Category Archives: Music

Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia to share bold digital work that redefines opera for our times.


Following the successful 2019 co-commission and co-production of Denis & Katya by Philip Venables and Ted Huffman, the two companies are sharing new digital pieces created by Black, Asian and global majority artists. Commissioned in parallel, Music Theatre Wales and Opera Philadelphia’s digital programmes propel our genre forward, identifying outstanding artists and presenting innovative new work that celebrates the multi-cultural world in which we live.
New Directions, a new commissioning programme created by Music Theatre Wales, was brought to life with a series of three digital collaborations from artists new to opera. These pieces will stream on the Opera Philadelphia Channel beginning Wednesday 1st December. Led by Artistic Associate Elayce Ismail and Director Michael McCarthy, New Directions questions what opera is and what it can be by commissioning and working with artists who bring new musical perspective and previously untold stories to opera.


The New Directions pieces are:


The House of Jollof Opera by Tumi Williams and Sita Thomas
Pride (A Lion’s Roar) by Renell Shaw and Rachael Young with animation by Kyle Legall Somehow by Jasmin Kent Rodgman and Krystal S Lowe
In exchange, Music Theatre Wales audiences will gain exclusive access to three of Opera Philadelphia’s digital works:
THEY STILL WANT TO KILL US
By Daniel Bernard Roumain
An uncensored aria performed and composed by Daniel Bernard Roumain. Featuring mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges and directed by multimedia artist Yoram Savion. This piece commemorates the centennial of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, originally created to mark one year since the murder of George Floyd.

SAVE THE BOYS
By Tyshawn Sorey

Inspired by “Save the Boys,” an 1887 poem by abolitionist, writer and Black women’s rights activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, performed by the outstanding countertenor John Holiday and pianist Grant Loehnig.

CYCLES OF MY BEING
A song cycle that centers on what it means to be a Black man living in America today, by Tyshawn Sorey with lyrics by MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes and superstar tenor Lawrence Brownlee, who sings the piece.

These works will be available via a unique link on MTW’s website, also starting on 1st December 2021Elayce Ismail, artistic associate, Music Theatre Wales said: “There are so many barriers to working in opera, and also to accessing it as an audience member, from the perception of what the art form is and who it is for, through to access to training. New Directions aims to chip away at some of these barriers and revitalise what opera can be, who makes it and who it’s made for. Opera is such a dynamic art form and I think it can absolutely resonate with contemporary audiences, but to do so it needs new artists and new ideas to invigorate, challenge and develop it. For New Directions we’ve brought together three brilliant pairs of collaborators, who each bring different creative practices to the mix, and who have been generous and inquisitive in our discussions about the potential of opera. It’s been wonderful seeing how each of our creators has embraced the challenge, and the added element of creating work remotely for digital audiences, to make three unique and compelling new operatic works.”

Michael McCarthy, director, Music Theatre Wales said: “MTW has been a force for change and development in opera in the UK, and we are thrilled to partner with Opera Philadelphia, a company renowned for embracing innovation and developing opera reflective of our time. By sharing our New Directions digital commissions with an international audience we hope these original pieces created by Welsh and UK artists will contribute to the evolution of our artform. At the same time, we will be offering UK audiences an opportunity to see three powerful new pieces from Opera Philadelphia that I believe resonate with the work we are making through New Directions.

Our two companies first partnered on Denis & Katya by composer Philip Venables and librettist Ted Huffman, and through that experience we recognised that we shared a mutual desire to give opera a bit of a kick, questioning the way it is written and how it is produced and perceived. I have been impressed by Opera Philadelphia’s digital commissions released over the past year and by their ability to bring new voices to the art form and to deliver remarkable and memorable experiences, and this partnership will allow our shared audience to consider all these digital works in a broader context. The world has changed and so must we. If we want to reach new audiences and stimulate wider interest in the creation of new opera with the huge potential it has, we need to be working with artists who can lead us in new and unexpected directions.”

For more information on accessing Opera Philadelphia’s work, visit https://www.musictheatre.wales/

REVIEW LONDON PHILHARMONIC – SEASCAPES AND VISIONS & CRISIS CREATES, ROYAL FESTIVAL HALL BY JAMES ELLIS

Photo credit: MATHIAS BENGUIGUI PASCO 

 


*** (3 / 5) First Impressions
**** (4 / 5) Seascapes and Visions 

In this first trip back to London, I’ve found a lot of the mood being quite dream like. I’ve covered a lot and seen the sites. In this final evening, I returned to the Southbank Centre for the first time since March 2020. The London Philharmonic Orchestra and their outreach programme with Crisis Creates played their hearts out in this mid week night of music. 


The First Impressions set from Crisis helps to get homeless people from across the UK back on their feet. Through music they have united people to find joy in it and giving them a proper introduction to the performance space. Workshop leader Aga Serugo-Lugo had made wonders with the diverse group of characters who surprised and delighted the fair ones who attended. One male singer had some very interesting pipes and there was a charming ramshackle vibe to the few pieces they’ve been working on for days. They had been inspired by the programme from LPO to follow, though that may not have been obvious aside from the trumpet player mimicking the Debussy Prélude flute opener. Thinking about the way the arts has been effected, more work like this can only make the future more clearer. Well done to all involved. 


Following on was LPO in an all French night. Olivier Messiaen’s Les offrandes oubliées is an early orchestral work and one of note. The markings of his later outrageous and sublimely moving fittings can be heard in and around a piece like this. The strings standout for their agonised entry and departure, framing the piece in an never forgotten glow. The percussion and brass also get their moment in the middle section, full of swipes and jabs, a mostly violent affair and never ceasing to be sensational. 


Our concerto for the night was with cellist Truls Mørk and Saint-Saëns. In his 1st Cello Concerto, I have to admit it does not do a lot for me. There where some strange little moments with the strings feeling quite mischievous, as Mørk seemed pious in his formation. There is charm and grace, but it never stands out. Mørk was quite serious but the playing was what every cells should aspire to. An unknown encore to my ear continued the serious tone in a lot of feeling, the hall quite still for the minutes with him alone. 


A second half was purely Debussy. His Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune feature the famous flute solo and conductor Klaus Mäkelä was in no hurry in letting the work start in it’s own evocative and sensual way. It’s a perfumed dip into the lovely waters, orchestrated with a fine nuance, never really stoping for anything. La mer is another testament to Debussy’s talents, though I do find my attention is compromised whilst listening. Some shining moments come through, the waves and storms which calm down only to arrive back later make this  fine example of how to composer music about water and the sea in an impressionistic manner, not like Wagner nor Britten who also excelled at sea-inspired scores. Mäkelä seems to be the a beacon of energy, seeming to lose himself in a few moments during the evening. More of this vigour is encouraged. 


Review, The Snowman, Peacock Theatre, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

This is my second time seeing The Snowman, on stage. Granted, a few years have passed and in a way, this was great in making me see it with new eyes.

If you do not know the story of The Snowman, it is the tale that is on the screens of us brits every Christmas. A little boy makes a Snowman that one night, comes to life. They encounter lots of exciting events from a Snowman party with Father Christmas, to wearing his Dad’s clothes to, what is the most commonly well known part of the story, flying.

This time around, I had help in the form of my 4 year old Nephew. Obsessed with Christmas, this was the third production I have ever taken him to. The first, he was just a baby, but the last one being in Summer, he is the ultimate theatre go-er. Not one of these loud children, he is just mesmerized by the production as a whole.

The whole thing was very magical – with an element of dance (this is The Peacock Theatre after all), it is fluid and gentle and graceful. Even the throwing of a snowball, or angry Mum at a broken window is full of gentle feeling. The Snowman we are used to is driven by what you can see and beautiful music underneath, picking up little moments and enhancing moments with a crash of a cymbal or a fast trill on a violin. Spoken language is not needed. And this production has kept this the same. It works. It is a dance production and dance is there to evoke the narrative and the emotions – therefore a marriage made in heaven.

I felt transported back to my own childhood and watching it for the first time, the same feeling I have every year I watch it on TV and seeing the awe in my nephew’s eyes, it was clear he was feeling this as well.

While for an adult approaching 30, an interval is a nice addition – time for that ice cream that feels right to have at Christmas, I did experience that perhaps this isn’t the best for a 4 year old. Most children’s productions do a straight hour and bam, home time. Their concentration has reached its peak and they want snacks. This production adds elements to the story – a bad guy, some characters we have never seen before, extra dance elements and while beautiful and lovely and still very magical, I think the elongation of the show was a bit too much for a 4 year old. Knowing Father Christmas features, he just wanted to get to that bit and see his hero, not to see the Snowman have a love interest.

The Snowman is everything and more. Magical, nostalgia inducing for us oldies, fascinating to the little ones. Perhaps just a little long for kids, while aimed at their age, perhaps a condense to the original story would be better.

REVIEW, 1771 MOZART’S PERSPECTIVE, THE MOZARTISTS, CADOGAN HALL BY JAMES ELLIS

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

Returning to see The Mozartists play again comes after seeing them in London a mere two weeks before lockdown. This final event seen in the capital had a lasting impact of me. The quality of musicianship is unbridled. Conductor Ian Page has gone about the leviathan task of getting all of Mozart’s canon performed live, essentially taking decades to complete.

We were treated to three of Mozart’s symphonies (No 12, 13 & 14) at the ripe old age of 15, with genius already on the table, heard in every note. These symphonies are conventional in nature (four movements) but the context of the composer’s age and the impact they have cannot be underestimated. In a pre-concert talk, Page said it’s not just about liking his Jupiter Symphony and I completely agree. Through this remarkable project we’ve had the chance to hear these lesser heard, lesser known pieces and we welcome the change of pace and programme. The fluffy flutes in the 15th symphony were also a welcome addition, quite moving in their arrival.

It’s the gleaming sincerity that is rich in these symphonies, the small ensemble of players really play them as if they have never before, crisp and affirmed. Soprano Emily Pogorelc gave musical offering with his concert aria “Non euro l’affetto” and Licenza Aria (the first version) from Il song di Scipione and “L’ombra de’rami tuoi” from Ascanio in Alba. Emily was a highlight of the evening really showing off some fine vocals, really going for the trills and the pacing of the recitative. You want to hear here in the full opera, no question. There lies a great discovery in Paisiello and his aria “Onde amiche…Smarrita, tremante” from Annibale Torino, an opera Mozart had watched in his early years. It’s swell to hear lesser known composers, even if Paisiello is also known for the original Barber of Seville, though things here are more serious and reflective.

I find this mix of symphony and aria to be very stimulating. Things seem to really work so well when all this comes together. An encore of a Mozart early work written for the church was regal and more sombre feel, still a fine way to end things. I will be back to see The Mozartists as soon as possible!

The Mozartists return to Cadogan Hall on 27 Jan 2022 for Mozart 1772 – A Retrospective featuring the music of Mozart, Jommelli, Traetta, J. C. Bach, Gassmann & Haydn. Featuring sopranos Jessica Cale & Chiara Skerath.

REVIEW BRAIMAH, SHEKU & JENEBA KANNEH-MASON, MENDELSSOHN RECITAL, WIGMORE HALL BY JAMES ELLIS

NOVEMBER 21st, 2021 JAMES ELLIS

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

I’m not really the type of person who rushes to morning concerts so long as there is some coffee after. Wigmore Hall in London seem to keep the tradition alive with early recitals on a Sunday. So a surprise chance to see the rising stars of the Kanneh-Mason siblings was not to be sniffed at.

These are super stars in the making. Diversity in classical music is still some way from where it should be, though starting with these fine young musicians, there is no sight of gatekeeping. In an all Felix Mendelssohn programme: Braimah on violin, Jeneba on piano and Shaku on cello played to a packed Wigmore. The power of these musical moments in this family affair was a special utterance, a feeling of hope for the future and a marker of our age.

Jeneba opening with the evocative Rondo Capriccioso heralding a beautifully poised concert with nothing of fault. My taste might lie in later classical music, but the sheer moments of resplendence cannot be denied. Braimah on violin also appeared as the affirmed anchor to proceedings, at times sharing the responsibilities with his sister. It’s all very inspiring.

With a selection of the delightful Songs without Words and the Piano Trio No. 1, these siblings could really sink their teeth into some early Romantic German music. They seem lost in the sound, close knit in their syncopation. I guess they can read each other as well as the score.

Shaku has a habit of pursing his lips looking towards the heavens when playing, such is the intensity of his delivery. He exudes that big brother energy as if taken his brother and sister under his wing. Perhaps he is the standout because he is the oldest, but the three together really are magic. I’d kindly ask for more of the same yet with more experimental material!

Review Festival of Voice, Day 4, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff By Gary Pearce

Having checked the weekend line up my chosen day was the Sunday, Day 4 of what was the culmination of a fantastic weekend of music spanning all genres and beyond. The three acts I was most interested in were Sprints, Ghostpoet and Arab Strap, who appearing in that order were the last three acts of the festival.

First up Sprints, no not ‘The’ Sprints as I previously believed, just Sprints. But there was no ‘just’ about them! This young female fronted four-piece hailing from Dublin were a real treat. Combining a strong lead vocal, a thrashing guitar, consistent driving drum beat and a bass player that very obviously enjoyed using alternative bass playing techniques and was a joy to watch. They drew on elements from several music genres including indie, grunge. garage rock & punk which when combined came across as something familiar but at the same time something new. Their lyrics were edgy and relevant and the band made their political stance known via dialogue between songs. Being a person of a certain age and having listened to music all of my life I noticed elements of their style that I was able to pick out and attribute to other bands, intentional or not they were there. The most obvious for me being a guitar sound on two tracks that I had only previously associated with one band and firm favourite of an old punk like me, The Ruts. This guitar sound immediately transported me back to another time and place but then I was quickly returned to the present by their own unique sound. Loud, fast, hectic, meaningful, organised chaos!

After a short break, next up was the one-of-a-kind and truly incredible Ghostpoet. As he took to the stage the smoky, dim blue light, gave him a ghostly appearance now all we needed was the poetry! But this was no conventional poet, what walked onto the stage was an imposing leather clad figure of a rock god! Lyrical brilliance backed by a bass so heavy it pinned you to the floor, drumming so wild yet never out of time, some technical bluesy, rocky, thrashy guitar playing, rhythmic keyboards and howling synthesizer added to the melee of multi-layered sound. But what was the sound? I think it is easier to describe it in terms of art than music, it was a combination of surrealism, impressionism and modernism with a fair sprinkling of abstract and topped off with a helping avant-garde all culminating in a crazy, manic, crescendo of musical colour! Pure brilliance or poetic madness? You decide!

To round off the evening the last band took their place on the stage. or was it the road crew doing a final check? No it was definitely the band! A most unassuming foursome took their positions. Arab Strap, an indie rock band, hailing from Falkirk, Scotland, formed in 1995 and split in 2006. They had a brief reformation in 2011, then went their separate ways, only to reform again in 2016, then  in March 2021 released their new album, As Days Get Dark, their first in over 16 years. Led by frontman and story teller Aidan Moffat with his sandpaper like voice and dry humour, we were treated to songs about life, love, sex, truth & lies, all delivered with an openness and sincerity that made every word totally believable. Backing Aidan was a band that visually came across as loose and relaxed but musically they were far from it, they were as tight as you like, never missing that indie beat.

Okay, the first album in over 16 years, should you go out and buy it? Well I’m sure we’ve all experienced the dark times in music, times when voids appear with nothing of any substance to fill them, frustration sets in and there is a desperate yearning to batter our ear drums with something new. Well next time you find yourself scratching around blindly in some musically dark abyss with little hope of survival and that something new you crave is real, meaningful, honest, good old indie with a bit of a dance beat, Arab Strap could well be your saviour!

Review Festival of Voice, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff by Tracey Robinson

The Festival of Voice was established in 2016 and is held at the magnificent Wales Millennium Centre. Each festival uses cultural interests or current trends, bringing artists and audiences together over four days of thought-provoking performance, incredible live music and inspirational talks. I went to the festival on day 4 (the Sunday evening). There were a number of free public performances throughout the centre, including audio installations, panel discussions, pop-up dance routines, immersive 360 films and youth theatre productions, which sadly I didn’t get to experience.

However, I did get to see three incredible performances from Sprints, Ghostpoet and Arab Strap. I was surprised at the small crowd that were in attendance, given the buzzing, raucous, riotous, acts that were performing. This may have been due to covid anxieties or maybe the cost of £50.00 for a day ticket, instead of paying for individual shows, nonetheless, the turnout was very disappointing.

I’d never heard of Dublin based, Sprints, before tonight, I felt ashamed of myself, they are a riotous, post-punk, loud band, I felt excited, they were gutsy and off the cuff. They’re a band with a purpose, their music reflects the issues that affect us all on a day-to-day basis, coming from Ireland they certainly made a point of informing the crowd about the recent legalisation of abortion and same sex marriages, recent changes that have an enormous impact. Chugging, anthemic guitars and driven drums are matched by Karla’s snarling vocals. This is punk at its best, hectic, spontaneous and rambunctious. Festival of Voice was their first gig in Cardiff but definitely not their last, I’ll be seeing them again.

Up next was Ghostpoet, what can I say? He’s a cool guy, energetic, charismatic, a performer, he wore a glistening silver earring, sunglasses and a leather jacket, he looked like a swaggering rock star. With his husky whispers of lyrical content along with an energetic performance which saw him dance and get enthused, immersed into his music it was near impossible to steal your eyes away from the stage whilst watching him perform. Beguiling, mesmerising, the epitome of cool, Ghostpoet was near stunning, with a band to offset the lyrical content sometimes with layers of dub, drum n bass and psychedelia, the music had bass so deep it entered through my feet and into my body. Ghostpoet cuts a striking figure but it’s the power of his vocals that stay with you.

After a short break, Arab Strap were on, a Scottish, indie-folk, rock band, 15 years after calling it a day they’re back in Cardiff, for the first time since reforming. Why have I never seen these before? I’d heard of them but clearly wasn’t paying attention the first time around. I instantly fell in love with the deep, scottish growling tone of Aidan Moffat’s vocals, awfulising about his chaotic lifestyle, shagging, insecurities, booze, heartbreak and humour. He has the kind of looks and confidence of a guy you should be sat chatting to in the pub. They were loud, raucous and noisy, Malcolm Middleton guided melodies with some complex finger picking, he made guitar work look very easy. Their music is deeply immersive from beginning-to-end; like a good book, it’s almost impossible to put down once you’ve started. The poetic mix of darkness, melancholy, romance, and unflinching honesty.

This is one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a very long time, they’re a real force to be reckoned with, in a league of their own. I may not have been paying attention the first time around but I am now. Arab Strap I’m so glad you’ve reformed, please, please, please, come back to Cardiff.

Review, Immersive Gatsby, Immersive LDN, By Hannah Goslin

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Greeted at the door by a man with an excellent hospitable nature and his 1920’s attire on, in the heart of London, we enter into what feels like some form of speakeasy at the top of this lovely building, where the doors open and you are (nicely) bashed in the face with jazz music and dancing.

Immersive Gatsby is based upon the well known American Novel, The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald, which you likely know from recent film adaptations, or were subjected to at school. I admit, that I have a love/hate relationship with the novel, mainly with school ruining it. But as adaptions in film and theatre continue, I appreciate it more in older age.

The story is about old lovers who meet in later life. Both changed dramatically, their love is reignited but is doomed by circumstance, by gossip and cheating, by lies and love. And so we see them fall in love but also fight for one another, amongst the many love triangles.

The story of Gatsby is well known for the fact the character of Jay Gatsby throws lavish parties where anyone who is anyone will be. Full of booze, of colours, dancing and care free lifestyles, and this is what we initially get a taste of. The performers do quintessential moves from the 1920’s, in their beautiful and stylish outfits, encouraging us to dance, and at one point, putting us through a dance class. Certainly a good way to have a great night out and feel pleasantly out of your comfort zone.

The joy of Immersive theatre, especially in large venues, is that there are pockets of events happening in different rooms, in little groups, in corners of the room. Depending where you are placed, you may get to chat with Daisy about her love for Jay, or Muriel about her love affair. Not everyone gets to go in another room, or be spoken to and that’s what makes each experience different to the last. This is what makes you want to go again; to fill your FOMO needs.

However, with this, it can also feel a little frustrating. The placements of the rooms are almost in each corner and until you realise this, it’s entirely possible you won’t be lucky enough to be whisked away in the group. It’s impossible to be sure everyone out of potentially 150 people in a room has had their turn to see the new spaces. And so we unfortunately left with only seeing the main area and 1 extra room. I wouldn’t say we felt cheated but it certainly wetted our curiosity appetite and left us a little deflated with the knowledge there were scenes and rooms we never saw.

I was lucky enough to be taken away on my own with the character Muriel. My social awkwardness did not help here but it was really interesting to go into this quiet room and talk with the character as if we were old friends. A very special part of the evening indeed.

Knowing the story well, it confused me that character’s seemed to be doubling up and being put in parts of the story that they were not in the novel. It is clearly for logistical reasons, and they do well to keep in character and to continue the momentum, so we enjoy this as it is but it conflicts what we know about about the story and somehow undermines some of Fitzgerald’s intentions. Some characters also didn’t come across as they were intended in the novel and again, this is a juxtaposition on the initial story. I couldn’t help but be critical, thinking that that was not how a character was meant to be or how the story goes.

I cannot leave a review without mentioning Gatsby himself: there are moments of the above to help inform the transition of the space and the story but Oliver Towse is the right brooding, distant but hopelessly in love character that Gatsby should be… and clearly his attractive nature, in his well known pink 3 piece, makes us all swoon. As if we are in the room of a Rockstar.

Immersive Gatsby is for sure a brilliant night out; filled with dancing, elation, champagne and a 1920’s Eastenders style vibe with conflict. But for those who know the story well, the need to utilise the space unfortunately sees changes to the novel which makes a stickler a little anxious.

Review, Road to Ruin, Dan Jordan & The Warbirds, by Gareth Williams

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Dan Jordan and The Warbirds evade categorisation. They are poetry. They are music. They are outlaw country. They are moody blues. They are folk storytelling. They are heavy metal vocals. The only seminal thread that runs through their latest album, Road to Ruin, is main man Dan’s clear connection to the music of Bob Dylan. He may not readily admit to such an influence being a conscious thing, but it is apparent that his time spent with Dylan over the course of his first album has had a lasting effect. His vocal delivery may not be to everyone’s taste, but one should at least be able to appreciate the hard-felt poetry that emanates from it.

Opening track Slow Burn may get off to a slow start but its first few moments of silence create a real sense of anticipation. A whirring cymbal then comes spinning into existence before being knocked sideways by the hard keys of a piano. It introduces the heavy beat which symbolises much of the album’s dark veneer, Jordan’s own smoky Dylan-esque vocals then coming in to add further shade. There is a sultry otherworldliness to the piano and electric guitar which gives it a certain intrigue and stops it descending into a black hole. The various mixing of genres, from the Latinized Country of Rider to the Metalized Blues of Run, have a similar effect, the poetic nature of Jordan’s lyrics also contributing to this sense of fascination which surrounds much of the album.

Each track is greeted with surprise. Each offers something slightly different from the rest. Ain’t Got Nothin’ may have a classic Blues structure but Matts White and Taylor bring some wonderful organ and electric guitar respectively to give it an added dimension. The soft and delicate composition on Seven Deaths of You creates a beautifully light atmosphere which allows deeper access into Jordan’s poetry. There is a real slice of folk storytelling here, delivered rather nicely through a deep voice that contains the faint presence of delicacy and vulnerability. Sweet City Ruin manages to uncover this further in lines like “stumbling through the city like a spectre” and “all you want is for the world to know that you were here” even as they are hidden behind the up-tempo, western swing style music.

There is a mythical quality to Elena which could be said to draw on folk tradition. The track that follows, Nightingale,certainly seems to suggest a strong folk influence upon Jordan’s work. His always gritty and grave delivery never allows for the same cadences that one might find among the typical folk singer however, meaning the loss of emotionality to some degree. What is lost here though is made up for in another unexpected musical addition, this time the introduction of pop elements followed by a sudden flurry of different instruments that take the album in a completely different direction. It means that, even as Jordan’s vocal starts to feel staid, there is enough originality to keep you listening right to the end.

Final track This Land has No Name is definitely worth sticking around for. On its musical surface is a wild west evoking landscape, complete with tolling bell and front porch guitar. It is the country music of the outlaws, reclaiming their rural roots from the urbanisation of an earlier sound. Dig a little deeper into the lyrics, and you begin to see the parallels. Yet this song speaks not of a place across the pond but a land much closer to home. Those “structures… crooked… battered” are the stone houses dotted across the countryside. The “roofs made of tin” are the barns stood in fields “still breathing [though] barely alive”. The bar, “as dry as a bone” and “the shops, boarded up” represent the communities who have lost their amenities to the forces of globalisation and capitalism. It is a depiction of Wales that is keenly felt and of which Dan Jordan seems acutely aware, no doubt garnered from his own geographical movement across the nation’s map. It is a protest song, if you will, inspired, whether conscious or not, by folk pioneers such as Bob Dylan, with a contemporary resonance that ensures Road to Ruin finishes with a political bang.

To find out more about Dan Jordan & The Warbirds, click here. To listen to album on Spotify, click here.

Reviewed by
Gareth Williams

Review, The Song Project, Royal Court Theatre By Hannah Goslin

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

In the Jerwood upstairs, we are welcomed by smiling faces, finding our seats around the outside of a circular orchestra, filled with instruments and plant life.

The Song Project is what is says on the tin. A show created with feelings, thoughts, emotions and life circumstances and turned into song. While this feels a little like how songs are created in general, there is something new, interesting and unique about this performance.

The performers interact with us, with eye contact, welcoming us to the space, so while this is a performance, it certainly feels as if we are being welcomed by friends and into a less formal space.

There for sure is a feeling of something quite European about the type of music – reminding me of Sigur Ros, Little Talks, Bjork with its sense of sound scaping sounds and not following a usual song that one may find in the charts. With only 4 performers, they each chop and change instruments and places in the orchestra, showcasing their absolute talent.

Each song speaks to you. There are lyrics on depression, on fear, on the trails and tribulations of life, but all something that someone in the room could relate to. It’s serious at times, sometimes you just need to close your eyes and feel it in your soul and others it makes you laugh out loud.

Combined with well thought out lighting and set design, the movement of the performers around the space for sure makes this feel very professional and rehearsed but at times ad hoc and keeping us on our toes.

The Song Project could easily be described with one word: Inspirational. Coming away, I felt euphoric and sentimental as well as fully inspired to create my own work. The Song Project has something for everyone, and feels like a very intimate and extraordinary gig.