Carwyn Ellis & Rio 18 with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales - Yn Rio
Late in 2020 as a global pandemic was raging, BBC Radio Cymru approached Carwyn Ellis with a view to performing a radio concert with Rio 18 and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
There would be no audience present. The orchestra would have limited numbers due to social distancing measures. And as the pandemic worsened, it became clear that Rio 18 themselves would not be able to travel or rehearse together either.
But the show must go on! So Carwyn adapted. He came up with these songs, and began recording them alone at home. Then, he sent them to his co-producer Shawn Lee who added drums and percussion at his studio in London. With these elements, the rest of the band were able to add their contributions from wherever they were, with Shawn co-ordinating the group’s recordings into the super tight tracks you hear here. Rio 18 did not see each other, or play together at all during the course of this process! Which is truly remarkable because the energy, joy, love and pure magic is palpable in these recordings.
In conjunction with these musical elements, Carwyn worked alongside two brilliant arrangers to make the orchestrations: the Brazilian Christiaan Oyens and Welshman Owain Gruffudd Roberts, who also conducted the orchestra.
The words are in Welsh. The music is international. In Rio 18 alone, there are Brazilian, American, Venezuelan, English and of course, Welsh members. The album is mixed by a French man. It is mastered by an Italian. The record label is German.
The title of this album, ‘Yn Rio’ reflects the theme and the sentiment behind the performance - it’s loosely based around a day in Rio. The first two Rio 18 albums were recorded mostly in Rio de Janeiro at the studio of producer Kassin in the Botafogo district, and this is where Carwyn stayed on his visits. Arpoador is the spot between Ipanema and Copacabana beaches where people go to see the sunset. Açai is what the band drink during their breaks in the studio. Y Bywyd Llonydd’ is a cover of Kassin’s masterful song, ‘A Paisagem Morta’ translated by Carwyn into Welsh. And ‘Y Ferch Ar Y Cei’ is a musical reflection of a poem by the great bard, T.H. Parry Williams written after his visit to Brasil a hundred years ago. These songs make up a heartfelt love letter to Rio, and to better times for us all.
And so, at 8pm on March 20, 2021, Carwyn Ellis sang and played these songs with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in one performance, over the course of an hour or so. The full show was broadcast the following day on BBC Radio Cymru (no time for re-takes or overdubs!) and was more than we could ever have hoped for. This record is a document of the thrilling new music created in that performance.
These are songs of hope, history and harmony, recorded in exceptionally challenging circumstances but in a spirit of international brother- and sisterhood, showing just what we can achieve if we dream, work and play… together..
01. Botafogo Blue (Ellis)
02. Olá (Ellis)
03. Y Bywyd Llonydd (Kassin)
04. Aci (Ellis)
05. Cariad, Cariad (Ellis)
06. Tristwch 20 (Ellis - Roberts)
07. Ynys Aur (Ellis - Oyes)
08. Y Ferch ar y Cei (With NINA MRAN)
09. Arpoador (Ellis)
10. Ble aeth yr Amser? (Ellis).
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