(Arranger – John Thomas aka Pencerdd Gwalia)
(Arranger – Franz Joseph Haydn)
(Arranger – Benjamin Britten)
(Arranger – Brian Hogg)
(Lyricists – John Jones (Talhaiarn)/Thomas Oliphant/John Oxenford)
(Alternative title and translation lyricists – Sarah Doudney/Anne Hunter/Anthony Linden Jones/Omar Westendorf)
This Welsh song, popular as an accompaniment for Penillion singing, has been thought to have originated from as early as the late 17th Century. A possible early version of it has been said to be “Cease Your Funning” for 1728’s The Beggar’s Opera written by John Gay, although this version is also thought to actually be the song “Constant Billy”. English Morris dancers would be seen dancing to it and the 17th/18th century Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan is known to have performed it as part of his repertoire.
Several versions have appeared over the past few centuries that have been revised/arranged by the Welsh harpist and composer John Thomas (Pencerdd Gwalia) and other composers such as Franz Joseph Haydn, Benjamin Britten and Brian Hogg to name just a few. The earliest publication of it was found in Edwards Jones’ 1802 Jones’s Bardic Museum and just a few years later it was first published with lyrics in Bardd Alawis’ Welsh Melodies with Appropriate English Words. It also appeared in Gow’s Strathspey Reels under the title “Sir Watkin William Wynn” with lyrics by Anne Hunter. Other versions have lyrics by Thomas Oliphant, John Oxenford and John Jones (Talhaiarn) and titles used for this tune include “All Hail to Thee Cambria”, “In the Ash Grove Palace” translated by Anthony Linden Jones, “The Irish Free State”, “The Master Hath Come” by Sarah Doudney, the somewhat offensive “Mayor of Bayswater’s Daughter” and “Sent Forth by God’s Blessing” by Omer Westendorf.
The most famous lyrics are where childhood and late friends are remembered with happiness and a second that describes the ash grove as a beautiful place where a man goes to remember his sweetheart after her death. The music is also used for the hymn “Let All Things Now Living” written by Katherine Davis in 1920.
Nathan Granner and Beau Bledsoe recordings
Tzigane CDNB-202 (CD: Departure)
Tenor – Nathan Granner
Guitar – Beau Bledsoe
The King’s Singers recordings
EMI 54904 (CD: Annie Laurie)
Countertenor – David Hurley
Countertenor– Alistair Hume
Tenor – Bob Chilcott
Baritone – Bruce Russell
Baritone – Simon Carrington
Bass – Stephen Connolly
Carol Thompson recordings
Dorian DOR 90120 (CD: The Enchanted Isles)
Harp – Carol Thompson