CGWM – North East India Cultural Exchange Project

Background

Since 2022 CGWM has been working on a special partnership project in memory of the late Mair Jones (Telynores Colwyn Harpist) to promote music  exchanges between Wales and North East India.

Mair Jones passed away in 2021. She had a brilliant career as a harpist with the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and as a harp teacher. Mair Jones was very interested in the connection between Welsh and Khasi music and it was her wish that one of her harps went to the Khasi Hills. She  was very keen to promote and celebrate the rich music traditions of both regions.  Led by artist Cefyn Burgess her friends set about fulfilling her wishes.

Our board member Rajan Madhok helped connect the Friends of Mair with CGWM.  Rajan is originally from India and spent time working as a doctor in the Khasi Hills some years ago. He also founded RICE (Ruthin India Cultural Exchange).    

Since that  connection was made early in 2022 the project has gone from strength to strength with some very exciting developments on the horizon…

Remembering Mair Jones 12.6.2022

Due to the pandemic, a memorial service for Mair Jones had to be delayed and took place on 12 June 2022 at Heol y Parc Chapel in Ruthin. It was an occasion to celebrate her rich life, and to give thanks for her bequest. Special thanks to Cefyn Burgess and Ann Crug, and friends of Mair Jones for organising such a special event.

It was an honour for the young members of our Telynau Clwyd harp ensemble led by Morwen Blythin and Dylan Cernyw, to perform at the event. Following an opening service by the Reverend Nan Powell-Davies and Chloe Powell-Davies there were performances by two international harpists who knew Mair well – Sioned Williams who had studied with her and Elinor Bennett who had performed alongside her during her time as the harpist of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. It was wonderful to hear their memories of Mair and learn more about her tremendous contribution to the world of the harp as a performer, teacher and author of harp study books in the Welsh language. Dylan Cernyw joined Sioned Williams to perform duets by Mair Jones before Reverend Tecwyn Ifan brought the event to an end.

See the video on Facebook.

Prof. Lily Kharbamon Visit September 2022

Following discussions it was decided that Martin Luther Christian University’s Music Department in Shillong would be a perfect home for Mair’s harp. We were delighted to welcome Prof. Lily Kharbamon from the University  to North Wales in September 2022. A special event was held in Nantclwyd y Dre Ruthun when the harp was presented to Lily and we heard the harp being played on Welsh soil for the last time before going to Shillong. During the visit CGWM signed a memorandum of understanding with MLCU University confirming the intention to collaborate on arts projects and cultural exchanges.

First visit to Shillong February 2023

A grant was secured from Wales Arts International to send a tutor from CGWM  to Shillong to develop the next stages of the project. Nia Davies Williams has been a freelance community tutor at CGWM for many years. As a musician and harpist her area of expertise is music in health and well-being. During her visit Nia gave presentations and lessons on the harp to the enthusiastic students of MLCU’s Music Department and carried out a number of field visits with Cefyn Burgess to meet the traditional musicians of the Khasi Hills and to learn more about the links between the music of Wales and the Khasis. There was also an opportunity to visit the Gordon Roberts Hospital which was founded in 1922 by the Missionary and surgeon Dr H Gordon Roberts and perform in the community.

Zoom Harp Lessons April 2023

Following Nia’s visit to MLCU University, 5 students who had shown a particular interest in learning to play the harp were selected to benefit from weekly harp lessons via zoom with CGWM. The lessons are funded by the Mair Jones Scholarship fund organised by friends of Mair Jones. CGWM tutor Catrin Morris Jones delivers the lessons and the development and commitment of Balasiewdor, Aijingkmen, Livandi, Bernadine and Risaka over the past few months has been exceptional. In addition to attending their weekly lessons they have performed in several events at the University and in the community and participated in a documentary on the Khasi news channel.

CGWM's second visit to Shillong. November 2023

In November 2023 Nia returned to Shillong with artist Cefyn Burgess and Rajan Madhok with the support of Wales Arts International funding. The aim of this visit was to further develop the links with MLCU University, develop the next stages of the cultural exchange plans and explore and develop the health and wellbeing element. This time there was an opportunity to visit two hospital which have a link with Wales – the Gordon Roberts Hospital in Shillong and Norman Tunnel hospital in Jowai. Nia and the harp students had the opportunity to spend time performing on the wards highlighting how music can contribute to promoting the health and well-being of patients. The students arranged to return to the hospital to perform after Nia left. The harp students performed at  the Tri Hills Ensemble Festival which was being held at the time.

Thank you to Derwent Harps for a kind donation of a small harp for the project.

With the Welsh Government’s Wales-India year on the horizon (2024-25), the visit was also an opportunity to discuss possible events during that year and the first visit of the musicians from MLCU to Wales in 2024.  

More information

You can see more about the ‘Tu ôl i’r Bocs / Behind the Box’ and ‘Trwy Llaw a Llun’ exhibitions  by textile artist Cefyn Burgess, inspired by the links between the people of Wales and the Khasi and Mizo people by following this link: Diary — Cefyn burgess

Remembering Mair Jones facebook page

Over the past few years the artist Gareth Bornello has carried out a research project ‘Welsh and Khasi Cultural Dialogues’ encouraging artistic collaboration between artists from the two communities. You can read more about his work by following this link: Khasi-Cymru Collective | The Gentle Good