'Ty yn y Grug (Tea in the Heather)' is simply a beautiful album, sung and at times, spoken, entirely in Welsh. Featuring the acclaimed voice of Welsh musician Al Lewis (one half of Americana duo Lewis and Leigh), along with the stunning harmonies and voices of a volunteer choir, this album – whether you understand the language or not – is simply beautiful.
However, it comes to light when you understand a little of what’s happening. The lyrics for ‘Te yn n Grug/Tea in the Heather’, were written by Karen Owen and Cefin Roberts, inspired by the iconic Welsh author Dr. Kate Roberts’ series of short stories, which last year celebrated its sixtieth anniversary since first publication in 1959.
The lyrics are steeped in the nature of the Welsh mountains, the local village and smalltown communities, the people, the places, the landscapes that shaped the stories.
Every two years, Wales has an eight-day festival celebrating all of Welsh culture called the Eisteddfod. Al Lewis was commissioned to write ‘Tea in the Heather’ as a musical. These songs were first performed as part of the hugely successful show of the same name at the 2019 National Eisteddfod in Llanrwst, with tickets selling out in record hours.
Lewis found that he loved the experience of writing music for choral performance, and felt there should be a permanent testament to the music. Hence, this album was recorded in five days at Sain Studios in North Wales with an array of talented musicians and a voluntary choir.
In listening, you may not understand the words, but you’ll understand the community in the music, the emotions, the highs and the lows, the beauty of the melodies and the rousing richness of its very fabric. A stunning composition, which rightly has been recorded, not just for posterity, but to be enjoyed here and now in the moment. The album comes complete with a lyrics booklet in both Welsh and English translation, poetical interpretations of the stories of smalltown rural life, its simplicities and complexities, and the escapism that nature provides.
Live shows are being played in Wales in March 2020 – which will feature Lewis playing his own work in the first half, and this beautiful album sung in full in the second half.