This album tells the story of Li Bai 李白, a Chinese poet from the Tang Dynasty, widely regarded as one of the greatest of all time. In Chinese he is often called ‘The Poet God’ or ‘The Fallen Immortal’ and so the title of this album in Welsh means ‘The Immortal Bard’.

The album begins with the poet leaving home as a young man to search for a Taoist master in the mountains. It moves through his days of traveling along the great rivers of China in search of patronage as a court poet, and deals with the loneliness and loss that he feels having left his wife and children behind.

We drink with him beneath a shower of peach blossom, and share in his awe at the beauty of the moon; an ever present theme in his poetry. We follow his footsteps through vast mountainous landscapes, hear the dawn cry of the gibbon and see the white glory of the waterfall at Lou Mountain as it cascades three thousand feet into the misty valley below.

We follow his disastrous career as a military strategist, a path that leads to exile and a journey to the edge of the known world. As time weaves threads of white into his hair we share his incredulity and ultimate acceptance of aging. Finally, we bear witness to the poet god’s last moments; a spectacular death by drowning in an attempt to embrace the moon reflected in the water (or so the legend goes).

I hope that this album can capture a part of the serene beauty of Li Bai’s poetry. If you already know his poetry I hope this sends you back to read anew. If his words are new to you I hope this album will urge you to seek him out, as he once sought an old hermit in the Tai Tien Mountains.

 

 

Antiffoni

Ni ddaw nodau’r gloch i’r cwm
Dan gysgod trwm y mynydd
Dim ond alaw oer y glaw
A sisial distaw’r pinwydd

Bu’m ar daith dros bryn a ddŵr
Am gyngor gŵr doeth penwyn
A oes hadau wedi’u hau
Ymhlith y blodau eirin?

Dywed i mi pa synnwyr sydd
Ym mywyd cudd y goedwig
Bu’m yn crwydro llwybrau’r fro
A thithau’n cwato’n ‘styfnig

Llifa ddŵr y mynydd ‘mlaen
O’r afon fain i’r morfa
At dir a nen di-orffen
Tu hwnt i’r wybren yma

Tu hwnt i’r wybren yma
O! Tu hwnt i’r wybren yma
At dir a nen di-orffen
Tu hwnt i’r wybren yma

Ni ddaw nodau’r gloch i’r cwm
Dan gysgod trwm y mynydd
Dim ond alaw oer y glaw
A sisial distaw’r pinwydd

Antiphony

No bell tolls in the valley
Beneath the heavy shadow of the mountain
Only the cold song of the rain
And the quiet whispering of pines

I’ve travelled over hill and water
To seek a wise old hermit
Are there seeds that he has sown
Hidden amongst the peach blossom?

Tell me now what sense there is
In the hidden life of the woods?
I’ve been wandering the valley paths
And you’ve been stubbornly hiding

The mountain water flows along
From narrow stream to estuary
To lands and heavens unending
Beyond these earthly skies

Beyond these earthly skies
Beyond these earthly skies
To lands and heavens unending
Beyond these earthly skies

No bell tolls in the valley
Beneath the heavy shadow of the mountain
Only the cold song of the rain
And the quiet whispering of pines

Musicians
Sgwennwyd pob gan/all songs written by Gareth Bonello heblaw/except track 11 trad Chinese arr. Gareth Bonello / Produced by Llion Robertson / Mastered at Hafod Mastering by Donal Whelan / Gwaith Celf/Artwork – Dan Lazenby

Traciau/Tracks 2 & 6
Recordiwyd yn stiwdio Ling Ya Ping, Chengdu, Talaeth Sichuan/ Recorded in Ling Ya Ping Studios, Chendu, Sichuan Province.

Trefniannau Tsieiniaidd/Chinese instruments arranged gan/by Ling Ya Ping

Guitar a llais/Guitar and vocals – Gareth Bonello
Erhu / 二胡 – Huang Wheizi
Guzheng / 古筝- Jiang Qian
Xiao / 箫- Sun San Xiu
Pipa / 琵琶 – Zhou Yuan Lin

Pob trac arall/all other tracks
Recordiwyd ym mwthyn/Recorded at Rhyd Fudr, Llanuwchllyn, Theatr y Reardon Smith, Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Caerdydd a cegin Llion, Stacey Rd, Caerdydd.

Trefniannau llinynnol, ffliwt a Tseiniaidd by/String arrangements, flute and Chinese instrumentation by Seb Goldfinch

Gareth Bonello – Gitar, llais, Pippa, Ukelele, piano, offerynnau taro/Guitar, Vocals, Pipa, Ukelele, percussion
Lisa Jen Brown – Prif leisydd ar trac/Main vocal on track 5
Laura J Martin – Ffliwt/Flute
Richard James – harmoni ar trac/harmony on track 7
Callum Duggan – Bass
Cheng Yu (程玉): Pipa (琵琶)
Annie Wang Xiao (王潇): Erhu (二胡)
Dennis Kwong Thye Lee (李光泰): Guzheng (古筝)

Yr Wylan Fry

O mae’r dyddiau hir yn dechrau
gyda’r epa gwyn a’i stwr
Ei gan o glod i’r bore’n             
Cario’n glir ar draws y dŵr
Gwell o lawer fyddai clywed
can y gwcw ar y wawr
Ond mae’r dwynod y Gorllewin
bell i ffwrdd o ‘nglustiau nawr

Bellach fyth mae’r dŵr yn llifo
A’n fy nghludo i ymaith
i adael cysur cartref
i grwydo’r wlad am waith
Gwell o lawer fyddai aros
Yn dy freichiau tyner di
Tra bo arian ar yr afon
Ar yr afon fydda i

Mae nhw’n dweud bod bywyd llongwr
Fath â siwrnai’r wylan fry
Hawdd i’w gweld yn hwylio heibio
Wedi mynd, Mor hawdd ei cholli

Hwyr y nos mae golau’r lleuad
Fel y barrug ar y llawr
Dwi’n codi ‘mhen mewn gobaith
Cyn disgyn nôl i lawr
Gwell o lawer petai’r lleuad
Gallu rhewi ‘nghalon frau
Ac ei chadw rhag y teimlad
Tan bo’r daith ‘di chwblhau

Mae nhw’n dweud bod bywyd llongwr
Fath a siwrnai’r wylan fry
Hawdd i’w gweld yn hwylio heibio
Wedi mynd, Mor hawdd ei cholli

The Free Seabird

O the long days all begin
With the White Gibbon and his noise
His song to praise the morning
Carries clear across the water
Better still would be to hear
The Cuckoo’s call at dawn
But those two notes are in the West
So far from these ears of mine

Further still the water flows
And it carries me along
To leave the comfort of home
To search the land for work
Better still would be to stay
In your loving tender arms
While there’s money’s on the river
On the river shall I be

They say the life of a sailor
Is like the journey of a seabird flying free
Easy to see as it sails by
Once gone, gone forever

Late at night the moonlight glistens
Like frost upon my floor
I raise my head in hope
Before simking down in shame
Better still if the moon
Could freeze my brittle heart
And keep it from this feeling
Until my travelling is done

They say the life of a sailor
Is like the journey of a seabird flying free
Easy to see as it sails by
Once gone, gone forever

Marwnad Chang-Kan

Ger brigau eirin gwyrddion
Ni’n dau mor llon âr gwenyn
Dwi’n cofio rhannu cusan
dan sêl ein hafan wanwyn
Pan oeddwn dal yn ifanc
A thithau’n llanc direidus
Fe ddaeth ein tro i uno
Am byth i ddeffro’n hapus

Mi oeddwn lwch a lludw,
O! Am gadw gwres y tân!
Pam est at fron yr afon,
At foroedd geirwon llydan?

Daw’r hydref ar yr awel,
Ei ddail yn ddel amdanaf
Mor drist mai’r rhain sy’n arwain
At rew a chigfrain gaeaf
Breuddwydiais ‘mod yn hedfan
Fel hen wylan dros y dŵr
Dilynais wynt a cherrynt
Ymhlith y corwynt neithiwr

 

 

Mi oeddwn lwch a lludw,
O! Am gadw gwres y tân!
Pam est at fron yr afon,
At foroedd geirwon llydan?

O ben y bryn dwi’n disgwyl
Ar bob hwyl sy’n agosau
Ond nid oes un yn perthyn
i long fy nghrwydryn innau
Paham briodais grwydryn?
yn nyddiau gwyn ieuenctid
Ar goll rhwng tonnau gwylltion
Bu ffawd fy nghalon hefyd

Chang-Kan Lament

By branches full of fat green plums
We two were pleased as bees
In springtime’s glow we shared a kiss
Beneath the spreading leaves
When I was still a girl so young
And you a wayward boy
It soon became our time to join
And share our lives in joy

We were as dust and ashes
O! To keep the fire near
Why did you join the river’s flow
And go so far from here?

When Autumn’s song is in the air,
And golden leaves are lost
It can’t be long before we come
To winter crows and frost
I dreamed I rode the great West Wind
A poor old gull in flight
Across the waves I swirled and soared
in search of you last night

 

 

We were as dust and ashes
O! To keep the fire near
Why did you join the river’s flow
And go so far from here?

On mountain tops I stand and stare
At every sail that nears
But not a single one belongs
To you my sailor dear
Why did I wed a wayward man
When I was young and fair?
Between wild waves and crashing tides
You’ll find my poor heart there

Yfed gyda’r lleuad

Mae’r lleuad wedi siomi’r sêr
Sy’n cuddio rhag y syndod
A minnau dan ei golwg ber
Yn yfed gyda ‘nghysgod  

Mae awel oer y gwanwyn nos
Yn siglo coed y berllan
Dwi’n eistedd gyda’r gwin yn glos
Dan law petalau sidan

Yn ddisglair dros y ddaear ddu
Dyw’r lleuad byth yn yfed
Pan godaf law i ‘nghwpan i
Fy ‘nghysgod sy’n dynwared

Cyn dorrai’r wawr dros fryniau maith
Cofleidiwn yn y lloergan
ac addo cwrdd ar ben y daith
Lle llifau’r afon arian

Yn feddw clywaf glebran coed
A lleisiau oer y cerrig
Y gwair a’i ddagrau’n wlyb dan droed
A chân y lleuad unig

Drinking with the moon

The moon has shamed the stars tonight,
they hide beyond the glow
And I, beneath her perfect light
am drinking with my shadow

Amongst a stand of blooming trees
With moon and wine I settle
The branches bow, so every breeze
brings rains of silken petals

So bright above the somber earth
I call the moon by name
Each time I raise my cup to her
my shadow does the same

Before the hills are sunlight-stained
and dewfall makes us shiver
Let’s dance and vow to meet again
beyond the silver river

A drinker knows the talk of trees
and speech of stones so stark,
The grasses slick with salty tears
and moonsong in the dark

Edau Gwyn

Yng ngolau clir y bore
Yn y drych dwi’n syllu’n syn
Mae ‘mhen fel gwydd
ac amser sydd yn plethu’r edau gwyn

Dwi’n gweld y plant yn hedfan
Eu barcutiaid ar y bryn
Yn chware gyda’r awel
ac yn gafael edau gwyn

Mae dail y coed yn cwympo
Ac mae’r iâ ar draws y llyn
Mae ‘mhen fel gwydd
ac amser sydd yn plethu’r edau gwyn

Yng ngolau clir y bore
Yn y drych dwi’n syllu’n syn
Yn chware gyda’r awel
ac yn gafael edau gwyn

Threads of White

I stare into the mirror
In the early morning light
My head’s a loom upon which time
Has woven threads of white

I can see the children playing
On the hilltop flying kites
Against the breeze they pull and strain
And hold to threads of white

The lake has frozen over
And the leaves are taking flight
My head’s a loom upon which time
Has woven threads of white

I stare into the mirror
In the early morning light
My head’s a loom upon which time
Has woven threads of white

Afon Arian

Dyma’r afon a syrddiodd o’r nen
Bloedd y pistyll yn rhydd yn fy mhen
Dyma ble dwi fod
Mae’r amser wedi dod

Wedi’n swyo gan loergan a gwin
cwmni’r lleuad a ’nghysgod di-flin
Dyma ble dwi fod
Mae’r amser wedi dod

O! mae nghalon oer yn gwenu
O! a dwi’n estyn am y loergan
O! gwelaf bawb sy’n annwyl i mi
O! lle llifau’r Afon Arian

Wedi gorffen mae ‘ngherddi i gyd
Gyda’r lleuad mi fyddaf ynghyd
boddaf dan ei glod
mae’r amser wedi dod
Boddaf dan ei glod
mae’r amser wedi dod

O! mae fy nghalon oer yn gwenu
O! a dwi’n estyn am y loergan
O! gwelaf bawb sy’n annwyl i mi
O! lle llifau’r Afon Arian

Silver River

This is the river that fell from the sky
A roaring cascade three thousand feet high
White water pounds all around like a drum
Here on the river my moment has come

Enchanted once more by moonlight and wine
My tireless shadow, the moon and I
White water pounds all around like a drum
Here on the river my moment has come

O! The white apes are all sleeping
On the shoreline where the willow grows
For my loved ones I am yearning
Down where the Silver River flows

And now at the end my poems are done
I reach for the moon and at last we are one
To drown in her glory this life I must shun
Here on the river my moment has come

O! My lonely heart is smiling
As I reach toward her perfect glow
For my loved ones I am pining
Down where the Silver River flows

Diolch o galon / Thanks / Xie xie

 The Chengdu Associated Theatre of Performing Arts, The British Council, PRSF, Bubblewrap Records, Wales Arts International, Amgueddfa Cymru, The Mavron Quartet, The UK Chinese Ensemble, Capel y Boro a Rhyd Fudr.

Diolch yn arbennig i Lin Yaping, Huang Weizhi, Jiang Qian, Zhou Yuanlin, Sun Xianchu, Zhang Xu ac Hongchao Zhang.

Cariad anfarwol i chwi Seb, Llion, Lisa, Laura, Callum, Rich James, Jenny Zeng,Vivi Xu, Sharron Chen Yang, Donal, Dan, Alun Bonello, Richard Chitty a Jen Gallichan.