Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Bringing a legend to life

Stories come in many shapes and forms. For me, that’s part of their fascination. For example, last weekend I sang in a concert in Porthcawl where the first of the two pieces we sang retells a story that was first written down as far back as the 12th century. More than that, the person at the centre of the story was someone who’d lived yet longer ago, back in the 6th century A.D.

St Teilo

St Teilo  outsideThe piece was St Teilo, a cantata composed by the Welsh composer, William Mathias. It’s a wonderful piece, full of a strong and simple majesty and, for me, it has the extra resonance that parts of it concern the place in Pembrokeshire in which I did a lot of my growing up. According to the story, Teilo especially went to what we now call St David’s in order to meet and talk with David because he admired him greatly. Also according to the story – and it’s amazing to think that this happened back then (no planes, no trains) the two of them, accompanied by another friend, Padarn, succeeded in making a journey all the way to Jerusalem because they wanted to see and experience it.

A rock called Clegyr Boia

Another part of the William Mathias cantata centres on an episode in which a pagan prince who moved into David’s area tried to taunt him into sin by sending women to dance naked before him. As kids we used to know all about that piece of story for the place where the pagan prince, a man called Boia, is reputed to have built his fortress is a craggy rock called Clegyr Boia. As kids we frequently cycled past it and sometimes we’d go and climb all over it.

Funny how a local legend impinges itself in your mind: it cuts through time and makes a story feel real.

Our special narrator: Carwyn Jones

St Teilo insideBut last Saturday, one of the greatest pleasure of our concert, which was a joint performance between the London Welsh Chorale and the Bridgend-area choir, Côr Bro Ogwr, was that the narration of the Teilo story, itself so central to  the cantata, was done by none other than Carwyn Jones, 1st Minister of Wales.

Carwyn Jones is President of Côr Bro Ogwr and, although as a politician he may be criticised for many things, I think it a wholly admirable thing that he devoted most of a day to rehearsing and performing in St Teilo with us. It was in my view a demonstration of what I believe to be two very strong aspects of Welshness – a regard for culture and a regard for one’s native area.

Besides, the job Carwyn  made of that narration could not have been better. It was extremely well done.

P.S. The two photos this week are of a stained-glass  window in the church of St Teilo not far from St David’s. One is taken from the outside, the other from the inside.




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