Lleuwen Steffan - Duw a Ŵyr / God Only Knows
The hymns of the Welsh religious revival are brought alive for the 21st century by Lleuwen Steffan, Huw Warren & Mark Lockheart
Duw A Wyr (God Only Knows) brings together rising star vocalist Lleuwen Steffan with pianist Huw Warren and saxophonist Mark Lockheart in compelling new arrangements of some of the most beautiful Welsh hymns.
The project began when Lleuwen came across an old hymn book in her Nain’s (grandmother’s) attic and realised she had discovered a treasure trove. She was immediately captivated by passionate songs about grace kissing a guilty world, about forgiveness and about tears turning into a well of peace – and, of course, by their wonderful melodies. The album includes hymns written by Gwilym Hiraethog, Thomas John Williams, Ieuan Gwyllt, Ann Griffiths and others.
It was Oliver Weindling at The Babel Label who suggested she approach acclaimed Welsh pianist Huw Warren – winner of the award for Innovation at this year’s BBC Jazz Awards – to collaborate on the project. The two musicians worked together in order to reinterpret the hymns and bring them into the 21st century. The sound is completed on this album by saxophonist Mark Lockheart. Also included is ‘God Only Knows’; a duet between Huw Warren & Mark Lockheart written especially for the album.
When choosing the hymns, Lleuwen realised that she was particularly drawn to those that were popular during the Welsh 1904-05 religious revival. The movement began when Evan Roberts, originally a miner from South Wales, broke off from his theological studies after being inspired to spread the Word Of God. A follower of the Calvinistic Methodist tradition, Roberts was not a minister or a preacher, but thousands crowded into chapels across Wales to hear his words of inspiration. As a result of this religious revival Welsh hymns were brought to the masses.
Lleuwen hopes that this album will bring the hymns alive again and give the Welsh another reason to feel proud of their heritage and culture. “Some of these hymns have always been familiar to me,” says Lleuwen. “They are deeply engraved in my memory although I can’t remember ever trying to learn them. They have always been there in my life like some old, distant relative. Recently though, it dawned on me that I had never really felt them. Sometimes, we fail to see the beauty in the faces of those closest to us. I think that’s what has happened to the old Welsh hymns. All of life’s mysteries are within these hymns.”
The accompanying sleeve notes include new translations of the hymns by Iwan Llwyd, a crowned bard of Wales.