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Above the Clouds
Spirit Dances

Duration: 18 minutes
Opus: 50
Date: 2007



The idea for this work sprang from many visits to Lake Vyrnwy and an interest in its folklore. I have written several works that have been influenced by this magical place which was made by flooding the valley to create a reservoir to supply water to Liverpool. The tales of spirits inhabiting the valley and the thought of the old village submerged beneath the lake have provided me with a strong stimulus and make this one of my favourite places.

The first movement deals with the story of the evil spirit, Yspryd Cynon, who had been trapped in a bottle by the magician Dic Spot after wreaking havoc on Anglesey. Yspryd Cynon was released to cause havoc in the valley when the large stone (careg yr yspryd), under which he was trapped, was dynamited when the reservoir was being constructed. The movement starts with three explosions before the spirit is released and gathers strength before embarking on a trail of evil deeds across the valley.

The second movement is in the nature of a nocturne and features almost exclusively the marimba. The music conjures up something of the atmosphere of night at the lake with thoughts of the submerged village and of the “creatures of the night” (Lake Vyrnwy has been used as a location for Transylvania in several films) flitting around in the semi-darkness.

The last movement is an evocation of Yspryd Tan, the fire spirit, which was said to dance around the lake at night. The explanation of this is far more banal in that the spirit was in reality methane spikes igniting around the shoreline of the lake but the story ties in with many in folklore around the world as evidence to our fascination with fire.


Solo Percussion; stgs; solo dancer (optional)

Commissioned by

Beaumaris Festival

First performance

Dewi Ellis Jones (percussion) and Paul Davies (solo dancer) with the Welsh Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Anthony Hose
Beaumaris Leisure Centre - 26th May 2007

Score & Audio
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