Cerdd Dant, Jazz and improvisation

I’ve been learning a new skill, well, trying to bluff through it at the very least.  There are rules for everything these days and twice as many for Cerdd Dant it seems.  For the uninitiated, it’s a poem set to music sung over an air on a Harp.  They had always sounded so appropriate listening to the children singing over the melodic harp tune at the Urdd Eisteddfod.  It soon became apparent that there was far more to this than met the ear.  There are rules a-plenty.  Where to start, where to finish, where each accent of the poem must fall in the music, the rhythm, the harmonies, it’s a wonder there are any completed at all!  It reminded me a little of Jazz and the wonderful improvisations that abound from a simple melody.  The very best jazz musicians are able to move away from the original melody, but still keeping a connection with it, so that returning to it seems natural and easy.  Cerdd Dant is a bit like that.  The ‘Cyfalaw’ as it is called, must follow the words and use them as a guide, but also must be faithful to the ‘Cainc’ or Harp tune.  The rules are there to help it all fit together properly.  Like all rules, you can of course, bend or break them in certain circumstances – if it helps the words to be properly expressed!  I couldn’t help but reflect on all of this yesterday, (13th Feb) with readings on a legalistic theme  and the casting into hell as a punishment.  Perhaps if we can imagine the message of Jesus as a melody, a Jazz melody.  What we do in life is a bit like improvisation, our daily lives do not always directly represent the original melody, but if we allow it to shape what we create, remaining faithful to the original as a kind of ostinato bass that under-girds everything we do, then like the jazz improvisation we will unconsciously reflect the life of the Christ throughout our whole life.