Who are they?

They are members of Clera, the Welsh Traditional Instrument Society, which was established in the 1996 National Eisteddfod.

Y Glerorfa developed directly from the society’s workshops, held in different parts of Wales over ten years, where members learnt traditional tunes, improved their playing skills and learnt how to play them in a traditional style.

For Clera’s 10th anniversary concert in November 2006, forty of the best instrumentalists from those workshops came together at Galeri, Caernarfon. Someone suggested combining the Welsh word for orchestra, cerddorfa, with clera, creating a new name, Y Glerorfa (clera is the Welsh word for the profession of the minstrels in times past).

At the time, the concert was regarded as no more than a one-off. But the excited and enthusiastic response by the audience on the night persuaded everyone that it just couldn’t end there.

What are the aims of Y Glerorfa?

Simply to present Welsh traditional tunes, as well as original tunes in the folk idiom, in a new, lively and exciting way.

As a result, to restore the respect of the Welsh people, and the broadcasting media in particular, towards Welsh traditional music, and to show that young people can enjoy it just as much as anyone else.

In general, we wish to see a much better balance within Welsh culture between those elements which have been imported or translated into the Welsh language, and those elements which are intrinsically Welsh.

It is part of our mission to restore a sense of pride and self-respect to our own music in Wales, and when performing in other countries, to present a programme of singing, dancing and instrumental music which can be identified as something which is uniqely Welsh as far as possible

How many members are there?

In that first concert in 2006 there were 40. By now the number is nearer 70, from all parts of Wales. Because all members cannot commit to every performance, the number playing each time varies. The largest number, 54, was at Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau in 2008.

No invitation to perform is accepted unless a minimum of 35 members have committed.

Who are the members?

Ages vary from 10 to 70!

Around 30% of members are under 25.

Only one member is a professional musician, but around 10 make their living in the musical world – peripatetic teachers, university lecturer, tutors and music organisers, etc.

There is a strong family element to the orchestra, with around 10 separate family ‘units’ – a father and two daughters, husband and wife, mother and son, cousins, etc.

Several members are Welsh learners.

What instruments are used?

The fiddlers form the largest group. There are 15 harpists, and a similar number of flutes. Three or four individuals also from time to time during a performance pick up their pibgorn or bagpipes. We also include a bass guitar – not a traditional instrument of any kind of course! – but it’s a great help to underpin the sound and to keep the pulse steady.

What is the main difference between this orchestra and an other orchestra?

1. No-one uses a copy during a performance.
2. There is no conductor other than to ensure everyone starts together, or to signal a move on to the next tune.
3. Everyone except the harpists perform standing up.

What sort of repertoire does Clerorfa have?

The music is presented set by set. A set can vary between 5 and 8 minutes each, and contains a series of tunes leading from one to another, with anything between three and six tunes in all. Not everyone plays all the time necessarily (e.g. sometimes only the flutes and harps will be playing).

Not every tune played is a traditional tune. Several of the tunes are new and original – but composed in the traditional style.

The sets also include singing and dancing – folk singing, cerdd dant (penillion), plygain, and a group of (around) six clog dancers. These dancers which are also part of the orchestra are placed in the front row and simply move forward to the front of stage to dance.

What sort of concert is offered?

Y Glerorfa will gladly do a concert all on its own, or be part of a concert with other artistes.

If it’s a whole concert, a number of individual items are arranged from within the Clerorfa ranks – individual instrumentalists, folk or penillion singers, plygain singers or dancers.

In some concerts – with sufficient notice – Y Glerorfa can accompany an individual/choir/band. This has been done with 9Bach, the Ruthin and Glan Clwyd joint choir, Côr Seiriol and Sian James.

Where has Y Glerorfa performed?

* Galeri, Caernarfon (three times)
* Official Opening of Canolfan Tŷ Siamas, Dolgellau, 2007
* Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau – main stage
* Lorient International Celtic Festival, Brittany – three concerts including the Festival’s Opening Concert (with an audience of between 2,000 and 3,000 people)
* The St Asaph International Music Festival (on the same stage as the world famous organist Dame Gillian Weir)
* University of Wales, Bangor
* Y Lanfa at the Wales Millenium Centre
* Opening Concert of the Bala National Eisteddfod
* Proclamation Concert of the Cerdd Dant Festival in Bangor
* In 2010 Y Glerorfa will perform in seven concerts, including the Celtic Celebration Concert in the Wales Millenium Centre, Cardiff.

What is the membership policy?

There are three conditions:

1. Everyone has to be a member of Clera.

2. Everyone has to be able to play their instrument to a competent level.

3. Everyone has to attend a specific number of rehearsals.