By Carl Llewellyn

One of the items of music chosen by the choir’s Musical Director Darya Brill-Williams for the Gala Performance with The King’s Singers is called “Nirvana”. This particular piece was arranged by Bryan Davies,  dubbed “the Rachmaninov of the Rhondda”. His many arrangements were favourably received on both sides of the Atlantic, and as befitted a musician from the Rhondda, he made a notable contribution to the repertoire of Welsh male voice choirs, most of whom he accompanied at one time or another.

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The first time I heard this Victorian Ballad being sung was by the choir’s baritone soloist, Morgan (Mog) Davies, whose voice had a distinctive sound, so rich and powerful.

Nirvāna is a term found in the texts of all major Indian religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism. It refers to the “Profound peace of mind”.

Arguably the best remembered ballad composer of all time, Stephen Adams (1844-1913), whose real name was Michael Maybreak. A Liverpool-born baritone singer, who began composing songs of his own, notably “Star of Bethlehem”, “The Holy City”, “Thora” and “Nirvana” among many other titles which achieved enormous popularity. They can even be heard today. Songs need words of course, and Adams established a profitable partnership with barrister Fred Weatherly (1848-1929).”

It is surprising just how many songs by Stephen Adams are still well known today. “The Holy City” published around 1892, and composed by him, to words by Frederick Weatherly. In British music Stephen Adams was as successful as a ballad writer as were Jerome Kern, Cole Porter and George Gershwin in their time. On a British light music internet site, Stephen Adams is spoken of in terms of affection, for the enduring popularity of his work. Had Michael Maybrick lived in the 20th century, his talent would have drawn him to musical theatre and film, furthermore “The Holy City”, though popular from its inception, received a new lease of life when sung by Jeanette MacDonald in MGM’s 1936 blockbuster movie “San Francisco”.

Frederic Edward Weatherly, KC (4 October 1848 – 7 September 1929) was an English lawyer, author, lyricist and broadcaster. He was christened and brought up using the name Frederick Edward Weatherly, and appears to have adopted the spelling ‘Frederic’ later in life. He is estimated to have written the lyrics to at least 3,000 popular songs; among the best-known are the sentimental ballad “Danny Boy” set to the tune “Londonderry Air“, religious piece “The Holy City” and the wartime song “Roses of Picardy“.

Stephen Adams died on the 26th August 1913.

Frederic Edward Weatherly, KC died on the 7th September 1929.

Here, the lyrics tell the story of a man who describes his personal ideology about Nirvana, when ‘within thy affectionate arms of his beloved, he can convey his tale of love’:

I have come from the silent forest,
My beautiful Lotus flow’r,
And I stand in thy garden sighing,
It is the lovers’ hour.
Thy sisters, the lotus blossoms,
They ope to the moon above;
Open thy window, beloved,
And let me tell my love.

I have knelt in the mighty temples,
But the dumb gods make no sign;
They cannot speak to my spirit,
As thy soul speaks to mine.
And the priests talk of Nirvana,
And weave their mystic charms,
I only know Nirvana
Within thy loving arms.

And the lotus flow’r will perish,
The stars turn cold and grey,
The dumb gods will be shattered,
The temples old decay:
But we shall be one, beloved,
In the stream of life divine;
As the river flows to the ocean,
My soul shall flow to thine.

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