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This work is probably one of my most programmatic works to date; it tells a story - one of a local Aberystwyth myth - rather than exploring a wider extramusical notion or concept. When coming to writing the piece, I had discussed local myths and legends with Iwan Teifion Davies, the Director of Music at Aberystwyth University, as the Philomusica concert programme was to focus on folklore. Rather than looking at the well-known Welsh stories of Cantre’r Gwaelod and the Mabinogion, I chose to look at a far more local - and lesser known - myth; that of Maelor Gawr. Maelor Gawr was an early Celtic king and giant in Welsh mythology, residing in Dinas Maelor (more commonly recognised nowadays as the Pen Dinas hillfort).


The tale recorded in the late sixteenth century Welsh text 'Olion Cewri Cymru' (‘The Giants of Wales and their dwellings’) by Sion Dafydd Rhys is a gruesome one… It came to pass that Maelor Gawr was captured and sentenced to death by his enemies. However, he is granted a final request: to blow his hunting horn three times before his death. The first time he blew the horn, the strength was enough that his hair and beard fell out, the second time, the force was so great that his finger and toe nails fell off, and the final blast broke the horn into tiny pieces. His son Cornippyn was out hunting and heard the sound of his father’s horn. Cornippyn rode at such speed to the rescue, that he tore the head off his hound and cleared the river Ystwyth in a single leap, and he was slain in the ensuing battle. Legend has it that Cornippyn’s headless hound still haunts the area.


In the shadow of giants was commissioned by the Aberystwyth Philomusica, and will be premiered by the orchestra, conducted by Iwan T. Davies on Saturday 9 December 2023.


Sarah Lianne Lewis, 2023

Aberystwyth Philomusica premieres In the shadow of giants

8pm Saturday 9 December 2023

Great Hall, Aberystwyth Arts Centre

Tickets from £11 (£2 children, £3.50 students) BOOK TICKETS

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