Updates from Folkwales
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REVIEW: Ben sings a simple song, and the crowd loved 'your man'
October 8, 2014: Ben Sands, like his brothers Tommy and Colum, was a member of the famous catholic musical clan and one of the most influential folk groups from the North of Ireland, The Sands Family. His father and mother were Mick, a fiddler known as The Chief, and Bridie, who played the accordion. All of Ben's six uncles were fiddlers, and Mick and Bridie's farm in the townland of Ryan, in the foothills of the Mourne Mountains in County Down, was a 'ceili house', where catholics and protestants could gather and enjoy Irish music.
Like Tommy and Colum, Ben is a writer of songs; he explores the wistfulness and nostalgia of days gone by, the precious, lost hours which could so easily slip through Ireland's fingers. But unlike Tommy ('There Were Roses') and Colum ('Whatever You Say, Say Nothing'), who wrote such magnificent and witty songs, Ben glosses over the recent Troubles; he presents an easy, calm aura, his quiet, deep-brown voice complementing his gentle work and the simple playing of his guitar. But Ben's writing is deceptively carefree, and he dresses each song with some well-chosen lyrics. Above all, his soft banter, coated with witty barbs, are the icing on the cake. Club members and guests didn't need any encouragement when he finished his set, clapping and shouting for an encore. Ben really made the night.
- Mick Tems
Photo: Mick Tems
last-minute hurried rehearsal between TV writer-star and guitar
virtuoso Grant Bayhnam and classically-trained vocalist Hilary
Spencer blossomed into a magical duo called Quicksilver – and
Llantrisant Folk Club welcomed the two when they made ease of the
musical acrobatics in an Arts Council of Wales Night Out Scheme at
the Windsor Hotel, Pontyclun.
birth of Quicksilver came about because Hilary, who was The Voice
leading the successful a cappella trio Artisan, was hosting a
reception to launch her solo CD, After Image. Hilary’s friend
and guitarist, George Norris, had to drop out at the last minute,
and Hilary started a desperate search for an accompanist.
said: “Grant was playing with jazz singer Marilyn Middleton
Pollock in a duo called It’s The Girl, and right out of the blue
she offered him. We couldn’t meet for a rehearsal because of
pressure of work. I supplied Grant with recordings of the CD songs
- in fact, the first time we met was for a rehearsal in the car
park with the After Image party just happening.”
launch went very well, and suddenly Sheffield-based Hilary and
Grant, who comes from the Midlands, realised they had that certain
something. “We said: We could do that,” said Hilary.
since, they have been wowing critics, touring Britain and America
and recording three CDs, including
Make ‘Em Laugh
- a compendium
of 100 years of comic writers, including Joyce Grenfell, Victoria
Wood, Noel Coward, Tom Lehrer and the late, great Jake Thackray.
said: “We always enjoy playing at Llantrisant Folk Club –
it’s got such a marvellous and friendly atmosphere.” In fact
Hilary has beaten the Club’s record, appearing solo and as a
member of all her musical combinations on no less than 14
occasions. The Club awarded her life membership, and she took the
stage proudly wearing her members’ card.
fondly remembers those heady four years when he appeared on Esther
Rantzen’s hit show That’s Life – and he has to thank BBC
comic writer and pianist Richard Stilgoe for recommending him.
“Ex-Lifer” Grant explains: “I had been writing songs and
appearing on the Radio 4 programme Start The Week. Jake Thackray was
That’s Life’s writer and guitarist, and the BBC wanted to
replace him. Richard pointed out me.
“I went for an audition with hundreds of others. Eventually they whittled it down to 14, then to two – and they picked me.”
Sultan of Squeeze JK plays a blinder - and Llantrisant Folk Club roars its appreciation
Mighty squeezebox player John Kirkpatrick has toured with a plethora of high-profile outfits, including Steeleye Span, the Richard Thompson Band, Trans-Europe Diatonique, The Albion Band, Brass Monkey and family ceilidh combo Mr Gubbins’ Bicycle – and Llantrisant Folk Club loved every minute of his impressive set on Wednesday, September 21.
in West London and relocated in the Welsh marches in south-west
Shropshire, John has come a long way in the album stakes since
making an appearance on the 1969 Festival At Towersey compilation
and his first impressive solo Jump
At The Sun
1972 offering. So far, he has recorded on over 200 albums, solo,
as a band member or a session musician – but, as he admits:
“I’ve never counted them.”
The Club has seen him on a few occasions, including John as one-third of Trans-Europe Diatonique, when he played with the incredible Riccardo Tesi from Italy and France’s Marc Perrone, and as an acoustic duo with master songwriter and guitarist Richard Thompson. This time, solo John amazed everybody with his magical agility on the anglo-concertina, the one-row melodeon and the button accordion, blending in his highly original songs with some proud folksongs which have withstood the test of time. After many jaw-dropping aerobatics on the button accordion, someone was heard to whisper admiringly: "Wow - button accordions just don't get played like that!" After John's closing set, the Club erupted with deafening roars, whoops and shouts of appreciation - encores don't get called like that!
was in The National Theatre productions of Lark Rise and
Candleford, and since 1980 has been contributing music and
choreography to many of the productions at the New Victoria
Theatre in North Staffordshire, as well as occasional work with
The Orchard Theatre Company in Devon and The Crucible Theatre in
Sheffield. He’s an expert at dancing, and he formed the Border
Morris team The Shropshire Bedlams, one of the most revolutionary
teams of its day, which spawned a host of other groups.
said: “In earlier days I knew quite a few Welsh folk dance
tunes, as the dances to go with them were done now and again on
the dance circuit where I cut my teeth. I love it, but to me it
has nothing in common with the English stuff that I do. It’s all
to do with the style of dancing – that’s what gives any kind
of music its distinctive voice, and the galumphing and lolloping
that I find so attractive in English dancing doesn’t seem to
exist in other cultures.”
These days, John plays in Mr Gubbins’ Bicycle with wife Sally and two of his sons, including Benji – musician with sensational sell-out folk band Bellowhead. Sally was with John on his short journey to the Club, and kept her sparkling eye on all the goodies in the CD stall.
Photo: Mick Tems
The horror of the
English August riots was accurately predicted by stunning
songwriter and folk icon Steve Ashley, who guested at the Club in
the Windsor Hotel on Wednesday. Steve, who performed as lead
singer with The Albion Country Band and his own Ragged Robin,
said: “A year ago, I was listening to Radio Four, to Any
Questions, and a Tory was saying about all the cuts his party
would make. He kept on saying: ‘There will be pain.’ So I
wrote a song.”
Steve put his
Guild guitar down and, with his solo voice, sang There
Will Be Pain
– an uncanny insight into the future of swingeing cuts, huge
unemployment and a depleted police force trying but failing to
keep order. In his song, the rioters set fire to businesses and
buildings, in an exact forecast of those terrible nights in the
London suburbs of Tottenham, Croydon and Ealing, with public
disorder spreading throughout the English cities of Leeds,
Liverpool and Birmingham. The audience listened with a silence
that could be cut with a knife.
Steve, who was
born in London and settled in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, is a
supporter of the anti-nuclear campaign CND and Folk Against
Fascism, a widespread movement which successfully counteracted the
BNP’s hijacking of folk culture. He recorded a series of songs
for the UK Peace Movement called Demo
instigator of two landmark albums,
Stroll On and Speedy
was arrested in a non-violent protest at Upper Heyford USAF base
in Oxfordshire, sang his anti-Trident nuclear submarine fleet
song, Ships Of
Shame, to the
Photo: Mick Tems
Irish-Canadian Eileen McGann left Vancouver Island in British Columbia to play her first date at Llantrisant Folk Club on a two-week British tour – but she still calls South Wales her home. Her parents were of Irish stock – her father was a Dubliner, but her mother, who came from Cork, lived in Merthyr Tydfil. “Coming to Llantrisant is like coming home for me,” she said. “I last played at the Club eight years ago, and I have such happy memories.”
Eileen, who many
critics have described as “one of folk music’s most
breathtaking voices” and “a gifted lyric poet and musical
composer”, has a new album out, after 10 years in the CD
wilderness, called A
Pocketful Of Rhymes.
emigrated to Canada, and she was born in Toronto. “There were
lots of Irish in my area, many of them storytellers and very fine
singers,” she said. “I guess it rubbed off in my
songwriting.” Eileen was touring with her partner, musician
David K. She said: “We live on an island, with a mountain range
– tour planning is always governed by the ferry times. We are an
island climate, and we don’t have such harsh winters like Canada
does. A Canadian winter can send temperatures plunging to 40
degrees below, but on the island we have what I like to describe
as a Welsh winter.”
Graham and his guitar: he sold the last guitar for £3,500,
but this one is not for sale. Photo: Mick Tems
thoroughly deserved his encore when the New Zealand master
guitarist and recording studio owner took in Llantrisant Folk Club
in his world tour on Wednesday, July 27 – but when he flies back
to his home in the city of Christchurch, he doesn’t know where
he is going to live. Graham joins thousands of Christchurch
families whose houses have been condemned, following the
disastrous earthquake right under Lyttelton harbour, the city’s
main lifeline, in February. His home in the seafront suburb of New
Brighton sustained heavy damage, but, miraculously, his studio
desk, his Martin guitar and the three valuable guitars which he
fashioned survived without a scratch. Graham was working in the
studio when he was thrown across the floor. The heavy desk
threatened to crash down on him – but he was saved by the
electric wires, which held it safe.
When the tour is
over, Graham faces an uncertain future. “About 18,000 homes have
been condemned, and my house is one of them,” he said. “Local
music venues have all been destroyed. There’s no work in the
city any more. The city centre is a total mess.” You Tube
viewers can see Graham’s wizardry on CTV, Canterbury Television.
The building which housed CTV collapsed, killing 100 staff – and
among them was Graham’s closest friend, CTV owner Murray Wood.
Murray played keyboards on the title track of Graham’s latest
CD, The Speed
Of Love. Every
time Graham plays the song, it’s his personal tribute to a dear
colleague and musician. “The station is back on the air, but in
a reduced format,” he said. “The earthquake has left the city
with a legacy of many tremors – There have been about 8,000
since February, some of them severe.”
With all the
uncertainty facing Graham, who has separated from his wife Fay
after 33 years, something just had to click. While he was touring
in Canada, he met his new love, a musician – and she was flying into Heathrow Airport to join him.
Tanks for the memory - Llantrisant Folk Club celebrated 25 years of a successful Llantrisant to London walk with a weekend in The Forest Of Dean, culminating in riding the Dean Forest Railway rails behind pannier tank number 9681 (inset right, photo: Mick Tems), a 62-year-old steam engine which saw service in South Wales, including Tondu, Aberbeeg, Barry and Cardiff, before being withdrawn from the working list and sent to Woodham Brothers' Barry scrapyard in 1965. The 0-6-0 tank engine languished in Barry for ten years before being rescued by the Dean Forest preservation society. Nowadays, this gleaming engine works on the Dean Forest Railway where its whistle can be heard across the valley.
Twenty-five years ago, the Folk Club walked from its former base at The New Inn in Llantrisant to a Folk Against Famine festival, and they raised over £2,500 - quite a considerable sum in those days. The idea, and most of the organising, came from Beddau singer-songwriter and life president Jon Heslop, who now lives in Cornwall. One of the walkers was festival musician, Folk Club booker, founder and compere Pat Smith, who organised the celebration weekend. Among the five walkers were Folk Club chairman Mike Greenwood, accountant Pete Law and the late Siwsann George, singer and Sain recording artist.
The Folk Club stayed in the Fountain real ale pub in Parkend, the terminus of the Dean Forest Railway - most of them in the bunkhouse, with the 'posh' couples enjoying bed and breakfast. There was a singaround on the Friday and song session on the Saturday, and Club member Paul Seligman led a seven-mile nature walk which showed the sights and sounds of the Forest.
Photo: Mick Tems
Accordion wizard Sandy Brechin and young singer Ewan Wilkinson came, saw and conquered with two stunning sets on July 21 - and the Scottish duo looked pretty pleased with themselves. Sandy lives in Edinburgh, and he's a veteran of the Scottish bands Burach, Seelyhoo, The Sandy Brechin Band plus the incredibly popular ceilidh band The Sensational Jimi Shandrix Experience. Sandy, who owns the CD company Brechin All Records, teaches accordion at festival workshops as well. Ewan has released his debut CD, Lost In The Day, with Sandy among the accompanists.
Folk Club members Andy Jackson and Jillie Hambley are getting
married, after Jillie used her Cornish folk festival singer’s
spot to propose to Andy – and Andy said Yes. Jillie was
originally from the Isle Of Wight, and Andy recently sold his
Pontyclun house and emigrated to the Island to be with her. They
travelled to Bude Folk Festival, and Jillie took full advantage of
a singers' session to pop the question to Andy. He said: "We
still go back to Pontyclun – the island is a beautiful place,
but I do miss the Club.”
Paul plays fiddle lament for Malcolm - and the Club raises the roof
and Belshazzar’s Feast musician Paul Sartin travelled up from
Hampshire to play a Scottish air on his fiddle at the funeral of
Llantrisant Folk Club singer and avid rugby spectator Malcolm
Davies, which was held at Wenallt Chapel in Thornhill Crematorium.
The Civil Celebrant, Claire Mountain, wore a red Cymru rugby shirt
as she took the service, and Folk Club members wore coloured
dress. Malcolm’s three sons and his widow, Chris, invited
everyone to The Church House Inn, Bedwas, where the Folk Club and
Paul raised glasses to Malcolm and joined in with a mighty session
for instruments and voices. Malcolm worked in the catering trade
– including being the chef on BBC Wales’ outside locations -
and lived in Caerphilly.
John calls a do-it-yourself 60th Birthday bash
Club member and national ceilidh caller John Witcher wanted his 60th birthday party to be something special – so he and his partner Therese Evans booked Neuadd Dowlais community centre in Crown Hill, Llantwit Fardre, hired Newport friends and musicians The Dai Bach Band and threw a party-cum-ceilidh, with John compering and calling the dances. John and Therese invited friends, family and all the Folk Club, and plied them with free real ale and a slap-up buffet.
a much-travelled musician who lives in the Gwent town of Usk and
loves bluegrass, made his gig at Llantrisant Folk Club a local
celebration, with friends and band members turning out expectantly
to see the great man. Chris expertly played that well-known
Appalachian traditional tune, Angeline
The Baker (or
Chris tends to favour the first one) and
it was the turn of fellow Roots And Galoots band member Roland
Emmanuel, who fitted in with Chris like a satisfying glove.
introduced double-bass player and partner Wendy Morgan, and with
Roland supporting on vocals, mandolin and guitar (note: their
rendition of Bob Dylan's classic I'll
Keep It With Mine
is a sure-fire heartstopping winner), the makeshift
band just took off and went for gold.
Sara Grey and her son Kieron Means have this delightful habit of turning a Llantrisant Folk Club set into an informal kitchen session of traditional Americana, and the audience just loved it. Sara, who celebrated her 70th birthday last year, was born in New England but spent her whole life living in many American states, and she has collected an entire range of music which reflects the American way of life. Some songs were composed by new and old writers – especially Sara and Kieron’s personal favourite, Utah Phillips’ classic Goodnight-Loving Trail, which paints a vivid picture of a harsh cowboy existence.
Sara’s frailing banjo and her plaintive voice just get better and better. Kieron is the solid rock, his masterful musicianship
understated and unhurried, his voice sure and steady. Sara says of
her son: “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to make music
with him. He is truly the most sensitive and exciting musician I
have ever worked with – he has pushed me far beyond where I ever
thought I could go.” Sara’s lovely vibrato worked magic on Leavin’
River Line, Resurrection
from the writer, singer and great banjo player Joe Newberry), and
a cracking gospel chorus from the Carolina Outer Banks: Sheep,
Sheep, Don’t You Know The Road.
Veteran singer and Cardiff writer Roy Harris was there to watch
Sara, and he was in fine voice, too. (MT - photo: Mick Tems)
Jonny Dyer and Vicki Swan served up an entrancing set of stunning Swedish music, amazing jigs and reels and strong, memorable folksongs and ballads on Wednesday, November 3, and Club-goers gave them an uproarious encore – they richly deserved it.
Vicki was spectacular on her wooden flute and the Scottish smallpipes, but pride of place went to her fascinating Swedish nyckelharpa, which translates as “keyed instrument”. Vicki was strongly influenced by her Swedish mother, and Swedes have played the nyckelharpa for 600 years. She was inventive and ambitious in blending the nyckelharpa with British songs, but the instrument really came into its own when Vicki played a breathtakingly beautiful Swedish minor waltz which segued into a delicate Scandinavian song. Jonny was the perfect accompanist, his dancing guitar and mastery on the accordion complementing Vicki’s sheer musicianship.
One of the many appealing factors about Jonny and Vicki is that the duo fashion an old song and mould it into a sleek and beautiful work of art - for instance, the old chestnut Billy Boy suddenly became polished and sparkling when touched with their quiet, confident magic. Full marks to them! (MT)
Fox is quite happy with his busy touring life, championing his
beloved industrial North-East through a bevy of sharp, strong
songs – and Llantrisant Folk Club really showed their
appreciation by giving him an uproarious encore when he played a
stunning concert at the Windsor Hotel, Pontyclun, on Wednesday.
was born in Seaham Harbour, County Durham, straight into a solid
working-class culture of mines and sea-coal. He was the first in
his family to break the tradition of a mining life and not go down
the pit. He paints a vivid and compelling picture of what life was
like before the momentous year of 1984, when Margaret Thatcher
took on the nation’s miners and shut down the coal industry, and
the surreal and bleak landscape that emerged when the miners knew
their cause was lost – as actor Jimmy Nail conveyed in his song
about the Tyne, Big
Bob has recorded on CD.
makes sure that the area’s industrial past is not forgotten, but
he celebrates hopes and ambitions of the future, too. His
no-nonsense voice compliments the songs in his well-structured
programme, and the Club audience gets tantalisingly hooked on by
his obvious love for the history and the people. Bob is a fabulous
and efficient musician on the acoustic guitar, but he prefers to
let his songs do the talking – the guitar is just the icing on
the cake, and he never puts a finger wrong.
The Listings - the comprehensive all-Wales folk events diary - are back! The Listings are really essential if you're stuck for a night out or you want to see your favourite artist. All you need to do is just click on Listings on the left of the screen; you can view concerts, clubs, twmpathau, ceilidhs, barn dances and all sorts of happenings - including sessions, dance organisations and workshops. Folk events across the borders in England are being added, too.
Folk Club held its Annual General Meeting in the Club Room at The
Windsor Hotel. Officers and committee members who were elected
were Mike Greenwood (chair), Paul Frowen (vice chair), Mick Tems
(life president, press and PR secretary), Pat Smith (treasurer and
booking secretary), Olly Price (membership secretary), Ned Clamp
(publicity), Rob Bradshaw, Sue Bradshaw, Colin Nicholas, Cathy
Nicholas and Viv Amos.
Freya presented Llantrisant Folk Club with a marvellous 30th
birthday present when she played at the The Windsor Hotel on
Wednesday, 15 September. The singer, musician and composer gave
her all, and the delighted audience showed their appreciation by
roaring for an encore.
(pictured left here) was promoting her new album, Female
she paid tribute to another songwriter who died of cancer at an
early age – Lal Waterson, younger sister of the famous Waterson
family. Lal wrote strange, beautiful songs until her death 10
years ago, and her timeless, unique work – with its intelligent,
biting humour - lives on.
who was a session musician for two of Lal’s albums, formed The
Lal Waterson Project, which has recorded a CD which is a tribute
to Lal. Jo’s two accompanying musicians in her trio, brass
player Jude Abbott and guitarist Neil Ferguson from the band
Chumbawamba, supplied her with tight, startling harmonies and
brilliant arrangements, Jude’s trumpet and flugelhorn trading
places and endlessly swapping riffs with Jo’s clarinet and deep
a song or a tune was wasted by the trio. Jo’s sweet voice sang a
gamut of songs, composed by herself or by Lal – the deliciously
complicated title track of the CD, the bitter-sweet Roses,
where Neil took the part of the lone pianist to perfection, Long
America - song
after song just trotted out, but the hypnotic Breton andro Boit
about topped the lot. The trio ended with Lal’s breathtaking Migrating
heart-stopping lullaby which had Lal’s lovable stamp on it.
Of course, none of this would have been possible had it not have been for the Night Out scheme, the Arts Council Wales grants project aimed at getting music events in village halls, local pubs and community centres. The Club applied for the birthday grant, and ACW came up with the money. The Night Out scheme was the idea of now-retired Folk Club member John Prior, who worked for ACW and was awarded the MBE for his services to the arts. (MT)
Frowen, the Folk Club’s vice-chairman, came up with a novel way
for anyone who can’t stand the simple words of Happy
sung again and again - he’s composed a five-verse celebratory
song, with chorus, and it all goes to the tune of Beethoven’s
Hilarious poet Les Barker brought a packed Llantrisant Folk Club audience to a laughter-filled climax - and you can read all about it, thanks to Paul Seligman's on-line review. Paul posted the review on Wales Online - please read it, because it's worth it!
Paul Seligman certainly has been productive. He says: "In 2009 I took lots of video with the intention of making a film about Llantrisant Folk Club, but that needed a new PC capable of HD video editing.
Happy 30th birthday to us! Llantrisant Folk Club celebrated its 30th anniversary by ascending Snowdon (in Welsh, Yr Wyddfa, the highest mountain in Wales and England) on the Snowdon Mountain Railway train and then walking down from the summit. Twelve intrepid walkers started down the Snowdon Ranger track to the Snowdon Ranger station on the Welsh Highland Railway, and many more caught the train down on the mountain railway. It was a perfect summer's day, and you could see for miles. From Snowdon summit, six kingdoms could be seen; Wales, Ireland, Scotland, England, Mann and the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Club stayed at The Bunkhouse in The Glan Aber Hotel in Betws-y-Coed, about a half-hour's drive to Llanberis station on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, and ran a folk club-cum-session on the Friday and Saturday nights. Neil and Meg Browning and their daughter Kate, from North Wales family band Never Mind The Bocs, dropped in and played some beautiful Welsh songs and tunes - and NMTB had been hastily booked for a Wednesday, following Keith Kendrick's illness.
And... a very special Diolch yn Fawr to treasurer, compere and organiser Pattie Smith for booking the hotel and trains, being so efficient and making the Club's birthday go with a resounding bang.
To read some of our past news stories, click here
Page last updated 11 October 2014
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