I was first introduced to Ceredwen when I discovered one of their CDs at the library, and I checked it out to see what it was. I do not do this often; in fact, it was probably because I saw that the songs were in Welsh that I decided to get the CD.
Ceredwen is made up of two people, Renée Gray (Welsh) and Andrew Fryer (English). As mentioned, all of their songs are sung in Welsh, which I enjoy even though I understand not a word of it. It is sprinkled with voiceless velar fricatives and voiceless alveolar lateral fricatives, which give it a very interesting sound. The lyrics are all based on either Welsh mythology or history, and the notes included with the CDs give translations and detailed explanations for each of the songs. These are not folk songs, but neither are they popular or love songs. They are songs such as a bard would sing—ballads of things past, both fantastic and real.
The compositions are very well done. Many of the tunes are quite catchy, and you may get them stuck in your head if you’re not careful. After listening to it a few times, you may find yourself humming the tunes and wishing you could sing in Welsh. Renée Gray has a very nice voice (I would liken it to Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh‘s), and many of the songs introduce a vocal part alone, then adding it to the main melody later on in the song. The musical texture of most of the songs is quite complex and interesting.
I have read that Ceredwen would appeal to fans of Clannad, Enya, and Moya Brennan, and I suppose that would likely be true. However, their style is quite a bit different. The instrumentation is very electronic, more so than Clannad. In this respect, the sound of Ceredwen would be more akin to Enya, although theirs is much more upbeat, and the synthesized sounds are not used quite as tastily as in Enya’s music. Not all of Ceredwen’s instrumentation is synthetic, however. Andrew Fryer incorporated penny whistle, flute, bodhrán, and uilleann pipes, although he sampled these “for better control,” and they end up sounding not-quite-authentic in the recordings. Thus, I would say that Ceredwen’s sound is not as crisp as Clannad, nor as professional-sounding, but it is still very good.
So, if you like Celtic music, I would advise that you give Ceredwen a listen. You may like it, or you may not. It grew on me, as I checked out the CD from the library a second time and then finally gave in and bought it (as well as their other CD).