Category Archives: Music

My Top 5 Showcase: Welsh Country Music Artists

Here at Get the Chance, with opportunities to respond to live cultural events curtailed by the current crisis, it presents an opportunity to showcase talent instead. As country music is one of my greatest loves, here’s my shout-out to five Welsh artists who are worth checking out…

Rosey Cale

To many, Rosey may be more familiar as a musical theatre actress, having starred most notably in Theatr na Nog’s production ‘Eye of the Storm’. However, she is also a talented songwriter, having released a series of singles which have all been very well received. What marks her music out is the vulnerability and honesty in the lyrics, which are often surrounded with an infectious pop-inspired sound. Her ‘Sunday Covers’ on YouTube are well worth checking out, with this one being a particular favourite of mine:

Eleri Angharad

On her website, Eleri’s biography states that she ‘blends traditional country music storytelling with catchy pop melodies’. Listening to her debut album ‘Earthbound’ though, I would say that she has also been influenced (whether consciously or not) by the folk music of her homeland too. It is the eclectic nature of her sound which makes the Swansea-based artist stand out from the crowd. Her single ‘Smokey Steel Lights’ is a case-in-point:

Megan Lee

For someone so young, Megan Lee has achieved an awful lot. Despite still being in school, this Wrexham-based artist is somewhat of a veteran musician, having already released a number of records as part of her family band Blue Genes. Now branching out as a solo artist, this girl has a very bright future ahead of her. Inspired by the likes of Alison Krauss and Cam, this original song is evidence of her burgeoning talent:

Bryony Sier

A prolific guitar picker, an inspired songwriter, and a versatile musician, Bryony is fast drawing the attention of many in the music industry. I loved her early stuff, infused with old-school Cash-inspired gospel, but her recent pop-produced singles retain an acute lyrical honesty that still manages to hit the spot. Check out her latest single ‘Merry Go Round’ to see what I mean:

Shannon Hynes

This Flintshire-born singer-songwriter already has a prolific track record when it comes to UK Country Music #1s. Her talent was recognised most recently at the ‘UK Country Music Spotlight Awards‘ when her single ‘Off Guard’ was nominated for ‘Song of the Year’. Blending traditional and modern country sounds, she may no longer be based in Wales, but she is certainly flying the flag for Welsh country music talent.

Written by Gareth Williams

Top Tunes with Lorne Campbell, Artistic Director, National Theatre Wales.

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

I am the Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales, a role I have been in for all of three weeks. Before this I was AD of Northern Stage in Newcastle. I’m from Edinburgh, I started out in theatre as an actor but fairly soon figured out I was in the right room but standing in the wrong place and started directing. Throughout my career I’ve made a range of work from New-Writing, Classic text, devised and collaboratively written pieces and over the last couple of years a lot of work with music and video elements at the core. I am obsessed with liveness and the ability of actors to be utterly present in a moment, in making theatre that knows it is in the same room as its audience and cannot take place without their complicity and imagination. It is so exciting to be at the beginning of a journey in Wales, meeting new communities and makers from all walks of life, everything feels full of possibility. 

Firstly to start off what are you currently listening to? 

I am mostly listening to two Albums at the moment: ‘The Koln Concert‘ By Keith Jarrett, and ‘3.15.20’ By Childish Gambino. The Koln concert is one of my favourite records of all time and I always return to it in testing times and ‘3.15.20’ is just straight up remarkable, it takes not only bears but demands real concentrated listening to and I’m loving getting to know it. 

Can you list five records/albums which have a personal resonance to you and why? 
So hard to pick just 5 but here we go:


1: The Koln Concert –  Keith Jarrett.

It’s a totally magical transformative bit of music. The story of how the record was made is fundamental to the music itself. It is a live recording of a concert played on a totally unsuitable piano, the full story is here In short, the piano had virtually no bottom or top end meaning Jarrett had to play with huge force and rolling pattern of ostinatos to maintain the bass resonance and limit himself to the middle register of the instrument, in addition was in huge pain from a back injury so couldn’t sit. In these entirely unsuitable conditions he improvised one of the greatest jazz records ever recorded. It is a piece of pure creativity and beauty you can get totally lost in. 

2.Three Feet High and Rising – De La Soul

This was one of those mind blowing, what-is-this,-I’ve-never-heard-anything-like-this-what-else-can-I-hear-like-that-passing-of-a-many-time-copied-pirate-tape moments. Released in 1989 It is amazing how fresh it feels today, it’s a lyrical, passionate, agile and deeply humane album. It has that amazing quality that even after all these years it still surprises and delights you, there is nothing taken for granted in its construction, every choice in it is made, nothing is default.

3. If You Ever See Me Talking to a Sailor By Sting (Performed by Frances McNamee) The Last Ship.


Specifically this version captured this spring on the U.S. Tour of ‘The Last Ship’: Working on ‘The Last Ship’ as director and book writer has been the huge creative endeavour of my life over the last two years. I have never known any music as well as know this score and this track embodies the show. Frances is an unbelievable performer blending bottomless skill with idiosyncrasy and passion and she totally meets the challenge of this incredible song from Sting. In his composition, influence, harmonics and phrasing Sting’s music asks so much of its performers, it is really remarkable to make it feel this effortless.


4: Midnight Train to Georgia By Gladys Night and The Pips

I’m a huge Soul and Funk fan, it is impossible to pick only one album artist or track but if I must, it’d have to be this one. It is that faultless four minute song that seems so simple, clear and direct yet bears a thousand hearings. Perfect. 

5. The Goldberg Variations By Bach

There is a deep and mysterious magic in this music. I listen to it when I need to do something very hard. It does something remarkable to your mind, a sort of stilling, focussing and opening that permits a special sort of concentration. You can sit and purely listen to it or you can listen to it and think at the same time. It’s magic, I don’t even begin to understand it, but I know it works. There are of course many amazing recordings, Gould, Turuck, Schiff but the one I return to the most is Kimiko Ishizaka’s  It is very pure, very clear, it seems to me to have almost no ego in its playing.

 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? 

What a spot to be on. I think it would have to be the Bach as it is the one that I would miss most deeply if I couldn’t hear it.

An Interview with Wales based Dance Artist Becky Johnson

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

Hi, thank you for meeting with me. Well, I’m currently a freelance dancer/ choreographer/ teacher based in Cardiff. I’m originally from Huddersfield (Yorkshire) and moved to Cardiff to train in Contemporary Dance at USW. I graduated in June 2019 but have stayed in Cardiff since. Since then, I have really found myself invested in the arts scene here in Wales. 

 So, what got you interested in the arts?

I’d like to say I’ve always been creative but that would be a lie. I started dancing quite young at my local dance school and loved the competitions and team dances that we’d do together. It wasn’t until I was much older and was exposed to more of the arts scene, that I started to see the beauty within the arts sector and understand how collaborative it can be.

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

My creation process with making dance varies. I take great influence from the things around me. Being that, things that inspire and intrigue me or something I want to understand further. Either that or I use my personal experiences of my interactions with the world; things that I believe should be highlighted to others or need to be understood more widely.

You were recently involved in curating, House of Rhythm presents… A night of Hip Hop which took place at Kongs Cardiff on Thursday, March 5, 2020. The event is described as “A celebration and discovery of all that is Hip hop and is in partnership with Kellys Records and Grassroots Cardiff” How did you get into Hip Hop and Streetdance. How supported is the scene in Cardiff?

One of the dance schools I was involved with as a teenager, “Fidget Feet”, prioritised teaching the true foundations and principles of HipHop. This touched upon all five pillars of Hip-Hop as well as the various styles of dance within Street Dance culture.

That, alongside growing up with two brothers who thought they were destined to be the next Notorious B.I.G, meant I was immersed within the culture and that it’s been a pivotal part of my upbringing and even in my attitude and approach to movement (and life in general) now.

This series of events is an opportunity to provide a gateway into HipHop culture and not just the music form. I feel this sense of community within HipHop, especially in Cardiff, is lacking and hence why we have decided to partner with Grassroots.

By doing so, we are working with up and coming artists and providing them with opportunities to meet people they wouldn’t otherwise. Also, with the inclusion of workshops within different pillars of HipHop, we are combining the culture as a whole and not just focussing on one part.

There are a range of organisations supporting Welsh and Wales based dancers, I wonder if you feel the current support network and career opportunities feel ‘healthy’ to you? Is it possible to sustain a career as a dance artist in Wales and if not what would help?

I’ve been extremely fortunate in the fact that as soon as I graduated, I found work that was within my field of practise. This has kept me financially stable and allowed me time to fulfil my own projects outside of my teaching work. I believe Cardiff and Wales has an extremely supportive network of artists, all willing to share their own knowledge and craft. Throughout my degree, I worked extremely hard to network and to meet the right people with the suiting opportunities to help me develop within my career. If it wasn’t for me outsourcing my own network of people (from all fields of the arts sector), I would’ve struggled to get to the place I am now, never mind the place I want to be by the end of the year.

I do feel there is an absence of ongoing opportunities, especially for recent graduates that are new to the sector. However, if we are willing to make our own work and source our own opportunities, making our own projects, yes, there is work but we must be prepared to pave this path for ourselves. This isn’t disregarding help and assistance from other creatives/ professionals, but the help is more to kickstart our own ideas rather than to flourish with other people’s.

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

Wow, tricky question. I’d probably have to say spacing. Providing space for artists to develop their own practise and ideas, whether that be, musicians, dancers or visual artists. As not only is there a lack of creative and accessible space in Wales, there’s a huge lacking of funded space. If there were more funded residencies around Wales, we would see a lot more new work being developed and a much more diverse community engagement from artists in the area.

 What excites you about the arts in Wales?

I feel like this is such an exciting time for collaboration within Wales. There are more opportunities coming to bridge the divide, whether that between artistic practises or between bodies of dancers. There are some exciting opportunities in the works for disabled dancers which I can’t wait to be involved in as well as new pools of artists moving to Wales from areas such as London bringing new skills and assets.

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

Well there’s nothing like a little bit of shameless self promo but this is honest and genuine. It would be The House of Rhythm event which we had on the 5th March. There were people from lots of different communities and backgrounds all coming together to support the artists performing. We had people involved in the workshops that would never normally be in those sorts of social experiences. I also had talks with participants on how we can make our events more autism friendly and accessible for those suffering with social anxiety etc. It was this coming together of people which was really beautiful to witness as all of the participants were supportive of each other, regardless of background and experience.

Thanks for your time

Thank you very much for getting in touch!

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.