Category Archives: Music

Rooting Hip-Hop Theatre in Wales

Hip-Hop was created out of struggle in New York during the 1970s as poverty and discrimination hit the African American and Caribbean communities. It has since grown into arguably the largest arts-movement in the world.

Generally, British society knows hip-hop as a music genre which is often put to one side. However, the reality is the fingerprints of hip-hop are everywhere. From music, to fashion, to dance, to graffiti, film and theatre. Spanning the globe from New York, to LA, Tokyo, Cape Town, Seoul, Moscow and London. Hip-hop is everywhere.

In Wales, Avant Cymru are pioneering the Welsh hip-hop theatre movement following in the footsteps of the likes of Jonzi D and ZooNation. Taking stories from where the company is based in Rhondda and around Wales to platform them locally, nationally and internationally.

I’ve seen Avant Cymru’s work for myself at the Cardiff and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals and company director Jamie Berry’s solo dance in People, Power, Perception is still one of my personal favourite pieces of art I’ve seen on the stage. It proved to me that you could tell a compelling story full of emotion using only dance. Which beforehand, despite having seen a variety of different dance-based theatre, I’d never felt for myself.

It’s hard to ignore the sense of impending doom brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic. Work doesn’t stop for Avant Cymru though. Krump workshops with Duwane Taylor are available on their YouTube channel and next month they will be releasing a video where world renowned popper Shawn Ailey will be teaching the foundations for popping.

They will be running workshops through to July, either online or around Wales when safe, including sessions with beatboxing, rapping, graffiti and DJing teachers to introduce learners to all elements of hip-hop outside of dance.

As a disabled-led company, with a variety of health and mental health conditions, Avant Cymru really is open to any and everyone. With the help of the British Council they are travelling to Canada in October for the No Limit Jam to connect with fellow disabled artists and explore opportunities and encourage those with disabilities, mental or physical, to pick up hip-hop.

The passion to do this comes from personal experience:

“For us Hip-Hop has had a positive influence on our lives.” For Jamie, “suffering with depression, breakin’ was the one thing that gave me drive and ambition… The theatre aspect allows me to express these thoughts. We have noticed other Hip-Hop artists, rappers, graffiti writers and dancers do the same. We want to make sure others have hip-hop as a tool to improve their health and well-being.”

For artistic director Rachel Pedley she found a home in Hip-Hop culture. “As a working-class artist, I struggled to afford the lifestyle of ballet dancers and other theatre makers. In Hip-Hop the training and social side was more affordable and the other artists were easier to relate to. It helped build the confidence I needed to go and create and understand my value didn’t come from the cash in my pocket. Working in the Rhondda Valleys, we want to make sure that our young people have the confidence needed to walk into other aspects of life, we believe confidence comes from celebrating our differences and that hip hop even encourages this.”

As well as offering workshops and encouraging people into forms of hip-hop, Avant Cymru also produce their own work. Working with artists from all pillars of hip-hop, from beatboxers, emcees, graffiti artists, dancers and DJs. As well as with artists from outside hip-hop such as theatre writers or musicians from outside hip-hop.

Hip-Hop is often stereotyped as ‘gangster rap’, but it is so much more than that. Avant Cymru aim to change this view as they “would like to share our knowledge with different audiences to show how varied and creative Hip Hop can be and how positive it can be when you get involved.”

Hip-Hop is arguably the largest artistic movement in the world today. But maybe the most misunderstood also. So, if you’re interested, check out an upcoming show from Avant Cymru or another hip-hop company. Or even give it a go yourself.

Arts Online, A Guest Post by Megan Pritchard, Marketing Campaigns Manager at National Dance Company Wales

We are both saddened to see the vast array of cultural cancellations over the past day and proud to see so many companies putting the health of their staff, participants and audiences first. 


The arts are an important part of many of our lives, and we’re also excited to see so many isolation friendly options arising. We’ve started a list of online dance and yoga classes, digital only festivals and a huge array of dance, opera, theatre, museums and CPD activities you can do from home – including full NDCWales performances.  Please share this resource and let us know of other fab things we can add to it. 

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Mae’r ddau ohonom yn drist iawn o weld yr ystod eang o ddigwyddiadau diwylliannol sydd wedi cael eu canslo ers ddoe ac yn falch o weld cymaint o gwmnïau yn rhoi iechyd eu staff, cyfranogwyr a chynulleidfaoedd yn gyntaf.
Mae’r celfyddydau yn rhan bwysig o fywydau sawl un ohonom, ac rydym hefyd yn teimlo’n gyffrous i weld cynifer o opsiynau y gellir eu gwneud wrth hunan-ynysu yn codi.Rydym wedi dechrau rhestr o ddosbarthiadau dawns ac ioga ar-lein, gwyliau digidol yn unig a llu o bethau yn seiliedig ar ddawns, opera, y theatr ac amgueddfeydd, a gweithgareddau y gallwch eu gwneud adref – gan gynnwys perfformiadau CDCCymru llawn.


Rhannwch yr adnodd hwn a rhowch wybod i ni am bethau gwych, eraill y gallwn eu hychwanegu ato.


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DANCE CLASSES 
Gaga is a unique dance training, Gaga Movement Language גאגא שפת תנועה NYC are currently offering 3 classes a day 7 days a week with a suggested donation.  https://www.gofundme.com/f/gaga-nyc-online-classeshttps://www.facebook.com/groups/mootmovementlab/


Moot – The Movement Lab are making their resources as available as possible and have great updates on other training online. 


Juliard School of Performing Arts are running ballet barre classes through instagram https://www.instagram.com/juilliardschool/


You can learn the famous Rosas Danst Rosas from Anne-Teresa De Keersmaecker here online, easily done at home with a kitchen chair  https://www.rosas.be/en/news/814-dance-in-times-of-isolation


The Dance Centre is offering fun online musical theatre inspired classes. https://www.facebook.com/1thedancecentre


Rebecca Lemme / Acts of Matter offers a free online Barre Class you can do without a proper Barre https://vimeo.com/398046579/cdfec48e01?fbclid=IwAR2AlsTXHcg7–4ulAhmvpNotiVJIMz3Z3v_PIYW6pKyT0bZ_JQFfJN0Cow


The Guardian has an article on tips for dancing at home.https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/22/fitness-tips-online-dance-tutorials?fbclid=IwAR2DKtULuSlfcB7TueCKqAbegoM4OYJFrRoCX5mwpwsWO_NILQsn6sHKXxI


YOGA CLASSES

Overwhelmingly our dancers suggest following Yoga With Adriene for youtube yoga https://www.youtube.com/user/yogawithadriene


Cat Meffan Yoga – another office fav, with a huge range of free classes on youtube. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVrWHW_xYpDnr3p3OR4KYGw


Our dancers also enjoy the Down Dog App which also has a ballet barre class option https://www.downdogapp.com/


Rosanna Emily Carless our Dance Ambassador is streaming free yoga classes daily on her facebook page.


AT HOME ARTS FESTIVALS IN RESPONSE TO COVID-19


These festivals aim to gather streamed content and classes in different ways – Social Distancing Streaming Concerts https://www.socialdistancingfestival.com 

The Social Distancing Festival https://creativedistance.org/ 

Creative Distance, The Theatre Cafehttps://www.facebook.com/thetheatrecafe/photos/a.1597256473856456/2552997778282316/?type=3&theater 


LIVE EVENTS STREAMED TO YOUR DEVICES 


NDCWales P.A.R.A.D.E.  including choreography by Caroline Finn, Marcos Morau and Lee Johnson, in collaboration with BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Rubicon Dance and Vertical Dance Kate Lawrence; filmed by The Space Arts. https://vimeo.com/248459479


Tundra by Marcos Morau https://vimeo.com/254300487


Reflections documentary and dance film from our Dance for Parkinson’s participants. https://vimeo.com/ndcwales/reflections


The Metropolitan OperaAre running nightly live streams, up at 7.30pm(EDT) each left up for 20 hours. http://metopera.org/

Rosie Kay’s 5 Soldiers https://youtu.be/2urN4ESejFo

Or Zosia Jo’s – Fabulous Animal is available to stream for donation here https://www.zosiajo.com/fab-animal-film


Berliner PhilharmonikerUse the code BERLINPHIL by March 31 to get 30-day access to the orchestra’s stunning work https://www.digitalconcerthall.com/en/home


Marquee TVOffer plays, dance, opera and theatre all to stream on a Netflix like service, offering free 30 day trial at the momentmarquee.tv

Twitter Search #togetherathome to see bands streaming intimate concerts live from their homes.

 
The Guardian have posted their own list now too  https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2020/mar/17/hottest-front-room-seats-the-best-theatre-and-dance-to-watch-online?CMP=share_btn_fb

Filmed on StageHosts links to mostly paid streams of large Broadway shows and musicals http://www.filmedonstage.com/

You can watch the west end production of Wind in the Willows here https://www.willowsmusical.com/ 


Netflix and Amazon Prime VideoBoth have a small selection of stage shows to stream


Other Cultural Activity 


Free Museum tours from across the world https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours


Free colouring pages from museums http://www.openculture.com/2019/02/download-free-coloring-books-from-113-museums.html?fbclid=IwAR3wPlZLs00PCl-tilb9jXHKJPUSDa2oui1SHQC-iEsh40w7b_ZN5DIyglU


Free National Park tours https://www.thrillist.com/news/nation/google-earth-virtual-tours-of-us-national-parks


David Bowie is At the V&A MuseumAn augmented reality tour of the singer’s costumes, notebooks and life’s work. https://davidbowieisreal.com/


CPD FROM HOME 
ETC have made their online training courses free during this time: training for technicians Courses.etcconnect.com  The following performers offer one to one tuition, find them on facebook. 


Rubyyy Jones – Cabaret MCing Paul L Martin – mentoring for cabaret performers  John Celestus – one to one Flexibiliy and Strength, contortion, compare 
Skillshare International Offers photography, illustration, design with a 2 month free trial available https://www.skillshare.com/


Welsh for work with Learn Welsh Cardiff – Dysgu Cymraeg Caerdydd A 10 hour course free https://learnwelsh.cymru/work-welsh/work-welsh-courses/work-welsh-taster-courses/


Say Something in Welsh A podcast based language learning system with free and paid options including Welshhttps://www.saysomethingin.com/


Duolingo The number one free language app has a great Welsh course toohttps://www.duolingo.com/

Review Heart and Soul by Rhys Payne

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Having seen the first two shows in the Novello concert series I was very excited to see the third and final show. The bar was already set extremely high with the fantastic evenings of movie mixtape and night at the musicals so I was very eager to see if the performers would be able to match their own high standards but heart and souls did all this and more!

If you haven’t read one of my reviews about the Novella orchestra shows before basically, they are incredibly fun and enjoyable evening where a love orchestra is gathered on the stage and performer alongside some of the most talented singers possible. The orchestra is on the stage which really helps to bring them into the spotlight and allows the audience to really see the hard work that goes into playing for a show which oftentimes goes unnoticed! Each concert has been like a miniature party where the audience is encouraged to sing and dance along to songs they know which really helps to create an enjoyable atmosphere in the theatre. 

The show opened with an instrumental version of earth, wind and fire’s famous song September which while it was an incredibly fun song that helped leaked the audience interest (as it is a song many people know) it is a very strange show to choose to open up the entire show. As per usual the orchestra was incredible and created a wonderful sound however in this specific concert there was a lot less opportunity for the orchestra to really showcase what they could do. With the other shows, there were numerous songs that were entirely instrumental which helped the orchestra show their talents but this one really scaled back on the opportunities to do so. The lighting of this show really helped to add to the fun and party-like atmosphere of the show which really encourages the audience to join in where appropriate. The conductor of the orchestra really helped summarise the entire show when he said: “are you ready to get this party started?” As this was exactly the type of show it was. A fun, enjoyable evening of fantastic music that encourages the audience to get up and sing/dance. I was a little confused by the zig-zag line that was lit up on the backdrop of the dragging. At first, o assumed it was a symbol representing the Motown icon but after inspection, this shape was very different to this logo and so I was very confused.

To open the show we had one of the insanely talented singers namely Shaney Holmes (of most notably Rent) singing I want to dance with someone and ignoring the fact that this is one of my favourite songs, this was a much better way to start the show. This was super high energy, artfully performed song which most people knew the lyrics for which really added to the party vibe of the show. In my personal opinion, I would have swapped the instrument and this opening song to really start the show with the massive musical number it deserved. Another highlight in Holmes performance was I will always love you which was sung beautifully although I have heard this song performed at many cabaret-styles like this one (in fact Lucie Jones actually did this exact some at the last novella concert) and it is starting to become overused.

Having never heard of Marisha Wallace until today, I didn’t really know what to expect from her but oh my she was incredible. Her rendition of ” you’re going to love me” from dream girls was OUT OF THIS WORLD! To put it into perspective, I don’t think I have ever seen a song performed in the middle of act 1 that had received a stand ovation before the song had even finished and that exactly what happened for the stellar performance. Wallace clearly poured her entire ’heart and soul’ into this performance which on top of his insane vocal abilities made if a very emotional and moving rendition of an iconic song! Even the people who are familiar with her singing from shows such as waitress and even dream girls itself were blown away but this incredible performance which is the sign of a talented performer! Every song she performed then on was amazing but I constantly had the thought of this perfect song in my head through. Her renditions of “you make me feel like a natural woman” by Aretha Franklin and “I’m every woman” by Shaka Kahn were fantastic in the own regard but were overshadowed by her early performance. Really “your going to love me” would have been an amazing way to end the act or night but the placement of this song did somewhat damage the rest of her performance. However, despite this, any show which contains the iconic song “proud Mary” by Tina Turner while instantly have my heart and Marisha sang and PERFORMED this show with the power and vigour necessarily which even matched Tina’s performances of this song! Marisha is an insanely talented performer and is one to keep an eye on for future shows she is involved with, you will not be disappointed! 

What was fantastic to see that this concert gave a local dance troop the chance to perform as a part of the show. These dancers were very fun and entertaining and it was clear they enjoyed what they were doing and poured everything they had into every high energy performance. It is fantastic to see an established group such as Novella orchestra promoting young local talent as it gives them a chance to showcase their abilities as most of the time they are ignored. The final song in this concert was “dancing in their street” and while this is an iconic Motown anthem it probably wasn’t the best song choice to close the show. We had had the phenomenal performance of “you’re going to love me” , the energy of “proud Mary” among others which I think would have made a much better end to the show. “Dancing in the street” is a song visibly many people weren’t too familiar with and also fell a little flat when compared to the other amazing songs in this show.

Overall Heart and Soul was a fun and enjoyable evening that celebrated all things Motown , R & B and soul which included many songs that I am personally a fan of. Yet again the orchestra was beautiful , performers were amazing and the party atmosphere really made a unique atmosphere for the audience to revel in. I would rate this production 4 out of 5 stars and encourage everyone to keep an eye out for when the novella orchestra are in a town near you as they are not to be missed out on! 

An Interview with Playwright Jon Tregenna

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

I was born in Llanelli, acted in Cardiff, in various bands in London, back to Llanelli to write TV and moved to Laugharne in 2012. I live in a house where a murder was committed in 1953 and a friend of Dylan Thomas was arrested. Dylan called Laugharne, ‘…the strangest town in Wales.’ He wasn’t wrong. I’ve written the Dylan Thomas ebook for the BBC, TV comedy drama for BBC & S4C and the David Garland Jones Youtube channel. Hail Cremation! is my fourth play after two plays for Llanelli Youth Theatre; Raw Material: Llareggub Revisited for NTW (co-created with Marc Rees) in 2014, and I’ve have been working on Hail Cremation! since 2016.

Marc Rees and Jon Treganna, Co-Creators,Raw Material, Llareggub Revisited, NTW.

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

My Dad read Dr Seuss and Charles Dickens to me when I was very young which I loved. I later raided Dad’s bookshelves and his Anglo-Welsh poetry, and became big fan of poet and polemicist, Harri Webb. In school I got into acting after seeing a performance of Wind In The Willows and later trained as an actor in the (Royal) Welsh College of Music & Drama. I’ve been in bands and written songs since I was a teenager, and once I started creative writing around twenty years ago, a musical was a logical step, tho’ it took me some time to realise it.

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas seem to percolate for years. I try to create something I’d like to watch, and that I don’t think I’ve seen before… but those ideas are often outside the bounds of what people are prepared to commission. In terms of ideas, thinking about it, most of my writing is about real life stuff but then I like to drag it into left field.

Can you describe your writing day? Do you have a process or a minimum word count?

I don’t like staring at a screen for too long. I have a young daughter so writing time is precious, and when I do have time to sit and write, I throw everything at the screen. Sometimes it’s better to clear your head by writing 1000 words of rubbish rather than nothing at all. It’s all in the editing. I find a good walk, or a drive, is often beneficial, recording ideas into a phone ready for those gaps in real life when writing happens.

Why and where do you write?

We live in an 18th century cottage in Laugharne and my office is downstairs with a view of the street. I’m surrounded by books, cards, pictures, ornaments – or ‘junk’ as my partner calls them – and often scan the shelves when I’m stuck. It looks a bit of a mess, but you should have seen it before I tidied up.

Your latest play Hail Cremation will be produced by National Theatre Wales at Newbridge Memo from the 23 March- 04 April. The production is described as a musical odyssey through the life of cremation pioneer, Dr William Price – a complex and extraordinary Welshman. What drew you personally to telling your interpretation of Dr William Price?

Like many I knew about the infamous cremation, but initially I wasn’t aware he was a ground-breaking surgeon, vegetarian, feminist, nationalist, radical, a dandy and clearly a genius. However, his eccentricities in later life meant that many of those elements were ignored. If Price was around today, he’d be an inspiring leader, passionate about history, language and culture and I wanted to celebrate him with a spectacle that he would have enjoyed. On reflection most of my work is about Welsh identity, and Price was probably the person who tried to define it more than anyone else in the last two hundred years.

National Theatre Wales describe the nation of Wales as their stage. Their productions have ranged from We’re Still Here portraying the lives of Neath Port Talbot Steel Workers. On Bear Ridge which took place in “a lost village, blurred by redrawn borders” to this new production taking place at Newbridge Memo. Do you feel that Welsh Theatre is presenting representative stories of its citizens on our stages?

I’m interested in stories and legends that are uniquely Welsh. Wales is definitely the ‘secret Celtic nation’, and yet we have one of the oldest literary traditions in Europe. There is an ancient, supernatural, magical, mythical, witty, wild and wide-eyed side to Wales – Wales on mushrooms if you like – which is unique to us. I think more plays in this area would help establish, and then cement a Welsh theatrical identity not only in Wales but around the world.

Why do you think audiences should see this new play?

It’s part gig, part catwalk show, part cabaret. It has a wonderful troupe of dancers and actors, a rock band, incredible costumes, mad props, druids, goats, punk toads, wall to wall video projections, and an astonishing creative team lead by director, Adele Thomas. Yet at its heart is the story of a man who wanted his people to thrive. Dr Price met a woman called Gwen who was sixty years his junior, and they were a very loving, if highly unusual couple. They’d be unusual now, so it’s hard to imagine what 19th century non-conformist Wales would have made of them. Price and Gwen lost a child, and I nearly lost my daughter, so I had a small understanding of the grief they must have gone through. Then when Price’s powers started to wane and he went through a number of ordeals, he continued to charge on with Gwen at his side. He lived for ninety-two years and it’s still amazing how he crammed so much in. People should see this play because it tells a story of a dynamic couple in a wild theatrical arena, is both fun and emotional, and has something to say about Welsh identity.

Is it possible to sustain a career as a writer in Wales and if not what would help?

If the question is: ‘Can someone who writes plays about Wales and Welsh issues sustain a living in Wales, or indeed, anywhere?’ Then apart from maybe one or two exceptions, the answer is probably no. There are a lot of playwrights in Wales chasing a small pot of money and Welsh writers probably need working partners, day jobs, lecturing posts, etc., to survive. What would help? I don’t really know. We’re unlikely to see more arts funding for a while as the Welsh Government is looking to reduce public subsidy. Trying to be positive, successful and profitable shows that reach beyond Wales, and that couldn’t come from anywhere other than Wales, would help. We need to find our voice.

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

There should be more development deals, so that writers are nurtured in plays, poetry, TV scriptwriting etc. More people need to feel they have a chance, get some feedback, be part of a dialogue, even if the ideas end up uncommissioned. There could always be more arts, but we also need to build and educate audiences too. It’s tough in this era of Netflix, deadly diseases, Just Eat and smartphones, but the more people that take an interest in the arts, the better off we’ll all be.

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

My daughter, Sylvie, has had two heart operations and spent five days on life support, so seeing her enter a pool for the first time in Butlin’s Minehead last weekend was a truly great thing.

Many Thanks for your time Jon.

Top Tunes with Luke Seidel -Haas

Hi Luke, great to meet you, can you tells us about yourself and your work?

I’m Luke Seidel-Haas, I’m a Cardiff based theatre maker and one of the founding members of new theatre company CB4. CB4 Theatre was founded a couple of years ago; we’re all Drama graduates of the University of South Wales and having done our separate things for a few years we found ourselves gravitating back to Wales and wanting to create theatre together. Right now, we’re about to perform our debut show “Back to Berlin” at The Other Room at Porter’s Cardiff. It’s a show that I’ve written and am performing in and is inspired by a true story my dad told me, about when he travelled back to Berlin to see the Berlin Wall come down in 1989. The more we spoke about his story, the more we realised how many parallels it had with what’s going on at the moment across Europe and around the world; while the story is set 30 years ago, so many of the themes feel just as relevant now as they did back then.

 This chat is specifically about music and the role it has played in your personal and professional life. Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

Right now I’m listening to Kanye West’s most recent album Jesus Is King. It’s quite different to his previous albums, and is more influenced by gospel than his rap/hip hop roots. Kayne is often unpredictable, and I love that with every new album he releases you never quite know what you’re going to hear next – Jesus is King is no exception.

When I first heard it, I wasn’t sure about it, but after a couple of listens I think it’s a really interesting album which uses a type of music not often heard in the mainstream. I saw Kanye headline Glastonbury in 2015, and it was one of the most bizarre, intense but unforgettable performances I’ve ever been to.

We are interviewing a range of people about their own musical inspiration, can you list 5 records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 

 I Choose Noise by Hybrid

Hybrid are a Welsh electronic music group who blend electronica and house with cinematic and orchestral stylings. Most of their music doesn’t have words, and so is really useful to use in a rehearsal studio to help devise or work on physical or movement based sections of work. Their music is often used by companies like Frantic Assembly, as well as on movie soundtracks. I could have chosen from a few albums, but “I choose Noise” is just a really varied album which has often helped me out of a rut when devising.

Volume 3: The Subliminal Verses by Slipknot

This album resonates with me more for personal reasons. As an angsty teenager whose wardrobe had a distinct lack of colour it was probably one of the albums I had on repeat more than any other. To some people Slipknot just sounds like angry noise, but I think this album manages to mix that aggression and anger with amazing hooks, guitar solos and powerful choruses. There are also a few tracks like Circle and Vermillion Pt. 2 which are unexpectedly melodic and emotional.

The World of Hans Zimmer by Hans Zimmer

Okay I’ll admit, this one is a bit of a cheat – I couldn’t choose just one album by this legendary composer. Hans Zimmer has written some of the most iconic music in modern cinema including The Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception, Interstellar, Pirates of the Caribbean, True Romance and so many more. His scores are so emotionally evocative, and to me they resonate because of how they help to drive plot, develop tension or reflect the underlying emotion of the scene. With a lot of films, the soundtrack ends up feeling like an accompaniment – something which adds a bit more flavour to the film, but that they could manage without.  Zimmer’s best soundtracks rise far above this and become a vital part of the whole experience.

Angles by Dan Le Sac Vs Scroobius Pip

This album resonates with me because of its mix of the deeply political with the outright silly. “Angles” manages to go from a reflection on the death of Tommy Cooper, to rapping the periodic table, to A Letter from God to Man, to a film noir style existential rap. Hip hop often unfairly suffers with the stereotype that it’s all about “guns, bitches and bling”, and before listening to this album I was probably wrongly was under that impression too. This album opened my eyes to how different genres can be used to make a political point. Scroobius Pip also has a fantastic beard.

A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975

The 1975 are a band that have really developed their sound over the course of each album. As a left-wing millennial, I think A Brief Inquiry… manages to brilliantly tap into a lot of anxieties that people of my age have. Songs like Love It If We Made It and Give Yourself a Try are on the surface catchy pop tunes, but the political and social messages they carry are a testament to the strength of the song writing. They are also a band that seem to (as much as possible) practice what they preach and are leading the way in terms of making live music and touring as eco-friendly as possible.

Just to put you on the spot could you choose one track from the five listed above and tell us why you have chosen this? 

Love It If We Made It from A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by The 1975

To me, the lyrics of this song are some of the most powerful of any pop song released in recent years. The song leaps from talking about Donald Trump and Kayne West, to Heroin addiction via the Jonestown massacre and dead migrants washing up on beaches, but despite its rather bleak lyrics and content, its refrain of “I’d love it if we made it” makes the piece feel hopeful and optimistic. It’s a great piece of music if you want to get yourself angry about the state of the world, but in a way that makes you want to take action to make things better.

Thanks Luke

Back to Berlin By CB4 Theatre is running at The Other Room @ Porters from 3-6th March 2020. Tickets are available here

Review Breabach, St David’s Hall, Cardiff By Rhian Gregory

When browsing the St David’s Hall brochure, a variety of performers that I hadn’t heard of before, appeared interesting. In particular I looked up Breabach, listening to a little of their music and thought let’s give it ago. I’m quite open to all genres of music and certainly glad I attended.

The five piece Scottish folk band, Breabach, came back to Cardiff for their second visit, while on their Winter UK tour. The talented musicians have been together for 15 years, and more recently visited Canada, Australia, and Switzerland.  

Part of the Roots Unearthed world music at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, Breabach performed a selection of contemporary folk music including their own band members creative compositions. Their latest album Frenzy of the Meeting, is an exceptional diverse range of sounds by skilled musicians. Listening to them live in the intimate setting on Level 3, was full of energy and passion. 

They explore a combination of sounds with their instruments and voice; violin, double bass, guitar, bagpipes, flute, whistle, bouzouki, cajon and vocals. 

The Level 3 Lounge at St David’s Hall, had a bar, seating facing and focusing around the stage, and also some chairs and tables on the edge. There was space at the back where you could stand if that’s what you wanted to do, and even have a little dance! Along with the music, it had a warm and moving feeling. 

St David’s Hall is in Cardiff. An accessible venue,  a central location, with city centre parking all around. Myself as a wheelchair user, parked on Churchill Way in the disabled spaces. Of an evening there are usually plenty. Although slightly further away than St David’s or John Lewis car park (that charge), it is free to park here with a blue badge for a few hours. 

At St David’s Hall, there is a door at the side that has ramp access, to take you into the main reception box office, and then a lift to get you to the level you need to be on.  Disabled loo access was on the same level as the performance. 

I will certainly try and see Breabach again. It’s made me open up to trying more performances that I may not have thought of attending. Whether it’s something your use to and know, or new and different, take that step, go along! 

Review Rush,Theatr Clwyd By Richard Evans

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Behind ‘Rush’ lies a simple theme.  This is my story.  This is where I come from, this is why I came here.  This is what life is like for me here.  Here is my story told through the universal medium of music.  We all have a story like this, and to a degree every story is engaging because people are interesting.  It is just that some stories are more interesting than others and this one involves three continents, colonization, death of an indigenous people, brutal slavery, rebellion, warfare, migration and racism.  Welcome to Jamaica and its tour of Britain, February 2020, destination Mold.

We were promised a joyous Jamaican journey and judging by the fact all bar a handful of people in a crowded theatre were on their feet at times, this is what we got.  Even my left knee was shaking in time to this rhythmic feast despite my pathological phobia of dancing.  The fact that I was pinned back in my seat to avoid the gyrations of the lady standing next to me did not detract from the spectacle.  Sometimes it is just great to see people join in with unfettered enthusiasm. 

Yet here was a contradiction.  This story is far from joyous, it is tainted with more than a bucketful of blood, sweat and tears and while this was pointed out with a wry sense of humour, this was not what we heard. Instead we were treated to an endless list of Jamaican song encompassing a brief history of ska and reggae with songs from Jimmy Cliff and Desmond Decker amongst a host of others.  Special mention was made of Bob Marley who would have celebrated his 75th birthday this week and who played Deeside Leisure Centre in 1980.  It’s a small world.  There were some surprising sounds, ‘The tide is high’ is so heavily associated with Blondie that many have forgotten its Jamaican roots. 

The music was performed with distinction by the JA Reggae Band, all of whom were consummate musicians orchestrated by the lead guitar and musical director, Orville Pinnock. True to the development of ska in particular, the band was racially diverse with a rich tapestry of experience from different musical genres.  They were ably supported by DJ Paul who played a variety of tracks supplementing a long set. 

The two lead singers IKA and Janice Williamson both had rich, powerful voices that were adaptable to a range of song.  My particular favourite was the gospel standard, ‘Oh Happy day’ acknowledging church influence on the Jamaican community.  The story was introduced and narrated by John Simmitt, who did so gently, rhythmically yet with a waspish sense of humour.  One pleasing aspect here was that there were no ‘stars’ in this ensemble, just a team working closely together who so obviously enjoyed and entered into the musical feast they presented.

My question is, how important is the Jamaican story?  This, and others like it should be a staple in every secondary school curriculum.  It speaks volumes to us about our national identity, our historic legacy and comments forcefully against those xenophobic elements in our society that seem to have found a voice in the past few years.  From the brutal colonization of the 15th and 16th Centuries, the loathsome practice of transatlantic slavery to the shocking betrayal of the Windrush generation by a populist government pillorying immigrants to win votes, this story reeks of injustice.  I would have liked to see more historical narrative, to learn more about the Maroon rebellions and leaders such as Marcus Garvey and Paul Bogle instead of being satisfied with allusions to these events and people.  But increasingly as the show developed it was a celebration of music that has its roots or was influenced by Jamaica. 

Perhaps the most important theme of the show was to emphasise the fact that the presence of Black and Asian communities in the UK is the result of a direct invitation to live here by the British government after World War 2.  Once people arrived, despite a pernicious level of racism these communities have integrated into, influenced and enhanced our society.  The reception given to 2-tone music and the energy generated by numbers by The Specials and Madness was a prime illustration of this.  Similar statements could be made especially about those communities from the Indian sub-continent who have made their home here.  Few people prior to 1960 would have heard of Tandoori chicken, yet to some, this is more of a national dish than roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. 

These communities are building their own cultural legacy now, a great example being the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the biggest street festivals in the world, attracting over 2 million visitors each year.  The carnival in itself is unique, being a fusion of Jamaican reggae and Trinidadian steel band and is now officially a British cultural icon.  Perhaps we have forgotten the roots of this carnival lie in a response to racial attacks on West Indians.  Few have heard of the 1959 death of Kelso Cochrane at the hands of white youths.  And few will know that the perpetrators were never charged or convicted for fear of the public unrest that may incite.  This was despite the fact that the identity of the killer was an open secret in the local community. 

This demonstrates that we have a lot to learn from this history yet despite such a powerful message it was not the key theme of the evening.  There was no axe to grind, no bitterness at this shameful treatment.  Just a nice line of humour poking fun at people like Enoch Powell and his ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech.  The Conservative club in his former constituency is now a West Indian Cultural Centre.  How times have changed. 

The pervasive theme of the evening for me was the rhythm which permeated every song, energised the audience and left people with a feel good factor.  It was remarkable that a mainly white, middle aged, middle class audience found such movement and joy in this Caribbean cultural festival.  John Simmitt joked that the audience might be better suited to a cup of Milo or Horlicks before bedtime but this was far from the case.  The audience warmed to the rhythm with gusto.  Full credit to the cast, who after taking their bow made their way to the foyer to greet the audience as they left.  After three hours of performance they need not have done this but was a most welcome end to a fabulous evening.

Go and see this performance.  Feel the rhythm, enjoy the music, learn the history. 

14 Months On A Response To Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

In November 2018 we published an article in response to the new Arts Council Wales Corporate Plan “For the benefit of all..” with a range of contributions from Creatives in Wales. We revisit this area in the updated article below with responses from one of the creatives featured in the article as well as an additional contribution.

Our mission statement at Get The Chance is “Creating opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events.”

We were very pleased to see some of the priority areas in the new Arts Council Wales, Corporate Plan, 2018 – 2023 “For the benefit of all”

In particular we were interested in Commitment 2 below

We will enable a greater number and a wider diversity of people to enjoy, take part and work in the publicly funded arts.

ACW then go onto make a series of intentions (below) for where they want to be in 2023 (5 years)

We will be able to demonstrate clearly that all our funding programmes promote and contribute to equality and diversity

There will be a narrowing of the gap between those in the most and least affluent social sectors as audiences and participants

We will develop the creative work of disabled artists by funding “Unlimited” commissions and developing a scheme similar to “Ramps on the Moon” operated by Arts Council England

We want to introduce a “Changemakers” scheme placing BAME and disabled people in senior executive positions in the arts

We want to see a doubling of the number of disabled people in the arts workforce

We want to see a doubling of the number of Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds in the arts workforce

We want to have introduced an Arts Council Apprenticeships scheme designed to provide opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds

We will have achieved a trebling of the number of BAME and disabled and on APW boards of governance

You can read the full article from last year here

Adeola Dewis

Artist, researcher, academic and TV presenter

I struggle to fully engage this as a response. My recent experience has revealed that there is certainly a surge to include diversity in all its forms on boards and in creative spaces and projects. However, this new ‘interest’ feels more like organisations ‘needing’ to diversify rather than ‘wanting’ to diversify, in order to secure their future and funding. I am hopeful though.

Elise Davison

Artistic Director, Taking Flight Theatre Company

What a year of change 2019 has been.  For Taking Flight it has seen the company move away from the annual Shakespeare production to more indoor, venue-based work.  

peeling by Kaite O’Reilly, opened on International Women’s Day in March at The Riverfront, Newport and then toured Wales and England and was a huge success earning 4 and 5* reviews.

The Guardian stating “Accessible theatre? Do it properly – do it like this”.  Following this Taking Flight was invited to Grenzenlos Kulture festival in Mainz, Germany as an example of best practice in accessibility.  It was a huge tour and highlighted once more the inaccessibility of much of Wales; accessible accommodation is very hard to find, and some venues struggled to meet our access riders.  However, this did lead to some very inventive solutions involving temporary dressing rooms created with flats, curtains and even a marquee! Obviously not the ideal but with our hugely creative stage management team always looking for solutions rather than the problems and the support of venues we made it work. High applause to Angela Gould at RCT Theatres for her work in this department. 

Angela Gould, Theatre Programme and Audience Development Manager, RCT Theatres.

One of our lovely actors toured with her dog who was a lovely addition to the team. Max is a therapy dog; many places we visited were only familiar with guide dogs, which made us realise how much there is to learn about the different types of assistance dogs.  

Everything we learnt during this extensive tour will feed into the work we have been developing towards a scheme like the Ramps on the Moon initiative.  A scheme like this can never be replicated, but the interest and passion from venues in Wales to be involved is overwhelming.  Creu Cymru, hynt and Taking Flight have been in ongoing discussions about ways to make this happen.  We read with interest that it was also a priority for ACW and have begun conversations with them around a similar scheme. As we have been researching and pushing for this to happen since ‘Ramps’ began in 2016, we are passionate that this becomes a reality.  Taking Flight has just received funding for their next production, Road, at Parc and Dare, RCT Theatres and we hope this partnership will be the first step.   Taking Flight will give support to participating venues to be confident to manage and produce inclusive work, to provide excellent access and a warm welcome to all- both audiences and creatives. 

While peeling was out on the road in the Autumn, we also remounted the hugely successful and totally gorgeous You’ve got Dragons.  After a run at WMC we hit the road again for a UK tour including a week run at Lyric Hammersmith which was almost sold out and incredibly well received. The desire for inclusive and accessible work for young people is growing.  Watch this space for more news on You’ve Got Dragons next adventure.

Taking Flight has often dreamt of setting up a Deaf- led Youth Theatre for D/deaf and Hard of Hearing young people and with funding from BBC Children in Need we have finally done it. Led by the tremendous Stephanie Back in BSL and English, the youth theatre began last week and the results are already fabulous. The Wales Millennium Centre are our amazing venue partner and host the weekly sessions for D/deaf children aged 4-18. We have been overwhelmed with interest in this project, demonstrating that this has been needed in Wales for a long time.     

There has also been a surge in interest from companies and individuals wanting to consider access while writing funding applications.  There is a general excitement around making work accessible. There are some brilliant intentions and I’ve had exciting conversations with companies about different types of access and have been able to recommend consultants and access professionals.  

The ground has been fertile for change for some time and there is much more inclusive and accessible work being created here than when we first started 12 years ago.   Theatres are also much more interested in programming diverse work and many have invested in Deaf Awareness training with Taking Flight (Led by Steph Back). 

Steph Back

 There is a real desire to diversify audiences and welcome them to theatre spaces.  Taking Flight’s next symposium on 28th Feb at Park and Dare RCT theatres on Relaxed Performances brings the brilliant Jess Thom, Touretteshero to Wales to discuss ways to provide the warmest possible welcome to those who may find the traditional etiquette of theatre a problem.   

Jess Thom, Touretteshero

There has been a surge of work featuring D/deaf and disabled performers, productions like Jonny Cotsen’s Louder is Not Always Clearer, Leeway Productions Last Five Years and Illumine’s 2023 really engaged new audiences and the venues have really built on this success.    There have been more productions that embed access in a creative way, a gorgeous example in Gods and Kings by Fourinfour productions with integrated BSL from Sami Thorpe.  I had lots of fun working with Julie Doyle and Likely Story integrating BSL interpreter Julie Doyle into Red. Companies are choosing to interpret, audio describe or caption all the shows in a run rather than just one which is really encouraging and promoting more equality of access to shows.

So, the will to make accessible work is absolutely there, the best of intentions are definitely there and, now the funding for access is factored into budgets, the funds are usually there. However, why is it still access that falls through the cracks, gets pushed aside or forgotten as a production approaches opening night?  I hear stories of interpreters and audio describers who can’t get into a rehearsal space to prep or are placed somewhere on stage that is neither aesthetically pleasing nor practical.  It can still sometimes feel like access is something that needs to be ticked off a list in order to fulfil a funding application.  

I am absolutely sure that this is not the intention; but we are all so overstretched, one person is often doing multiple jobs (especially in small companies) and when no one is directly responsible for access or it simply forms ‘part’ of someone’s role. So those best intentions and exciting plans are really hard to fully achieve.  Taking Flight are exploring this lack of provision for access co – ordination with Bath Spa University so watch this space for the results of our research… The next generation of theatre makers are coming, and they really care about making work that can be accessed by all – that makes me happy.

Review, Trials of Cato with Tant, Pontio Arts Centre by Gareth Williams

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

You know you’ve hit on something good when the support act is as good as the headliner. It may have been The Trials of Cato that we had come to see, but it was the five-piece female band Tant that we went away talking about. Running slightly late, we wandered into the theatre at Pontio Arts Centre and were immediately transfixed by their magical and melodic tones. They proceeded through a half hour set that traversed the boundaries of folk and pop with tremendous subtlety, producing a sound that felt highly original and resultantly captivating. All are clearly talented musicians, whether on harp or guitar, but it was their combined vocals that really struck me. Performing acapella on the song ‘Gwydyr Glas’, their voices played together like wind chimes, singing in beautiful harmony whilst also producing distinct tonalities that made this a really fascinating piece to listen to.

At the end of their set, Tant were wildly applauded off stage. Recognising their popularity, The Trials of Cato twice paid tribute to them during their own set, where the praise was again handed out, and deservedly so. It was clearly an inspired choice to have them open. Only the best could follow. The Trials of Cato are certainly that, having already scooped up Best Album at the Folk Awards in spite of their relatively short career. Opening with an instrumental piece before going straight into ‘Tom Paine’s Bones’, these early numbers demonstrated the toe-tappingly catchy rhythms that make their music such a joy to listen to. ‘Haf’ added a lightness of touch to proceedings before ‘Cân John Williams’ was given a Lebanese vibe thanks to a particularly strong instrumental section at its end. The only slight melancholy in the evening came courtesy of ‘My Love’s in Germany’, but even here the performance was more rousing than depressing.

We were then treated to some new material in the form of ‘Dog Valley’, from an album that should be out later this year. It was a track to sit back and enjoy, reminiscent of freestyle jazz and showcasing their skills as truly accomplished musicians. This and ‘Gawain’ are highly recommended for first-time listeners, the latter their “prog rock” offering, which turned this intimate venue into a few thousand seater stadium through excellent lighting and amplified sound. Two favourites in ‘Aberdaron’ and ‘Gloria’ then followed before they closed out with an excellent rendition of ‘Kadisha’. So good was this final number that there was no need for an encore. Indeed, in hindsight, there should not have been one, for it was hijacked by a woman intent on playing tambourine with them on stage. The intervention of security a few moments later meant that any chance of the band making the best of this unexpected entrance was lost. A chorus of boos followed, and the subsequent final song fell a bit flat. It was a disappointing end, but the only blot on what was an otherwise incredible night of Welsh folk music. The strength of and sheer originality on the national scene at the moment is inspiring. The Trials of Cato most definitely reflect that, and after their performance here, Tant are undoubtedly doing the same.

Click here to visit The Trials of Cato’ website.

You can watch Tant perform their song ‘I Ni’ here.

gareth
Gareth Williams

Review, New Year Gala Concert, New Sinfonia, St Asaph Cathedral by Gareth Williams

New Sinfonia Orchestra
4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

I am walking up the High Street in St Asaph on an unseasonably warm January evening. The final remnants of Christmas hang in shop windows. The town’s tree is already stripped bare. It stands awkwardly on the side of the street. Meanwhile, opposite, a yellow glow emanates from the inside of the Cathedral. It stands, as always, resplendent at the top of the hill. As I reach the door, I can hear Robert Guy, Artistic Director of the NEW Sinfonia Orchestra, introducing the opening piece. I pull out my phone to show my ticket and notice that I am three minutes late. As a result, I decline the kind steward’s invitation of a seat at the front, and wander to a row of seats at the back. It helps that I know the place, for it allows me to settle immediately and enjoy the final section of Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz. It receives the first of many rapturous applauses on the night, and deservedly so. Made up of professional musicians from across North Wales and beyond, Robert and his brother, Jonathan, have assembled a talented cast whose collective sound brings the bricks of this ancient venue to life. It is no wonder that the well-dressed crowd in front of me look relaxed and fully engaged in every bit of what follows on this mild eve.

There is a rousing rendition of Strauss’ Thunder and Lightning Polka, a sprightly performance of Chit-Chat Polka, and a fascinating piece by Vittorio Monti called Czardas. However, it is a special guest appearance by Erin Rossington that particularly grabs my attention. Winner of the ‘International Voice of the Future’ at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2019, the Guildhall School of Music student both looks and sounds like a future star. Dressed resplendently in a silk dress, she delivers a note-perfect performance of Porgi Amor from the Marriage of Figaro. Following that up with Waltz of My Heart, I am struck by the gentle power of her vocals. Hers is a voice that never overwhelms. Instead, it reaches out and softly touches the wooden beams that adorn the roof of the Cathedral. It is strong, but not overbearing; confident without being arrogant. It sits beautifully alongside the orchestral score.

Erin Rossington

Rossington is indeed a rising talent, as is Jonathan Guy, who showcases his aptitude for composition with a new piece called Fire Dance. Coming at the start of the second half, it is an intriguing bit of music that reflects the tempestuous element of the title. The low tones of the introduction speak of danger, before a more uplifting section produces something of a magical effect that, in the final part, produces a majestic sound that captures the awful beauty to be found in flickering flames. It is a far cry from those fireside images of Christmas which are now fast being extinguished from the memory for another year. In their place, thoughts turn to those caught up in the Australian bushfires. It is fitting that an encore of Auld Lang Syne is touched with poignancy. The string section is solemn, and the audience, in unison, lend a certain pathos to the closing moments of this excellent concert. Thunderous clapping gives way to a politely crowded exit. And as I walk out into the pleasant calmness of the weather, I wonder if there could have been any better way to start the New Year? The answer, I conclude, is no.

Click here to find out more about NEW Sinfonia.

gareth