Welsh Traditional Music

The study of Welsh traditional music here at the National Library should begin with the following volumes:

  • the North Reading Room’s copy of Wyn Thomas’s invaluable Traditional Music in Wales: A Bibliography (3rd edition, Llanrwst: Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 2006), which lists the principal published sources in the field of Welsh traditional music. Also in the North Reading Room is an useful annotated copy of J.H. Davies, A Bibliography of Welsh Ballads printed in the 18th century (London, 1908-11)
  • the South Reading Room’s copy of Wyn Thomas and Phyllis Kinney’s unpublished Handlist of Manuscripts Related to the Field of Welsh Traditional Music (December 1981), which is a starting point for discovering non-printed traditional music sources in our collections.

The following sources are available digitally.

Manuscripts of folk tunes

Three important manuscripts, written by John Jenkins (Ifor Ceri, 1770–1829), have already been digitised, namely:

Daniel Huws has discussed these manuscripts in Canu Gwerin (Folk Song), 8 (1985), 32-50, and 9 (1986), 47-57.

Archives containing folk tunes and songs

Our non-printed collections of Welsh folk tunes and songs are primarily the papers of individuals who collected those songs, and interpreted the tradition, during the twentieth century, among them:

All the above individuals were associated with the Welsh Folk Song Society, the archive of which may also be found in the Library:

Cerdd dant

Archives relating to the tradition of penillion singing are relatively rare, and we hope to enhance our collections in this field in the future. We already hold:

Vocal and instrumental performers

The creative output of most Welsh folk music performers should be available in the Welsh Screen and Sound Archive here at the Library. However, the following archives are also relevant:

On-line printed resources

In 2016, following a generous financial contribution from the Welsh Folk Song Society the following early printed collections were digitised by the Library:

Ballads and poems

Two electronic databases on the Library web-page provide access to the libretti of Welsh-language songs – in both strict and free metres – in our collections:

  • Welsh Ballads Online, which includes some 4,000 digitised ballads, mainly dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, from the collections of the National Library of Wales and Cardiff University Library
  • The Index to Welsh Poetry in Manuscript (formerly MALDWYN), which includes references to thousands of Welsh-language poems, in both strict and free metres, which are written in pre-1830 manuscripts here at the National Library, and elsewhere.

Other resources

Researchers are directed to the following selected digital resources:

  • the Corff y Gainc Melody Archive web-page, which includes traditional melodies from manuscript and printed sources, presented by guitarist and scholar Chris Grooms
  • a selection of folk songs from the sound archives of National Museum Wales
  • The Full English, a searchable web-site hosted by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, and which also contains a number of Welsh-language and Welsh folk songs.

Future plans

Sponsored by our Board of Governors, the National Library will prioritise the cataloguing of a number of important recently-received musical collections during 2017-2020, including the Papers of Meredydd Evans and Phyllis Kinney. Part of this project will be a design for a new electronic database of Welsh melodies and songs which are held at the Library, and in other institutions. Further information about this project will be published in due course.