Blog posts by year and month November 2011

Posts (103)

  1. On this tour, four of us were staying together - me, Gwenllian Haf Richards (violin), Eilidh Gillespie (flute) and Amy McKean (oboe). On Thursday morning, our first challenge was to get everything into the car. Four suitcases, assorted instruments, two large food bags, Amy's knitting, a biscuit box, a lasagne and an apple crumble are not the easiest of items to fit into a Ford Fiesta. The first venue was Aberystwyth Arts Centre. Rehearsal was going swimmingly, then the lights failed. It's a nuisance trying to play in bad lighting (I promise we aren't just being divas). Rehearsal continued with the centre's staff trying to find a solution and the orchestra looking a little like it was part of a sound and lights show. I particularly liked the green light that the second violins were briefly bathed in. When we broke for dinner, the lighting staff valiantly persevered and by the time we were seated for the A, the stage was more or less back to the anticipated lighting norm. I was very much enjoying the concert until a giant fly, buzzing around the front of the hall, attacked our desk. It flew right at my desk partner Pete; I momentarily thought he was having a minor fit! It was lovely to arrive at our little Llandudno cottage, Tŷ Fry. We've stayed there a number of times and the landlord Mark had left the lights and heating on for us. Next day, the journey to Bangor was straightforward. Arlene, our second trombone, is not with us this tour, but still made us an itinerary of when we were supposed to leave, journey lengths and times, venue contact numbers, etcetera. 'Side by side' violins Additional elements of this tour were 'side-by-side' projects with local students. In Bangor, under- and post-graduate students had the opportunity to rehearse with the orchestra. I wasn't involved in Bangor, so called my mum to have a natter. I like Bangor, but the orchestra tends to be quite spread out (due to the shape of the stage). It's a concerted effort to keep things together. If you rely on what you're hearing, the music ends up horribly untidy. The concert went well though and I think the Mathais benefited from being performed in a larger space than our studio. To me, it seemed to make more sense than it had done in rehearsal. With that, there was only Wrexham left. We worked with students from the Wrexham Youth Orchestra, before finishing our own rehearsal. It was very warm on stage and as I wasn't involved in the Oboe Concerto, it was very nice to nip outside for some fresh air! Concert done and we started the long drive home. Our favourite car game of the tour was pronouncing Welsh place names (Amy and I, with our rather strong Scottish and Irish accents, struggle with this). We also spent a lot of time singing along to Steps - The Ultimate Collection and to the Wicked! Soundtrack. A very enjoyable North Wales Tour!

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  2. So much is documented about the heroics and bravery of the French resistance under the shadow of Hitler, yet Britain had its own ranks of secret passionate fighters during World War Two. This hidden home defence force forms the subject of an upcoming film adaptation of the novel Resistance, by...

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  3. In the days of early cinema, silent films were usually accompanied by live music acts, to bring a bit of drama into the auditorium and help with those vital emotional clues perhaps not made obvious by the showreel. Often picture houses had their own pianist, with some even employing organists...

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  4. One of the buzz bands of the last few years at Cardiff's Sŵn Festival have been local boys Right Hand Left Hand. They only perform a handful of shows, full of their distinctive brand of looped guitar and fierce drumming. There's a début album Power Grab available through Bandcamp, and it's interesting to see them make the jump to recorded project. I caught up with the band to find out a bit more - here's what happened: Right Hand Left Hand Hi RHLH! Who's in the band and how long have you been playing together? We are Andrew Plain and Rhodri Viney. We've been playing in bands together since 2004 but we decided to ditch other people and employ a loop station and formed Right Hand Left Hand back in late 2006. The loop station does what we tell it to do and, apart from some funny mood swings from time to time, it rarely argues back and doesn't have a drink problem. What's the reason you got together? We formed Right Hand Left Hand while on tour in Europe with another band of ours. We'd just finished a show in the Vera in Groningen and were drinking in the little club downstairs when we discussed the idea of doing something on our own. Slow Response by Trans Am was playing in the background so we decided to cover that song first. We ended up sharing a flat when we got back and one night we were watching a great Robert Mitchum movie called Night Of The Hunter. There's a scene where he tells the story of 'right hand, left hand' or, in other words, the battle between love and hate which he has tattooed on his knuckles. We'd recommend it, it's a great film. We decided that it was a cool band name for a two-piece so Rhodri went and booked us a gig. It wasn't until 10 days before that gig we realised we hadn't played a single note or used the loop station so we got to work and wrote five songs in a week and covered the Trans Am tune. I'd recommend that approach to anyone. Having a deadline really got us to do something rather than just talk about how great it would be. We were probably a bit crap but we enjoyed it. What's been your career highlight so far? We've been very fortunate to have supported some really great and diverse bands in the last few years but one of our highlights was supporting Super Furry Animals. Getting the opportunity to record our album was also a big deal. Which have been your best and worst gigs to date? Too many favourites to mention and I don't think there's been a worst gig as such. The weirdest was when we supported Funeral For A Friend in the Pavilion in Tenby. It was great to be asked to do it but the venue was weird and the crowd didn't really get it. One kid asked us afterwards if we had a bass player who hid backstage. Saying that, we left a bunch of free demo CDs out on the merch stall and they all went. Hopefully the the kids listened to it before they used it as coaster for their bottles of black hair dye. You mostly write instrumentals. Are there any with lyrics on the album, and is there any reason for avoiding words? Power Grab has a few songs with vocals on it but we tend to treat vocals as another instrument as opposed to a main vocal over the top. It's not something we try to avoid - if we feel it needs vocals then we'll do it. For those willing to look a little deeper, some of our song titles have useful/useless bits of information without needing vocals. You played a blinding set at Sŵn. Where's usually good to play and what's your favourite Welsh venue? Thank you, we had yet another great time at Sŵn but it was a bit weird playing in the afternoon. We had to play our daytime, pre-watershed set! There are so many venues in Cardiff these days and I think the whole gig playing circuit is very healthy. What we do is a very visual thing so we feel comfortable in smaller venues where the crowd can get up close and see the looping in action. Downstairs in Clwb Ifor Bach is still one of the best and I've really enjoyed watching gigs in Undertone lately but Right Hand Left Hand are yet to play there. Have you got any tales of crazy misfortune while on the road? Unlike our previous bands, there's no real tales of misfortune with Right Hand Left Hand. Maybe it's because there's only us two idiots to look after. The loop station going down in a show would be a massive dose of misfortune for all concerned if that happens. 2011 is closing on a busy high for you, but what about next year? And what are your plans following the album release? We've got a few shows before this year is out and we plan to release the songs that didn't make it onto Power Grab along with some remixes which some very lovely friends of ours have done. These include a remix by Guto Pryce from Super Furry Animals and Underpass. It'll all be on Bandcamp before Christmas and we might set it as a freebie or perhaps set it up so that people pay what they feel they want to pay for it. If there are any proceeds then we'll take the people who were kind enough to remix a track out for beers. We'll keep gigging in 2012 but we also intend to record another album in February. It's almost written so we're really excited. We'll be working with the amazing Charlie Francis again and be doing it at the legendary Musicbox Studios. Where can people find you online? We are available on Facebook as well as Myspace. We are RHLHmusic on Twitter but most importantly you can listen and buy our album Power Grab from Bandcamp. Shameless plug! What are the next few gigs coming up? We're playing with our friends Poket Trez in Dempseys on 18 November and supporting Truckers Of Husk upstairs in Clwb Ifor Bach on 26 November for their album launch. We'll be doing a headline show somewhere too but we're yet to sort that. Getting out further afield is also on the cards for early 2012 but nothing has been finalised just yet. Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login. Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

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  5. After one of the mildest October's on record and November is going the same way. Yesterday the temperature at the Botanic Gardens, Bangor University rose to a balmy 18.2 Celsius, 64 Fahrenheit. Not quite a record but the highest temperature they have recorded in November for 25 years! RA...

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  6. As Anti Bullying Week gets going, one of Wales' biggest stars has confronted an online tormentor. Katherine Jenkins Katherine Jenkins has revealed that she has been the victim of bullying by someone on Twitter for a year, and after the protagonist had a question read out to her on TV ...

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  7. Visitors to the seaside town of Barry, six or seven miles to the west of Cardiff, might be forgiven for thinking that the place held nothing more important than a pleasure beach, a fun fair and a few empty docks that seem to have little or no purpose. Yet there was a time when Barry was the largest coal exporting port in Britain, possibly even the world. That may have been a long time ago and the town's days of glory may be gone, but what a glory they were. Barry Docks (from the Eric Williams collection) The development of Barry as a port was down to two things - the rapid growth of the south Wales coal trade and the dynamic personality and business acumen of David Davies, the first Welsh millionaire. The area around Barry has been occupied since earliest times, Mesolithic flints having been found at Friars Point on Barry Island and the remains of an Iron Age fort having been uncovered on the promontory at Porthkerry. The Romans knew the area well, one of their retired soldiers building a villa at nearby Llandough. The raiding Norsemen named the two islands out in the estuary - Steep Holm and Flat Holm - while the Normans (themselves of Viking origin) came to settle and stay, erecting a castle at Barry itself. The town - if it can justify such a title - was badly hit by the Black Death in the 14th century and, while the place continued to function as a small port and trading centre, as late as 1871 the population was no greater than 100. Barry Island, just off the coast, was popular with locals and visitors alike who would make their way out to the island by boat or, at low tide, via a series of stepping stones. And that was it - until the coal trade arrived. By the second half of the 19th century Cardiff, the main coal exporting port in Wales, had become something of a bottleneck. The docks, created by the Marquis of Bute, were large enough to cater for his own exports but other coal owners found themselves having to wait - as well as pay - not only to use the docks but also to ship their raw product down the valley. The Taff Vale Railway, the main means of shipping coal down to Cardiff, became a single line track after Pontypridd and, because of the shape of the valley, there was no possibility of extending or developing the line. Many mine owners found themselves seriously hampered by what was, in effect, a monopoly in favour of the Bute concerns. In 1883 a group of these mine owners, headed up by the enormously wealthy and dynamic David Davies, owner of the Ocean Collieries, formed themselves into a cabal or group and sought permission to build a dock at Barry, serviced by a new railway. The Taff Vale promptly opposed the bill and the proposal was dropped but Davies was nothing if not persistent. The following year the group was successful in gaining parliamentary permission for their enterprise. Work began on the new dock at Barry on 14 November 1884, along with the construction of the new railway link. Everything was completed in double quick time and the dock opened for trade in 1889. In due course, further docks were added and while exports in the first year were just one million tons, by 1903 they had multiplied to over nine million. By 1913, the year before the outbreak of World War One, Barry had surpassed both Cardiff and Penarth to become the largest coal exporting port in the country. The docks themselves were surrounded by dozens of business enterprises, everything from repair yards and cold storage facilities to flour mills and shipping agents. Even in the 1920s, as a world-wide depression began to bite into the Welsh coal trade, there were still over 50 independent companies trading out of the docks area. The town of Barry developed along with the docks. And, after 1884, with Barry Island connected to the mainland by a causeway, Barry became a unique combination of industrial centre and tourist destination. From the 1890s P and A Campbell ran their White Funnel paddlers from a pier in the docks and, realising the value of such an enterprise, the Barry Railway Company soon decided to run their own cruise ships from the area. From the Eric Williams collection Of course, it did not last. The inevitable collapse of the Welsh coal trade after the war left Barry and its docks stranded, without purpose or plan. The port struggled on, the arrival of the Geest Company in 1959, importing bananas from the West Indies, gave some degree of job security but when they moved out in the 1980s Barry, as a port, went into terminal decline. Gavin and Stacey was filmed in Barry These days the old waterfront has been revamped and redeveloped, like so many other dockland areas. Parts of the old docks have been used in the filming of TV shows like Doctor Who and Torchwood and, of course, the television series Gavin and Stacey was both set and, in no small degree, filmed there. Barry Island struggles on - the old Butlins Holiday Camp, centre of so much entertainment on the island, closed at the end of the 20th century but the funfair and beach remain. Barry has a glorious history, of which its people should be proud. It faces severe challenges in the years ahead but, with fortitude and the occasional backward glance, it should be able to pull through. It is no more than the town deserves.

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  8. West End veteran Michael Pennington will bring his one-man show Anton Chekhov to Pontio in Bangor next weekend, making it the sole Welsh venue to host the production. Michael Pennington. Image courtesy of Pontio Pennington has toured theatres worldwide with his production since it premiè...

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  9. I'm sitting here slightly shelf-shocked. The new series of the Radio Wales book programme starts on Sunday... towards the end of probably the most dramatic year in the book world for three quarters of a century. Not particularly dramatic in what we're reading - most of the year's bestselle...

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  10. Eyewitness accounts from those who lived through World War Two can provide valuable historical documents for subsequent generations. Welsh Airman David Arthur Harries, from Llandybie, Carmarthenshire, tells how he survived a Japanese prisoner of war camp in Indonesia. In spite of witnessing i...

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