Category Archives: Music

Review, To Leave/ To Be Left, Robbie Cavanagh by Gareth Williams

5 Stars5 / 5

Wow. What have you done to me Robbie Cavanagh? I did not expect that. The debut album of this Manchester musician, released this week, stunned me into almost complete silence. Titled ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’, Cavanagh’s first full-length feature may begin with a feel-good beat, but it gradually becomes a mystical, beautiful and haunting piece of musicianship. To touch it would be like caressing the finest of silk. Each of the eleven songs on offer has been carefully handcrafted, honed to such perfection that, if made of wood, your finger would glide smoothly over their surface. It is simply stunning.

The opening track ‘Get Out Alive’ does nothing to prepare you for what is to come. A lively start, it gives credence to the “country artist” label which Cavanagh seems to have been afforded.  However, as the album progresses, he breaks away from any generic confines that industry and media moguls might want to place on him. The next couple of tracks seem to slowly move from country-style ballads to something altogether different. Whilst “Godsend” could be attributed to the likes of Andrew Combs, for example, “Reverence” and “Scars” (which follow) have much more in common with the likes of Welsh folk singer Al Lewis. These offer a simple and repetitive backing track played behind an acoustic guitar, and given an otherworldly feel by the slight reverberation that is added to the vocal output. This ethereal quality, which begins with a degree of subtlety in these early tracks, goes on to permeate through the rest of the album. The listener is soaked in haunting melodies and saturated in a spiritual soundtrack. The heart-rending lyrics only seek to elevate the emotional veracity of Cavanagh’s sound. ‘Let You Down’ is heartbreaking. ‘Fool’ is incredibly soulful. ‘Still Talkin’’ is painfully gorgeous.

This is an intimate album. Cavanagh has an incredible ability to create this close atmosphere through his music. It is just you and him. All other potential distractions are completely drowned out. You become lost in the sensitivity and vulnerability of his performance. At one stage, I even found myself brought to tears. I was so overcome with emotion during ‘Sleep Now’, I couldn’t quite believe what was happening. Ironically, the song features the line, “What are you weeping for?” Well, Robbie, I’m not quite sure, but I think it might have something to do with your singing. Whatever the reason, I certainly did not expect that reaction.

Together, this exceptional selection of songs marks Robbie Cavanagh out as an accomplished songwriter and musician. He is a major talent who deserves all the plaudits that will surely come his way with such a breathtakingly beautiful debut. I would strongly recommend listening to ‘To Leave/ To Be Left’. Be warned though. It may leave you speechless for a time. You may also experience some unexpected emotional reactions.

Review ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice’ Theatr Clwyd by Bethany Mcaulay

 

4 Stars4 / 5

 

“Director Kate Wasserberg masterfully merges the humorous with the harrowing in Theatr Clwyd’s current revival of Cartwright’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Little Voice.”

The script itself – scathingly raw and rife with a complex combination of dark humour and revolting sexual innuendoes, though nevertheless appealing and often rich with tenderness and sentimentality – is conveyed with tremendous sensitivity by each performer. So much so that each of the actors – all brilliant – all awe-inspiring, perform with such a natural truthfulness, that I remain wholly entranced by each throughout this production.


The set was intricate and intriguing – with the placement of LV’s personal space and the remainder of the house distinctly separate and isolated. Impressively, the mere house was swiftly transformed into a spectacular nightclub.


However, it is Nicola Reynold’s performance as Mari, which was, above all else, an afflicting depiction of vulgarity and vulnerability. Initially, I deplored Mari’s neglectful and resentful attitude towards her daughter, but her gradual deterioration and eventual breakdown left me empathetic and with an aching heart. Though, sometimes I felt her performance to be too intensely revolting.
The character of Billy, though perhaps not the most significant character of the play, this particular interpretation shines with an awkward charm and perfect like-ability.


Though, undoubtedly, it was Catrin Aaron’s LV, arguably echoing the brilliance of Jane Horrock’s earlier performance of the same character that demanded recognition for its exceptional, glorious splendour. Shifting effortlessly from meek to magnificent, with impersonations that could quite truly be mistaken for the voices of Garland, Monroe and Piaf.

The production plays until the end of October at Theatre Clwyd.

Review Forget-Me-Not Chorus, Wales Millennium Centre Foyer by Kevin Johnson

 All  Photographs Brian Tarr

Consisting of people living with dementia and their carers, the Chorus held a free concert in the Centre prior to Welsh National Opera’s production of Khovanschina. I’ve no idea what the opera was like, but they could have learned a thing or two from this group.

It was brief, less than half a dozen numbers, interspersed with poems, but if the quantity was low, the quality was high. Showing a repertoire that went from ‘You Are My Sunshine’ to ‘Under The Boardwalk’ via Elvis, they were not technically brilliant, but brought a ‘joie de vivre’ to things that many professionals can’t manage.

I must confess that there was a tear in my eye watching them, especially one member wearing African dress & cap, who danced his heart out in every number.

There was a smile on my face too, and the crowd – quite a sizeable one – loved it. My favourite moment was watching a young mother dancing with her baby to Under The Boardwalk. Simply wonderful.

This event was the launch of the new #MySongMyStory project.

You could find out more about the work of The Foget me Not Chorus at the link

Review ‘Oz With Orchestra’ by Gemma Treharne-Foose

3 Stars3 / 5

 

I kicked myself for a few reasons last Sunday. The first of which, I came to discover, was not doing my research on major events in the city the same day I headed out to watch ‘Oz with Orchestra’.  The event at St David’s Hall clashed with the Tour of Britain final meaning my plans for a leisurely jaunt down the A470 to enjoy some pre-show family entertainment were almost scuppered by a 1hr 50m traffic jam.  We certainly weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Once I’d managed to make it through the rain and in to St David’s Hall, I was pretty much over the worst of my traffic jam rage. It was going to be fine, it was Wizard of Oz! Plus there were some jolly looking souls dressed up as Dorothy, Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Lion. My 8 year old was delighted to take part in a treasure hunt and there were other activities to keep kids entertained, though she deemed herself to be far too mature to enjoy a singalong with the WNO to the best hits from the movie. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them sing ‘over the rainbow’.

The other reason I kicked myself was because the event would have been a great opportunity to don some sprarkly shoes or a wee bit of festive cheek glitter. I suppose a 36 year old with a rainbow painted on her face would have been a step too far, though.

Seeing the volume of little kids and the size of the space, I wasn’t sure how well the film audio of ‘Wizard of Oz’ and a live 63 piece orchestra would work or if this could sustain the attention of very small children.

I’ve never seen any cinema classics accompanied by an orchestra but was amazed to see the orchestra pick up every cue, every dramatic effect with ease. Such was the level of intensity and emotional impact of this well-loved family classic, I was in tears in the opening bars (sucker!).  The tornado scenes were simply stunning – deafening crescendos, buzzing bases and whistling brass and percussion created a beautiful musical backdrop for the cinematic mastery on screen.

This was such a lovely and fresh addition to this cinema classic and Grant Llewellyn’s direction helped ensure that there was a synergy between the musical soundtrack and the duologue on screen.  The film and the music are so timeless, so sentimental and impossible to top and the orchestra was an ideal introduction for my little girl to enjoy this kid of musical performance.

I thought the WNO and venue did well to engage with families at this event and I’d take my little girl to see WNO again in a heartbeat.

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?

 

Image credit: Barbara Lavelle

Would you like to join us for a creative conversation?
Saturday, 23rd September, Central Cardiff.
We welcome your thoughts & insights, and value your opinions.
You are invited to join us LIVE in Cardiff at 2.30 – 4.30pm GMT
or on FB Live at 14.30 – 16.30 GMT; 09.30 – 11.30 EST; 06.30-08.30 PST. 

Dress Code: Up to you. 
RSVP (Places are limited)   

Purposefully, I deconstructed our activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing and response to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.  

                             

We are thrilled to bring you Wales’ first Hot Tub salon. The topic: Creative Listening. Brought to you by Get The Chance, delivered by Third Act Critics, and presented as part of the Gwanwyn Festival of Creativity for Older People in Wales, funded by Wales Government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Creative Listening follows Advantage of Age’s successful season of hot tub salons in London. A of A received funding from Arts Council of England and were recently featured in The Sunday Times  and is, for all intents and purposes, the launch of Advantages of Age Wales. Thanks to Suzanne Noble from Advantages of Age for her support.

The event is also partnered with NYC-based producer Jonathan Pillot, who will launch the NYC Advantages of Age on Sunday, 17 September. If you’re in NYC, all the details are here Thanks to Jonathan for his support, too.

I took inspiration from his project Listening to America in the run-up to the US Presidential Election. Pillot took a Studs Terkel-esque road trip and produced a series of unscripted interviews with real people in the uneasy weeks running up to the November 2017 election. The election campaign really split opinions in the USA; at the same time BREXIT was splitting opinions in the UK. It left me pondering on the necessity of listening as a critical tool to progressing big ideas and forging change. I endorse promoting big ideas and forging change, and I believe in doing so by starting in a small, slow and steady fashion. I sensed a Listening to Wales project would be a powerful way to reach people here. Creative Listening is a small step in that direction.

Advantages Of Age’s hot tub salons were set up ‘as a platform to curate and host a series of performance salons incorporating an array of creatives united in their refusal to ‘grow old gracefully’ and to challenge the mainstream narrative of age. The events featured an array of creatives celebrating alternative narratives of age through creativity, querying, and rebelliousness.’  Creative Listening echoes those sentiments and explains why we are getting into a hot tub here in Cardiff, Wales.

I do not have a degree in Listening; I am not an expert in the field. But I am a human being — who has lived on this planet for 50+ years. For that reason alone, I believe that I and those others who fall into that broad category, have something to offer a conversation on listening.

To put a finer point on it, I have trained and studied performing arts and worked in the creative industries and the media throughout my life and career. Purposefully, I deconstructed Get The Chance’s activities and found creative listening rose to the top of our raw materials. The critiquing of and responding to Arts and Culture requires sharp and sensitive listening first and foremost.

We will be a gathering of human beings investing a few hours on a Saturday afternoon in September sitting in and around a hot tub exploring what creative listening means. I hope it doesn’t sound too banal. If it does sound banal to you, and you can’t be bothered to actually be there, perhaps you will check it out on the FB Live stream, and join us that way. That would be less of an investment in time and effort, so perhaps you will get something out of it via this alternative option.

I am excited by it. If you are excited by it, too, but cannot make it on the day, you can join us on the FB Live Stream, from anywhere. Hosted by Advantages of Age, the FB Live Stream will enable you to stay dry and still participate. Your contributions will be welcomed and valued, and our social media monitor will be sharing as many of your views as possible.

JOIN THE CREATIVE LISTENING FB PAGE AND WATCH FOR DETAILS ON HOW TO JOIN THE EVENT VIA LIVE STREAMING.

When I conceived of the idea for an event called Creative Listening, I thought I’d made the term up. I had no idea that there were so many different types of ‘listening’ out there, including ‘creative’, which had already been coined. ‘Creative’ I found was only one of a number of nouvelle and trendy labels for this very primitive activity. Other labels such as Deep Listening and Active Listening indicate that what might previously have been considered passive was being re-evaluated and now required energy, (the definition of active is ‘ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits’) and was making a profound impact (the definition of deep is ‘very intense or extreme’).

I was motivated by the amount of relevant material I was finding on this topic, and I knew that there was much to explore. Whilst working on the event, I was further motivated by the realisation that creative listening has a strong relevance to other themes I am inspired by and a synergy with other projects I am working on. If they are fusing together it has to be more than a coincidence. It is more likely because it is meant to be.

A final word about Get The Chance. I’ve really enjoyed and benefitted from being a Third Act Critic and being associated with Get The Chance for a number of years now. When I left my full-time career in the creative industries (for personal reasons) at the turn of the century, I did not realise it would be so difficult to return and especially to return with the status I had worked so hard to achieve. There is something very wonderful about being given a chance. There is something very powerful in a community-based social enterprise that supports you to get a platform to do what you really want to do. That there is a mutual benefit, and that the rewards are reciprocal, is even more rewarding.

Leslie R Herman
Producer
9 September 2017

Shows to see this autumn.

The team at Get the Chance choose their own personal highlights of autumn 2017

Gareth Williams

Kate Rusby

Storyhouse, Chester.

Kate Rusby is the undisputed queen of English folk music. With her immense songwriting ability and beautiful voice to match, she is undeniably one of Yorkshire’s greatest treasures. This short 25th anniversary tour will see her delve into an extensive back catalogue of songs. She will also perform material from her latest album Life in a Paper Boat. She demonstrates, time and again, an unrivalled knack for producing new and inventive interpretations in the folk tradition whilst remaining faithful to its roots. She has such a down-to-earth and whimsical personality that is gently infectious. Instantly likeable, this comes across naturally in her oft-acoustic performances. If you are looking for the perfect soundtrack to a clear autumn night under the stars, look no further. Within the close and intimate setting of Chester’s brand-new theatre, this will be a magical evening with one of England’s brightest and best musicians.

Helen Joy

Benny

Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff.

Benny Hill was fun, Sunday evening viewing when I was growing up.

His programme was a silly, light-hearted view of the world through the eyes of some potty characters.

I don’t recall any sense of malice behind the scenes and I often refer in life as having the Benny Hill theme tune running behind it…

However, times have changed. It feels as if everything we grew up with in the 1970s has to be disregarded at best, vilified at worst. Sometimes with good reason.

I am curious. Who was the man behind the little round specs? Why do we judge the past, our past, so sternly?

Karis Clarke

The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

Theatr Clwyd,Mold.

Little Voice at Theatre Clwyd. I am a fan of musicals in general and enjoyed the movie version with Jean Horricks. My appetite has already been wetted with the theatre showing tweets of the large cast taking residence in the theatre.

Gemma Treharne Foose

Wizard of Oz Orchestra (St David’s Hall), I am a Poetato (Sherman Theatre), Slava’s Snowshow (Wales Millennium Centre) and finally – Aladdin (Park and Dare).

My choices this Autumn are all family choices, I see a lot of shows by myself but for me the absolute best experience is seeing my daughter get completely absorbed in theatre and enjoy it as an art form. Her highlights so far over the last year have been Hairspray at the WMC, the Borrowers and the Hunting of the Snark at the Sherman. Slowly, I’m expanding the type of shows she sees to include poetry and dance – but I think musicals are our absolute favourite! I feel lucky to have so much amazing family theatre on our doorstep – and we feel it’s not really Christmas unless we’ve seen Frank Vickery dressed as a pantomime dame at the Park and Dare – that always tops off the year for me and puts a spring in my step! During the last panto at the Park and Dare, the two dames had my husband up on stage dancing and taking selfies with him, my daughter was delighted – I think it’ll be hard to top that one!

Donna Poynton

Follies

NT Live

I love the concept of National Theatre Live; bringing top quality theatre to the masses without the cost of a trip to London and a full price ticket. Live broadcasts from our local cinemas immerse us in the theatre’s atmosphere and allow us to view productions that may previously have been off our radar.

Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical follows the Follies girls (played in this production by Tracie Bennett, Janie Dee and Imelda Staunton) thirty years after their final performance at the Weisman Theatre in New York as they gather to share drinks, tell stories and sing a few songs (accompanied by a 21 piece orchestra!)

With a fabulous score and stellar cast I am excited to see this NT Live production this November.

Lauren Ellis Stretch

hang

The Other Room, Cardiff.

The home of Cardiff’s first fringe theatre, The Other Room are continuously showcasing sharp, fearless, contemporary theatre. debbie tucker green’s ‘hang’ premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in 2015, the piece will be making its Welsh debut with a cast of exceptional, home-grown talent. It’s one not to be missed!

Barbara Elin

Rip it Up

St Davids Hall, Cardiff.

I’ll be seeing Rip it Up in St Davids Hall on 9th October, it features Strictly stars Jay McGuinness, Louis Smith and Natalie Lowe – I’ve been a Strictly fan for ever and Jay and Louis were both my favourites of their respective years, and now they’re in Cardiff I can’t resist the chance to see them live.

Debbie Johnson

The Cherry Orchard

Sherman Theatre, Cardiff.


The Cherry Orchard at the Sherman. I’ve chosen it in the first instance because (too many) years ago it was my set text in A-level Theatre Studies. I found it really challenging, and eventually rewarding when it ‘clicked’.  The idea of Gary Owen adapting this play feels like an absolute minefield-which I am sure with Rachel O’Riordan’s direction will bring something to the stage which would make any student now picking up the text completely inspired.

Emily Garside

Heisenberg

Wyndham’s Theatre , Covent Garden

I’m excited to see this new play from Simon Stephens (which had it’s debut last year in New York) not only because a new play by Simon Stephens is always worth seeing, but because this is the first production from Harper-Elliot Productions. With director Marianne Elliot at the helm this new prodcution company sees Elliot (previously artistic associate at the National Theatre) promising to put women’s stories at the forefront. For this play in particular I’m excited to see this multi-layered play about the nature of relationships with the brilliantly talented Anne Marie Duff in the central role.

Charlotte Clark

Wind in the Willows

Sherman Theatre,Cardiff.

I am  looking forward to seeing The Wind in the Willows this autumn at Sherman Theatre. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a classic that I love and would love to see performed on stage. Secondly, as a Cardiff student, Sherman Theatre is a very practical location for me as it is close by and therefore makes it easy for me to see something local. Thirdly, as it is a Christmas time production it falls perfectly for me amongst my other workloads and commitments; by Christmas time I will have the holidays to commit to my university work and so won’t have too many deadlines to stress me out!

Vicky Lord

Blood Brothers

New Theatre, Cardiff.

I’ve chosen this performance not only because it is a production with absolutely stunning music. This production really does show the vital importance of story and character in combination with the music. I love the story of twins who are born and died on the self-same day. However, my favorite character is the narrator as he represents an amazing opportunity to really dig deep into the symbolism of certain aspects of the story. This is also one of the first productions which I reviewed last time it came to Cardiff’s New Theatre. It was also Marti Pellow’s performance in this production which really showed me the symbolic potential of not just the narrator but of characters and theatre as a whole.

Danielle O’Shea

Cilla The Musical

New Theatre, Cardiff.

Cilla the musical at the New Theatre in Cradiff. I am going to see this production as the reaction to the death of Cilla Black showed how valued she is in contemporary British culture.

Catherine Parkinson

John Hegley The Sherman Theatre
Slava’s Snow Show The Wales Millennium Centre

John Hegley The Sherman Theatre
Slava’s  Snow Show The Wales Millennium Centre

Review Burning Lantern Fayre by Barbara Hughes-Moore

On Saturday 12th August, St Fagan’s embarked on their first foray into launching an annual Glasto-esque fest of family friendly fun in the heart of the Welsh countryside. An impressive musical smorgasbord headlined the Orchard-organised inaugural event, from Tom Odell to Martha and the Vandellas, Jack Savoretti to the Shires. In addition, there was also a variety of non-musical entertainment to be had throughout the day, from arts and crafts to artisan-quality food and a funfair/ circus for good measure.

Welsh acoustic duo Into the Ark, local boys from Blackwood turned The Voice UK 2017 finalists, started the show with soulful, spirited charm. They performed as if they were headliners – and to us, they were.

Martha and the Vandellas followed with an energetic set, infusing the festivities with a party atmosphere and setting off the sing-a-long spirit with classic hits like ‘Jimmy Mack’ and the timelessly terrific ‘Dancing in the Street’.

Third to take to the stage were Brit country duo the Shires, who held the distinction of being the first act whose very presence raised the crowd to their feet. And what a joyful noise they made on that sunny Saturday afternoon, belting out fan-favourite hits like ‘State Lines’ and ‘All Over Again’ as well as making time for more melancholic melodies such as ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’. They promised to be back soon, and here’s hoping it won’t be their last time in Cardiff – judging by the cheers that permeated their performance, there are many (including myself!) who are looking forward to welcoming them back to Wales in the not too distant future.

Tom Odell provided a suitably bombastic closing set, tearing through tunes with a spellbinding falsetto Matthew Bellamy would have been proud of. My personal favourites of the night were the achingly haunting ‘Can’t Pretend’ and his career-launching debut ‘Another Love’, both of which – along with his remaining repertoire – were elevated by a dazzling light show that punctuated every syllable of Odell’s crooning choruses.

Hover, it was the penultimate performance of the festival, provided by the incomparable Jack Savoretti, that stole the show with a haunting, husky voice that would make the likes of Paolo Nutini and Tom Waits blush. There is simply no-one else in the world who sounds like Jack Savoretti, and he suffuses his songs with the raw, rugged sound that has become his trademark. Hearing him live was a special treat, though I have to compliment almost everyone on the day who performed live for sounding just as good as, and often better than, the record. There were too many favourite Savoretti songs to mention, from the rebel-rousing ‘We Are Bound’ to the sorrowfully sincere ‘When We Were Lovers’, and the True Blood-tinged ‘Knock Knock’. It was a real treat to have an artist of Jack Savoretti’s calibre in this event, as it was with so many of the marvellous musicians that graced St Fagan’s that day.

The sheer variety of food on offer – from gourmet burgers to posh pizzas – was a feast for the eyes and nose, but sadly not for the stomach. Reportedly 8,000 festival-goers walked the fields of St Fagan’s that day, but far fewer managed to purchase even a single crumb due to the bloated queues that stretched out for hours on end.

‘Queue-Gate’ was such a widespread issue that the ensuing tweet-storm urged the organisers to issue an apology, which, though appreciated, still failed to understand the backlog (many spent up to 2 hours queuing at a single stall), or the duration (it was an issue throughout the entire day, not just the evening). Worse still, the organisers banned any food being brought onto the premises, meaning that the supposedly family friendly event left many families with the choice of queuing for hours or going hungry.

I only braved a queue at around 9pm, by which time all that seemed to be left in the entire venue was a single Danish pastry (at that point, it was any port in a storm). Even if picnics had been allowed in, it would have been impossible to resist the delicious scent that wafted across the fields throughout the event. The ratio of people to food vendors was severely misjudged; in future, either lower the maximum number of tickets sold, or increase the amount of food stalls on offer.

In addition, the site itself was tricky to navigate. I didn’t even know there was a second stage for supporting acts, and spent the first three hours eagerly awaiting the arrival of Kizzy Crawford, an enchanting bilingual singer, on the main (at that time I thought the only) stage. It was only after my increasing hunger necessitated exploring the venue that I stumbled across a beautiful bandstand hung with twinkling fairy lights. The dulcet tones of Gareth Bonello (aka the Gentle Good) drifted across the evening air, after which he mentioned fellow Welsh-speaking singer Kizzy Crawford’s earlier set, and my heart dropped. If only there had been a programme, or schedule of some kind, listing the various locations and who was doing what when, it would have greatly enhanced the accessibility and exploration potential of the festival experience.

I had a wonderful time at my very first festival experience. However, there are things at a fundamental level that must be addressed for a follow-up fest to be a success, from better management and organisation to a programme of events and acts. However, it remains a very special event to have been a part of, and it was a real privilege to see so many incredible musicians pour their hearts, and their songs, in that picturesque place. I would love to see the Burning Lantern festival return next year, especially if its maiden voyage was able to attract such a breadth of talent from all spheres of the musical world – but it has to take these concerns on board for it to rebuild trust and maintain interest in its future.

http://www.burninglantern.com/en/

Get the Chance to be a music journalist at this years Sŵn Festival.

Are you aged 14+?

Interested in brilliant contemporary new music ?

Want to Get the Chance to see and review Songhoy Blues, Aquilo, Jen Cloher, The Amazons and loads more amazing artists at this years Sŵn Festival?

Want to access a free workshop which will give you an insight into the role of a music journalist?

Then, this is for you!

 

What’s involved?

You will take part in a 2 hour workshop with Guy O’Donnell Director of online magazine website Get the Chance at a venue to be confirmed.

You will need to be free to attend a range of performances during the festival.

To apply contact Get the Chance director Guy O’Donnell at getthechance1@gmail.com. All applicants need to be aged 14+

Here is a link to more information on this years Sŵn Festival

Presents

An interview with Geoff Cripps

The Director of Get the Chance, Guy O’Donnell recently got the chance to chat to Geoff Cripps. We discussed his career to date, his band  Allan Yn Y Fan and his thoughts on music and theatre in Wales today.

Hi Geoff great to meet you, can you give our readers some background information on yourself please?

I was born and raised in Pontllanfraith in the Sirhowy Valley and educated at Pontllanfraith Grammar Technical School, University College Swansea and UWIST Cardiff. My early interest in music and the arts came from my mother who gave me piano lessons when just an infant. Pont Grammar School with its annual musical theatre productions and very broad church school “Folk Club” encouraged the performer and participant in me. This was the fabled sixties (yes – I am an old git!) and I remember various peers showing each other in the school playground their mastery of the latest guitar riffs or chord sequences of the rock & pop music of the day…That, plus when I was in the sixth form, there was a sequence of wondrous gigs at the pre-refurbed Blackwood Miner’s Institute by the likes of Dave Edmund’s Love Sculpture, Black Sabbath, The Strawbs often supported by the Rhondda band which became Racing Cars. All heady stuff!

In Swansea I became the organiser of our hall of residence folk club – which was also where I first started booking performers. At this point I was mad about music, never recovered actually, and saw 137 bands in my three years there ( I was the nerdy boy who star rated them all in his diaries!).

At this stage apart from being taken to panto as a small boy and one trip to the Prince of Wales Theatre in Cardiff I was not a theatre goer or knowledgeable at all on this genre.

You are a member of the band Allan Yn Y Fan. Congratulations on your 21 years together! What are you all currently working on?

Thanks Guy. Sometimes it is hard to fathom how the initial quartet of myself, Kate Strudwick (currently boss of Head 4 Arts), Chris Jones & Linda Simmonds have stuck it out for more than 2 decades…Even harder is for me to think quite how I managed to make 4 albums, tour to Germany, Czech Republic, France, Ireland whilst Artistic Director at RCT Theatres! The current line up now also consists of lead singer Catrin O’Neill and fiddler Alan Cooper and together we are working hard to try and get the gigs that keep a six-piece band on the road!

These are tough times…but we are excited that next month we perform for the first time at the Abergavenny Food Festival Community Feast (14th Sept.), followed by our first ever performance in Austria at the House of Regions in Krems (21st Sept.) and then are honoured by performing at the Welsh night of the Labour Party Conference in Brighton on 24th September. We might all have a lie down in a darkened room after that lot!

http://www.ayyf.co.uk

As you mentioned earlier you are the former artistic director of RCT Theatres. Get the Chance has had a great deal of support for its work in the valleys venues of South Wales. The venues very often act as the social and cultural hubs of our communities. How do you see venues of this nature developing in the future?

I am so pleased that Get the Chance has been so well supported by the Valleys Venues. I came in to running a Valleys Venue – the Beaufort Theatre Ebbw Vale when I was first appointed as Arts Development Officer for Blaenau Gwent CBC way back in 1994. This was not long after the initiative from the old Welsh Office and South East Wales Arts Association which had enabled the refurbishment of a number of Valleys Venues in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This initiative brought back to life or reinvigorated some ex-Miner’s Institutes which had previously been the cultural and social hubs of the valleys communities. These days I am very fearful for the future of many of these venues in a period when money is so much scarce than in those heady days of the ‘90s but also when, it appears to me, that, despite all the evidence gathered over the past couple of decades, the value of the investment in arts and culture is still little appreciated by the political funding masters. I think that those local authorities that continue to invest in and support their cultural venues are to be applauded. Those residents in areas that still have their cultural venue operating and supporting professional and amateur artistic endeavours should cherish and use them – and shout about the opportunities they offer loudly and often to all their elected representatives.

The best venues and those which keep deepening the nature of their active engagement with their local population will be the ones which will survive and may ultimately thrive.

When you have any spare time you are also a board member of Creu Cymru and Theatr na nÓg.Creu Cymru is a development agency for theatres and arts centre in Wales. Is it possible to explain your more about this organisation and your role?

I have since retirement been proud to have had the opportunity to serve on the boards of The Borough Theatre Abergavenny, Creu Cymru and since 2016 Theatr na nÓg. I hope that whatever “wisdom” I may have picked up over my “career” I can share with and strengthen through good governance of these artistic organisations.

Creu Cymru is an organisation unique to Wales – its strength and appeal reflected in the fact that virtually all the professionally run theatres and arts centres in Wales are in the membership. It aims to be the development organisation for all those working in these arts venues – and links the big operations such as Venue Cymru or Wales Millennium Centre to places such as the Congress Theatre Cwmbran or Galeri Caernarfon.

Creu Cymru offers opportunities for theatre staff to go and see work – whether that be in Edinburgh, across Wales or – sometimes funded by WAI – for international visits such as to CINARS in Montreal. Visits such as these enable the programmers and marketers in the venues to see work across the genres and to debate with peers the merits or otherwise of all scales of artistic endeavour. This often leads to such work being brought to Wales for the benefit of Welsh audiences.

Creu Cymru arranges regular arts consortium meetings (Music, Drama and Dance) at which the work is discussed, members can bring to the table ideas they wish to or are about to develop and also identify strands of work that will enable them to reach out to parts of their audience ecology they wish to reach.

http://www.creucymru.com

I have been fortunate to have had two periods of board membership – coming to a conclusion in 2018 – and through my own membership it was the backing of or the interactions with my colleagues in Creu Cymru which emboldened me and my RCT Theatre team to start in our co-producing and producing role which I am delighted to see being continued by Angela Gould now.

It was this latter involvement which really set the seal on my support of and active involvement with Theatr na nÓg leading to us co-producing Tom in 2014 with the premiere being held at The Muni in Pontypridd. I am delighted to be on the board of such an inventive and exciting company – and also delighted that as one of the new strands of their work they are encouraging the participation of young people in theatre making via their Ambassador scheme.

http://www.theatr-nanog.co.uk

Get the Chance works to support a diverse range of members of the public to access cultural provision Are you aware of any barriers to equality and diversity for either Welsh or Wales based artists/creatives?

The barriers I am aware of are our poor transport networks, lack of money and lack of equality of opportunity – often compounded by the first two factors. I hope that with the focus Get The Chance brings to certain projects/areas/opportunities more pressure will be brought to bear on those who can best resolve some of the infrastructural issues!

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based musicians, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you?

For Allan Yn Y Fan our best supporters are the Musician’s Union and TRAC (which I was delighted to be the first Development Director 2001-2003). In some areas there has been support from ACW and WAI enabling Welsh musicians to take part in show casing opportunities such as WOMEX and Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections. As a band we have been fortunate to have received modest grants from ACW to support our tours of Wales in 2010 and 2016 but with the diminution of Lottery funds – getting such awards are going to be increasingly rare. It is also a shame, in my view, that ACW has not supported the production of CDs in the way that Creative Scotland has and continues to do.

I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.

folk development for Wales

I do hope that in my lifetime we might see a showcasing event which will spotlight the current vitality and breadth of traditional music acts in the way that Showcase Scotland and Folk Expo England do.

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would

 

 

 

 

If you were able to fund an area of the arts in Wales what would this be and why?

See above – I would fund for a three year period on a tapering basis a Welsh traditional music expo with opportunities for the general public to attend all the showcase performances – this would assist in breaking down the widespread apathy or ignorance to the “real music” of Wales.

What excites you about the arts in Wales?

The blurring of the roles of “Presenter” and “Producer.” The contributions of artists across the country who do what they do for insufficient recompense or recognition.

What was the last really great thing that you experienced that you would like to share with our readers?

Just because it is so fresh in my mind I nominate the NTS production of “Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour” which I first witnessed at the Traverse in Edinburgh in 2015 and last week loved once again as it approaches the end of its’ London run at the Duke of York’s Theatre. I just wish that our National Theatre companies would develop and tour a show in the country’s theatres!! Site specific can be brilliant but please National Theatre Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru – put something of value into the network of Theatres in Wales….. (retires to await the brickbats!)

Thanks for your time Geoff

 

Review: Burning Lantern Fayre, St Fagan’s – By Eloise Stingemore

 

5 Stars5 / 5

 

Burning Lantern Fayre was the heritage attraction’s first large scale music event. Over 8,000 people descended on the country fayre styled event set in the picturesque grounds of St Fagan’s National Museum of History, Cardiff one of Europe’s leading open air-museum on a sunny albeit chilly evening.

With big names live on the main stage from the moment the gates opened, street food (Cavavan, The Grazing Shed, Taste of Spice and Dusty Knuckle), a crafts and activities tent, storytelling, a children’s entertainer, circus skills, pony rides and a vintage funfair. It is safe to say that no one was bored or hungry at the inaugural Burning Lantern Fayre!

Performances came from headliner Brit and Ivor Novell award winner Tom Odell, who gave an electrifying and charismatic performance, which featured a mesmerising light show. His unique show featured a number of hits but it was the songs ‘Still Getting Used To Being On My Own’, ‘Concrete’, ‘Hold Me’ that captivated the audience and really demonstrated why Odell is being touted as one of the country’s finest singer songwriter.


Whilst the UK first country music act to chart in the Top 10 Album Charts, The Shires, livened up the billing. Their 45-minute stellar set included a string of their biggest hits including: ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, ‘Nashville Grey Skies’ and ‘Friday Night’, thoroughly entertained the 8,000 strong crowd and signed off their set with a promise to return to Cardiff soon.

Whereas top Motown act, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, despite not being everyone cup tea where given a true warm Welsh welcome. However, it was hot act of the moment Jack Savoretti that brought the biggest cheers of the evening and his set went down a storm. His live set included performances of his many hits including; ‘When We Were Lovers’, ‘I’m Yours’ and ‘Tie Me Down’, certainly got the crowd in the festival mood as the sun set on the stunning location.

The first even Burning Lantern Fayre was a huge success with the 8,000 strong-crowd enjoying a variety of music, entertainment and food under the sunset skies. Here hoping that the buzz of Wales’ newest music event hopefully ensures it was the first of many Burning Lantern Fayres to come!