Smithsonian Folkways Remembers Meredydd Evans (1919-2015)
Meredydd Evans, Welsh scholar, language activist, musician, broadcaster, and writer, passed away at age ninety-five on February 21. While a student at Harvard in 1954, Evans was approached by Folkways Records founder Moses Asch to record songs from his native Wales. The recording, Welsh Folk Songs, has become a classic in Wales and remains a largely hidden gem in the Folkways collection.
On a damp day in August 2008, video producer Charlie Weber and I had the privilege of interviewing Evans at his home near Aberystwyth, Wales. When we arrived at their cozy stone home nestled in a hillside, Evans and his wife Phyllis greeted us like long-lost relatives even though we had never met before, brewed us some tea, and put us at instant ease. Spending a couple of days with the Evanses, and the resulting interview which took place in front of a crackling fire in their living room, remains one of my best memories of my research trips to Wales between 2003 and 2008, preparing for the Wales Smithsonian Cymru program of the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
The interview was edited into two fine short videos, one highlighting the process of making the 1954 recording, and the other discussing his views on the Welsh language. These videos offer a brief glimpse of Evans’s work, humor, and broad knowledge of all things Welsh and much more. I am glad our paths crossed, however briefly, and I join in mourning with those who knew him well and his many fans. He will be sorely missed.