The Turner Prize – landscapes of faith music in the mix
Work commissioned by the Landscapes of Faith project forms part of this year’s Turner Prize for modern art. The prize is run annually by the Tate Gallery and this year a nomination has gone to the Welsh artist’s collective Gentle/Radical. Part of their exhibition in this year’s award includes music commissioned for the Landscapes of Faith festival.
Earlier this year Landscapes of Faith approached the hugely successful and creative Welsh bardic music duo Bragod – Bob Evans and Mary-Anne Roberts – and we commissioned a new musical setting of the deep and powerful words of prayer written by influential 18th century cultural campaigner and Welsh activist Iolo Morgannwg.
Morgannwg founded the modern Eisteddfod movement and the words of his Gorsedd Prayer are still used at today’s national Eisteddfod of Wales ceremonies. He was a peace activist, a major literary figure, a musician, a political radical and a socially creative genius. Through his extraordinary life’s work he shaped much of the cultural legacy and identity of 19th and 20th century Wales.
Our newly commissioned musical setting of the Gorsedd Prayer was first performed in June this year as part of the Landscapes of Faith festival in Llantwit Major, South Wales. The town is home of Britain’s earliest centre of learning, a 5th century theological college founded in the town in the years following the departure of the Roman administration. The Gorsedd Prayer commission forms a central part of the Landscapes of Faith project and the premier celebrated the opening of the New Library at Llantwit Major, established as part of Landscapes of Faith project as a cultural centre offering contemporary insights into the heritage and legacy of faith in Wales.
The prayer by Iolo Morganwg exists in three different versions, and translated into English the words read:
Grant, O God, Thy protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of God.
God and all goodness
Bragod were then invited to perform the music and prayer as part of the Gentle/Radical art collective’s Turner Prize exhibition in the Herbert Gallery, Coventry. The turner Prize is an award followed closely by the international art community and Gentle Radical have developed an innovative practice using a hyper-local approach in Cardiff’s Riverside area, where over sixty differing languages are spoken within the community,. Their work blends activism, culture and spirituality.
Featuring the Landscapes of Faith music commission and Bragod the award exhibition includes a newly created film of Riverside residents and Gentle/Radical members learning to sing the words of the Gorsedd Prayer, led by Robert Evans, the composer of the music, and singer Mary-Anne Roberts.
The film of the Gorsedd Prayer plays in the Gentle/Radical gallery space at the Turner Prize and the music of Bragod spills down the Herbert Gallery’s corridors where the words of Iolo Morganwg’s peace prayer are printed and hung on paper table cloths.
The Gentle/Radical exhibition at the Turner prize also presents videos of intimate letters, written and read by members of the collective in the streets, parks and byways of Riverside. In his review of the Gentle/Radical letters in The National newspaper Dylan Moore writes: Attention to the microscopic details of human life as lived in this particular place seems to be the heart of Gentle/Radical’s artistic exploration of community. The letters seem to build a unique – and useful – twenty first century version of Raymond Williams’ Keywords, touching on and returning to important concepts like ‘home’ and ‘belonging’.
The work of Gentle/Radical is a significant feature in the contemporary landscapes of faith in Wales. A community of artists, conflict resolution trainers, faith ministers and justice activists are at work within a community, being shaped by community and offering reflections of hope and affirmation to that community.
The work of Iolo Morgannwg was founded on the idea of human community in place, and the words of his great Welsh hymn of peace inspired many in his generation and the generations that followed, and it still speaks deeply at a personal and a national level today.
The Turner Prize award announcement is made on 1st December 2021.