary.
In her book Dr Morgan asks what happens when a person moves to a new country and does the way they sing stay with the old or blend with the new?
Mari said: “The idea for writing Braids of Song began after the death of my father on 1 March 2015.
“A Welsh nonconformist minister and a man of his people, he posed two questions of me during his final weeks, ‘When are you going to write my story?’ and ‘Who are you?’
“Braids of Song is my creative response to those two simple questions. My father’s bequest of a score and story of Arianwen – combined with my own experience as a Welsh musician who has lived in the United States of America for over twenty-five years – led me on an exploration of how immigration to a new country can alter a person, how the challenges and opportunities of the new are balanced with a sense of loss for the old, and how the creative output is affected in the process of assimilating to a new culture.”
Several voices tell their tales in the book – the charismatic composer, Joseph Parry from Merthyr who stages a Welsh opera in Danville, Pennsylvania; the steady but ground-breaking conductor, Daniel Protheroe from Cwmgiedd who measures for a suit in Chicago; and the international concert pianist, Marie Novello from Maesteg wrapped in glamorous furs on the first-class deck of an ocean liner.
And there’s also the author’s own story, a girl from Llanelli who founded and conducts the North American Welsh Choir.
With the Stars and Stripes flying aloft the National Library in Aberystwyth on 4 July, its Gregynog Gallery was the setting for the book’s launch and the 200-strong audience were also treated to a magnificent concert by the choir, with new compositions by Eric Jones and Mererid Hopwood, Cefin Roberts and Einion Dafydd, and Penri Roberts and Linda Gittins premiered.
Dr Mari Morgan will return to Wales for the Llŷn and Eifionydd National Eisteddfod held at Boduan.
She will be signing copies of her book on the Welsh North America stand at 12 noon on Thursday, 10 August.
Braids of Song: Weaving Welsh Music into the America Soul (£9.99) is published by Y Lolfa and is now available in book shops and www.ylolfa.com.
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