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Posted - 20-03-2019

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The Language of the Heavens

It was reported in the news recently that Welsh was spoken on an episode of the television series Star Trek. This isn’t the first time that Welsh has been heard among the stars because the Welsh piece of music ‘Yr hufen melyn’ (literal translation ‘The yellow cream’) was once sung on an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series.

The famous phrase associated with Star Trek is, of course, “Beam me up, Scotty!”. Montgomery Scott (or “Scotty”) was the engineer on the starship Enterprise and one of his feats was to transport members of the crew to different locations using a beam. “Beam me up, Scotty!” was the call for his help and it is he who sang the song.

I heard about the connection between ‘Yr hufen melyn’ and Star Trek through the harpist Llio Rhydderch who is preparing notes for her new CD. She heard the fact from Dylan Meirion from Bangor. We explored the history of the piece of music, and thanks to her musical expertise and the Library’s rich resources, more information came to light, including information about the version that Scotty sang.    

The song has appeared in a number of different forms and under various names e.g. Yr hufen melyn, Hufen y cwrw melyn, Cream of the brown ale.

 

 

It was first published as a piece for the harp by the blind musician Richard Roberts (1769-1855) in his volume Cambrian harmony in 1829. According to Llio Rhydderch, it is possible that Roberts first heard the melody from his teacher, Wil Penmorfa. The piece was published in several publications e.g. Welsh harper, vol. 1 (1839), Y tant aur (1916) and Caniadau’r allt (1927):

But which of these numerous versions was sung by Scotty?

In the opinion of Llio Rhydderch, Scotty’s version is similar to the version noted by Alfred Perceval Graves in the volume Sixteen Welsh melodies (1909).

The Y tant aur version will be performed by Llio Rhydderch on her new CD and we look forward to hearing it. Without the rich folk tradition and without music archives, what would Scotty have sung?

Time to bid farewell:  “Beam me up, Scotty!”

Heini Davies, Assistant Librarian

This post is also available in: Welsh

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A blog about the work and collections of the National Library of Wales.

Due to the more personal nature of blogs it is the Library's policy to publish postings in the original language only. An equal number of blog posts are published in both Welsh and English, but they are not the same postings. For a translation of the blog readers may wish to try facilities such as Google Translate.

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