Words: Mike Kennedy
[Guest Writer – Welsh Connections/SWND Records, Director | Oystermouth Radio – Presenter]
It was an unexpected phone call – and a voice from the past – that was the catalyst for the UK’s Christmas number-one in the iTunes chart last year.
When the Emmy-nominated, and BAFTA Award-winning composer, Mark Thomas received a call from his former colleague – the world renowned harpist Carol Thomas – it started a ball rolling that would propel Carol’s daughter Ellen Williams to the top of the charts with her single ‘Dancing With The Angels’.
Mark and Carol had worked together on film soundtracks and scores at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios over the years but had lost touch when Mark moved away to work in Hollywood.
It was only when Carol and Ellen were watching a movie that the pair spoke again. Mother and daughter were so moved by the soundtrack to ‘Zoo’ that they checked out the end credits, only to learn that it was composed by Carol’s old friend Mark Thomas!
“In the ‘90s, work had taken me away to work in London and Hollywood, and Carol and I lost touch. So, it was a completely unexpected and emotional phone call that day,” Mark recalls.
Ellen remembers the call clearly, and leaving her mum standing in the middle of a field during lockdown.
“Mum and I had gone for a walk during lockdown and Mark rang while we were out in the middle of nowhere,” Ellen says.
“I can remember mum standing in the middle of a field for hours, it was the only place she had reception, chatting away to Mark – I left her to it in the end.”
Carol asked Mark if he would agree to Ellen writing some lyrics to a theme that he had written. He immediately agreed, inviting Carol and Ellen to his studio to work on the project.
The pair realised that this was a musical match made in Heaven; taking inspiration from each other, they soon had the beginnings of a hit single.
With Ellen’s passion and interest in Welsh folk tunes, the duo chose the much-loved tune ‘Suo Gan’ for the basis of ‘Dancing With The Angels’. Once the lyrics were written and Mark added his magical touches, a number-one hit record was born.
“I’ve arranged ‘Suo Gan’ over 50 times for different singers and for film and television but this is my favourite. It’s something special.”
Not content with a Christmas number-one, the musical pair are now working on a new piece of work that will tell the tale of the legendary drowned Welsh city Cantre’r Gwaelod, which is believed to be under the waters of Cardigan Bay.
Drawing comparisons with today’s climate crisis, this is a tale that needs to be told – and it’s a real-life Welsh ‘Lord Of The Rings’ in the making.
With Ellen Williams and Mark Thomas working together, anything is possible and exciting times are ahead for this newest music pairing.