mark bowden, damian walford davies and the mari lwyd music project

Mari Lwyd collage made when I was preparing to illustrate Equus in 2009.

Composer Mark Bowden

Librettist Damian Walford Davies

Snow notwithstanding, the past weekend saw the gathering at Ty Isaf of the production team for the first discussions about the Mid Wales Chamber Orchestra project announced on the Artlog in December. The two creators of the piece, composer Mark Bowden and the librettist Damian Walford Davies, met for the first time, and the occasion was an opportunity for the artistic director of MWCO and architect of the project, James Slater, to welcome everyone on board and to lay out our schedules.  Damian spoke about the mysterious, though now, alas, ruinously peeling painted image of a Mari Lwyd on the sign above the old post-office in Llanover, and how it inspired him for a location in which to set his narrative. I made a presentation in which I described how we might visualise the production in practical terms. We discussed various techniques of puppetry and stop-motion animation. (I will be working with Culture Colony’s Pete Telfer, who in 2011 made THIS delightful short film with animated sequences, about my use of maquettes in the studio.) The work at last begins. The serious stuff of the weekend was leavened by meals and group-walks in the snowy Ystwyth Valley, led of course by Jack!


Click on Mark’s name under his photograph at the top of this post to visit his website, where you can hear some extracts from his music. I challenge you to listen to it and not be as excited as I feel at this moment. His is a staggering talent, as is the writing skill of our librettist Damian. I know theirs will be a great collaboration, and that they’re set to enthral everyone with their combined creativity. Damian’s most recent work, Witch, a chilling verse-drama set in the seventeenth century (with cover art-work by me) may be found HERE.

DSCF6253Ink and sgraffito drawing on acetate.

27 thoughts on “mark bowden, damian walford davies and the mari lwyd music project

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  6. Exciting news, I did check out Mr. Bowden’s site, I need to revisit, wonderful snippets of great talent.

    Also checked out your animated maquettes, the Oedipus Horse was quite painful, and beautiful. I have always loved the theatrical device of red yarn for blood, so chilling.

    On a superficial note, what a pretty blue in your home.
    Take care,

    • On a superficial note, that blue is our bedroom! A lovely colour, like floating in a summer sky. The room is high in the house, and with the windows open we’re up there in the treetops.


  7. I think this is going to be an awesome collaboration of talents. The sign in the village with the faded Mari Lwyd painting sounds fascinating and slightly eerie. I also heard the rooks in the background when watching the animation about the maquettes, as something known and familiar to me, and a sound that I like.

    • Hello Janet. So pleased to hear that you think this is an interesting project. I’m pretty fired up on it. Lots of work ahead, but it’s all quite exhilarating.

  8. I’ve just been listening to Mark’s music and watching the short. What talented people you will be working with! I really can’t wait to see what will happen as a result of this collaboration!!

    p.s. Your maquettes looked so lovely and enchanted hanging in the sunny window.

    p.p.s. I am so jealous of all that snow. It’s everywhere around this city in heaps apparently, but in Aberdeen itself all the snowflakes disappear as soon as they hit the ground.

    • Mark’s music is sublime, isn’t it Jodi? I listen to it and the pictures start coming in my head.

      I had so much fun making that little documentary. Pete Telfer filmed and edited it, and Peter photographed the sequential images of the maquettes while I moved them on our dining-room floor. The sun moves across the boards, an electrical cable snakes in and back out and Jack’s paws appear briefly. But we weren’t looking for perfection, and the end result is charming. One of the things I like best in the film is the sound of the rooks in the trees beyond the windows when I was hanging the puppets. I love the fact that there is a rookery so close to the house. Some people can’t bear the noise and call it a racket, but I think it’s magical. Marly Youmans, who’d travelled from Cooperstown New York to be in Wales for my retrospective opening, recorded Kathe Koja’s account of my maquettes that she’d written for the Lund Humphries monograph. I thought Kathe’s words really needed an American voice, so Marly obliged and did it beautifully. The voiceover was recorded at Pete’s house where we set up in his daughter Alis’s bedroom. Pete took up most of the room with his recording equipment, Marly sat on a corner of Alis’s bed and the only place left for me was on a mattress that monopolised the remaining floor-space. I lay on it, making suggestions though occasionally falling asleep. Marly claims now that I wore sunglasses like some hotshot director, though that sounds most unlike me!

      We didn’t have too much snow here, and it’s just about gone now. It was a lot heavier down south.

      • Oh, reading your description was like having a little dream of being there. How lovely to drift around the edges of the filming and voice recording. Marly has a lovely voice and bird sounds are always welcome, I think (and Mark’s music too, yes, of course!).

        As for the snow, we did have a few lovely white mornings in the end (which goes to show that quite a delay has managed to slip into this conversation!)… though it was always green again by 10:30. Still, I enjoyed it!

  9. Wow, good to hear things are moving forward for you. Look forward to hearing how this project progresses. Exciting stuff. I see Jack is faithful to the frisby no matter what the weather! 🙂 Hope you are keeping warm.

    • Crikey, Jax, but it’s cold here. I’ve been adding successive layers of clothes throughout the day. I’ll hold out until 5 pm, at which point I’m decamping to the sitting-room to light the wood-burner.

      Yes, project moving forward. Good to at last see the team together.

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