Blog posts by year and month December 2011

Posts (77)

  1. This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. I'm of the opinion that 2011 was a Very Good Year for Welsh music. OK, I'm not aware of any Welsh bands who clawed their way to the top of increasingly irrelevant sales charts. I'm only vaguely aware of a few bands whose music got clutched to the hearts of an international audience: The Joy Formidable, Gruff Rhys... erm... I believe Kids In Glass Houses, Funeral For A Friend and The Blackout had excellent years, too. But sales aren't my domain. Feel free to make an argument that they should be below, however I can't see it being persuasive. I lost faith in the UK public's ability to value real talent over anodyne, herd-fed, manipulative karaoke bilge somewhere in the middle of X Factor's third series. It's an easy target, I know; but for those of us who cherish creativity it's a planet-sized target in good need of a visit from the Death Star. Every Saturday evening my daughter sits there, hypnotised by Cowell's spinning reels, and gets conned about what is / isn't incredible, what is / isn't talent, what does / doesn't constitute the remarkable. Yes, I've laughed at it, got drawn in to the soap opera of the whole thing, spat takeaway curry all over my TV reading @Martin_Carr's tweeted commentary. But it's getting beyond a joke now, innit? It's a joke that turned into a plague - and the wooden cart is passing outside the daubed doors of the truly talented. But I'm not a snob. I don't want the music I love the most to be secreted off in its own a-commercial cloister. I'd throw garish street parties were Bastions, Knickers, Future Of The Left, Tiny Skitz or H. Hawkline to reach the top of a chart, even if it were a chart of my own devising. Any excuse for a party! I suppose, in some respects, my Christmas Day show is a chart of my own devising. Fifry-five pieces of Welsh music that filled my knackered old sails with a fulsome wind, blowing me to thrilling, hitherto unexplored territories. Not all of my favourite pieces of 2011, though; not when there wasn't room for the explorative, long-form excellence of Blatnova or much of what appeared on the Under The Spires label. So, 2011 brought me Sex Hands, Joanna Gruesome, Chloe Leavers, Hotel Shampoo, Ifan Dafydd and a few dozen others, tightly packed into this 3 hour celebration of Welsh creativity, vision and imagination. With the demise of Radio 1's dedicated Welsh Introducing show, the death of S4C's Bandit, and budgets everywhere shrinking to accommodate bankers' mistakes, the opportunities to showcase and encourage the most sonically talented of our populace are diminishing. Those people who graft our livelihoods onto racks that shrink and expand according to minute variations in the stock markets should be aware of the contribution creativity can make to a struggling economy. Especially in times like these. Plus - unless you're in an extreme situation - a song as beautiful as, say, Sam Airey's The Blackout will be a shoulder to cry on when the darkest clouds gather; or something as rollicking and defiant as The Bright Young People's Devil's Pinch will chase those damned clouds away. Or set them on fire. Music is therapy; cathedral and market all-in-one. It's the heartbeat of every nation and we should do whatever we can to look after that heart. It's more than a few snotty kids making a racket - but, all the same, god bless those snotty kids, one and all. Let the street party begin, then. Who's got the cupcakes? Many thanks / diolch o galon, Adam Walton IRMA VEP - 'What's That In Your Mouth?' Llanfairfechan JOY FORMIDABLE, THE - 'Cradle' Mold GRUFF RHYS - 'Sensations In The Dark' Bethesda METABEATS - 'The Snap Featuring Mudmowth, Rtkal & Ruffstylz ( Radio Edit )' Cardiff SKINDRED - 'Warning' Newport WIBIDI - 'Some People' Cardiff LLWYBR LLAETHOG - 'Bodlondeb Ty Cnau ( Featuring David R. Edwards )' Blaenau Ffestiniog / Cardiff KORELESS - 'Up Down Up Down' Bangor LA DECADANSE FEATURING GWENNO - 'Pretty Pretty' Brighton / Cardiff KNICKERS - 'My Baby's Just A Baby ( But I Love Him So )' London / Cardiff Distribution Y NIWL - 'Chwech' Gwynedd KEYS, THE - 'I Tried To Find It In Books' Resolven / Cardiff WHITE NOISE SOUND - 'Sunset' Swansea GALLOPS - 'Joust' Wrexham SCIENCE BASTARD - 'Trevor' Newport LOVELY EGGS, THE - 'New Allergies' Lancaster GENTLE GOOD, THE - 'Llosgi Pontydd' Cardiff LLEUWEN - 'Cawell Fach Y Galon' Bangor TINY SKITZ - 'Grime Is The One' Newport YR ODS - 'Troi A Throsi' Gwynedd JONNY - 'Waiting Around For You' Pembrokeshire EUROS CHILDS - 'Something On My Mind' Pembrokeshire BASTIONS - 'Visitant' Anglesey STRANGE NEWS FROM ANOTHER STAR - 'I Am Weatherproof ( Album Version )' Cardiff JAY ROBINSON - 'Get Mad Now' Colwyn Bay GOLDEN FABLE - 'The Chill Pt. 2' Ewloe LITTLE ARROW - 'Boat' Cardiff SWEET BABOO - 'The Day I Lost My Voice' Bangor / Cardiff IFAN DAFYDD - 'No Good ( 12" Version )' Llanrug SHY AND THE FIGHT - 'All That We See Or Seem' Chester / Llangollen LOS CAMPESINOS - 'Songs About Your Girlfriend' Cardiff HOUDINI DAX - 'Robin You Lie' Cardiff H. HAWKLINE - 'You Say You Love Me' Cardiff MC MABON - 'Health And Safety' Caernarfon AKIRA THE DON - 'Babydoll' Anglesey BWGAN, Y - 'Dali Lawr' Porthmadog / Caernarfon PULCO - 'Whistle Frog ( E.p. Version )' Bangor FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Polymers Are Forever' Cardiff SATURDAY'S KIDS - 'Whisper In My Ear' Cardiff TRUCKERS OF HUSK - 'Dear Malcolm Sullivan I Hope You're Alive?' Cardiff VVOLVES - 'Clearer ( E P Version )' Monmouth / Cardiff SEX HANDS - 'Way No Way' Dwygfylchi / Llanfairfechan / Conwy JOANNA GRUESOME - 'Sugarcrush' Cardiff LOOSE CAPACITOR - 'Frankensynth' Ruthin TRWBADOR - 'Sun In The Winter' Camarthen / Cardiff HUW M - 'Ysgafelloedd Gwag' Pontypridd CHLOE LEAVERS - 'Don't Leave Your Joy' Colwyn Bay COLORAMA - 'Lisa Lan' Benllech COWBOIS RHOS BOTWNNOG - 'Celwydd Golau Ydi Cariad' Llyn Peninsula BRIGHT YOUNG PEOPLE, THE - 'Devil's Pinch' Rhyl STRUCK A NERVE - 'Can't Lose Out' Cardiff SAM AIREY - 'The Blackout ( Radio Edit )' Anglesey XXXY - 'Ordinary Things' Swansea DAU CEFN - 'Cariad' Caernarfon / Cardiff LOWLAND HUNDRED, THE - 'The Hushing' Aberystwyth

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  2. Well I'm home from Ukraine and straight into my home studio. How on earth is it colder here than in Kiev? I'm re-mixing a track for the band and good friends Fear Factory. They are releasing a new album next year and are using this remix as a bonus track. They're great guys and an amazing band; ...

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  3. Award-winning poet and playwright Menna Elfyn and artist and writer Iwan Bala have teamed up for a thought-provoking new exhibition at the Oriel Myrddin Gallery in Carmarthen. Image courtesy of Iwan Bala. Photograph by Toril Brancher This creative dialogue is the product of conversations and ideas the two have shared during their time as colleagues at Trinity College, Carmarthen, where Menna is director of the master's programme in creative writing and Iwan is a senior lecturer in creative arts and humanities. Fieldnotes uses a collaboration of Iwan's paintings and Menna's poems to explore notions of memory, interpretation and errors in translation and also links this to Welsh cultural heritage and the shared knowledge of communities. It draws on the concept of notes made by any researcher as they investigate a topic. It is something Bala feels is intrinsically linked to his own artwork, which has always been about his lived experience and ideas drawn from his reading - in effect a product of his own field notes. His fascination with combining words and images, such as in maps and diagrams, acts as a springboard for much of the thinking behind the exhibition. "The meanings they contain are in constant flux," he says. "Despite their implied certainty - there is often a subtext, an error in translation, gaps, omissions, terra incognita, which is open to interpretation." For Elfyn, this gap, especially between the two languages of Wales, is fascinating because it allows people to interpret and read the same thing so differently. She says: "If you look at a diamond, it will gleam in so many different ways and it's the same with language - so much can be lost in translation." Image courtesy of Iwan Bala. Photograph by Toril Brancher The artists both relate this to Wales where many of the names of places - towns, villages, farms and houses - have been translated or lost by renaming. Elfyn says it is more than a place name that is lost, but the common shared knowledge of a people. "In the exhibition Iwan has a photograph with different names of farms and it's a very plain-looking list but opposite I have printed a list of nicknames given to miners that I heard growing up in Pontardawe. "They are nicknames that come from a local understanding and the brotherhood that exists in a rural place, but may not be carried on through the generations. "Much of our work in this exhibition is about mapping and remembering and an aura of place. "If you take the word snowdrop for example, in Welsh there are five different names for it, all of which are linked to images - one literally means 'brooch in snow' and another 'child's bell'. "I think it's up to each artist to rediscover these old names and give them prominence so they are not lost forever. It's important to get them down on paper." This merging of the historic and current is something Menna is very conscious of in her own work, with her modern Welsh poetry often supplemented by older words, which she hopes to "wash anew" in a new light for her readers. Both artists were determined the exhibition would evolve organically rather than with Menna writing in response to Iwan's art and vice versa, although it does include one picture of his of a map of Wales and Menna's poem about a map of Wales as well as a work Iwan has created in response to her poem Size of Wales, about a piece of ice the size of the country, breaking off. Image courtesy of Iwan Bala. Photograph by Toril Brancher Menna adds: "Writing is all about field-work and the act of digging deep to unearth mysteries. We know too well that we are only passing through as we sub-consciously make our personal field-notes. "Two artists seeing 'something down there to smile at in the dust' share the fascination of lifting and sifting through the cae hir (long field)." Fieldnotes will be opened by Professor M Wynn Thomas, Emyr Humphreys Chair of Welsh Writing in English, Swansea University on Friday 6 January at 6pm. Just before the official opening Iwan Bala and Menna Elfyn will be in conversation with visitors to the exhibition. The show runs from 7 January to 18 February. For more details visit www.orielmyrddingallery.co.uk.

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  4. We're all very excited at BBC Wales History as we look forward to a new year, and a stunning new series from BBC Cymru Wales - The Story of Wales. Telling the story of the nation from 30,000 years ago, the six-part series is presented by the incomparable Huw Edwards, who has overseen...

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  5. Nicola Heywood Thomas presents a round up of 2011's cultural and entertainment highlights in the Welsh Arts Review of the Year on BBC Two Wales this Boxing Day. Nicola Heywood Thomas Nicola, the presenter of the weekly Radio Wales Arts Show on BBC Radio Wales, will take a look back at...

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  6. Today is the winter solstice and the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. It also marks the first day of winter from an astronomical point of view with the sun directly overhead the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere at 05.30 GMT this morning. During the winter solstice, the sun is closer to the horizon than at any other time in the year. A lot of people think the winter solstice is always on December 21 and it often is, but the date does vary. It can occur as early as December 20 and also on December 23 but this is rare. The last December 23 solstice occurred in 1903 and will not occur again until 2303. The next December 20 solstice will be in 2080. The date of the summer solstice in June and the winter solstice in December varies mainly because of our modern calendar which does not correspond exactly to the solar year. The Gregorian calendar consists of 365 days and 366 days in a leap year but the length of time the Earth takes to orbit around the sun is about 365.24 days. In Antarctica, the penguins may be enjoying the midnight but spare a thought for the polar bears at the North Pole. They won't see the sun for another three months. For us in Wales, the days will slowly get longer until June 20 2012, the summer solstice. Many people celebrate the winter solstice and in Druidic tradition there is festival called "Alban Arthan", Welsh for "Light of Winter. Today maybe the winter solstice but the weather doesn't seem to know it. In fact it feels more like early spring with temperatures a mild 11 to 13 Celsius but there is a change on the way. Tomorrow an active cold front will bring a spell of heavy rain followed by brighter weather, a few showers plus a drop in temperature. Tomorrow night will be much colder than tonight with some ground frost but over Christmas we're still on course for it to turn milder again but windy too. This is my last blog for 2011 but you can keep up to date with the latest weather news by following me on Twitter. Nadolig Llawen! Derek

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  7. Christmas has always been a time for families, for gathering together around the fire and enjoying the warmth of human contact. In the halls and round houses of the Celts, in the castles and grand houses of the invading Normans, in the burgeoning villages and towns with their wattle and daub buildings, the Christmas season was always well kept in Wales. Yet the season has also been a time for great events, momentous happenings, and it needs only a cursory glance to realise that the Welsh did not just retire to their hearths for the Twelve Days of Christmas, warming their hands and toes before their roaring log fires. They also found time to get out and achieve! The first eisteddfod The very first eisteddfod, for example, was held over the Christmas period of 1176. Poets, story tellers and musicians came together for several days over the season to compete for two chairs, one for poetry, the other for music. The eisteddfod was held at Cardigan Castle and was organised by Rhys ap Gruffydd, the Lord Rhys as he was known. Even though the term "eisteddfod" was not used when describing this first event, bardic tournaments had been established and continue until this very day - even though they are now held during the summer months rather than over Christmas. The Christmas truce The famous unofficial truce that took place on Christmas Day 1914, with World War One raging across Europe, involved many Welsh soldiers. One of the regiments in the front line on this auspicious and amazing day was the Royal Welch Fusiliers. The story of the truce has been told many times but none is better or more graphic than the account produced by a private in the regiment, Frank Richards. With the help of poet Robert Graves he wrote a book, Old Soldiers Never Die, and one chapter concerns the Christmas truce. Richards was there, at the front, when the unofficial cease fire began: "On Christmas morning we stuck up a board with 'A Merry Christmas' on it. The enemy had stuck up a similar one... Two of our men threw their equipment off and jumped on the parapet with their hands above their heads. Two of the Germans done [sic] the same and commenced to walk up the river bank, our two men going to meet them. They met and shook hands and then we all got out of the trench." Soldiers from both sides spent the day in each others company, out in No Man's Land. Nobody fired or shot at the other side and Frank Richards even recalled that the Germans sent their Welsh enemies two barrels of beer. It was, he recalled, weak and watery, unlike good Welsh ale. The unofficial truce, which lasted until midnight, was observed along almost the whole of the front line and while senior officers were horrified, Welsh soldiers like Frank Richards were happy to put aside their weapons for the day and to mix with other young men, just like themselves, who were fighting for their country. Christmas Evans Several notable Welsh births took place, either on Christmas Day or during the Christmas season. The famous Non-conformist preacher Christmas Evans was born on Christmas Day in 1766 in a village close to Llandysul in Ceredigion. He was the son of a poor shoemaker and grew up illiterate and more than a little savage: he lost an eye in a vicious brawl while still a young man. Salvation came in the shape of Presbyterian minister David Davies who taught him to read and write in both English and Welsh. The young Christmas became a Baptist minister, his reputation quickly spreading across the whole of Wales. He had amazing insight and imagination and so powerful were the sermons he gave during his preaching tours that he was labelled "the Welsh John Bunyan". The Gentle Giant The footballer John Charles was born on the day after Boxing Day 1931. Nicknamed the Gentle Giant, he was never sent off during a professional career that saw him play for clubs such as Leeds, Cardiff and Juventus. Former Cardiff City captain Don Murray played with Charles and has always regarded him as the greatest player he has ever seen: "He played for Wales on 38 occasions, and took them to the quarter finals of the World Cup. He could play at centre forward or at centre back - at international level. That's a rare and very real ability. I went out to Italy with him, long after he'd left Juventus, and people still remembered him with love and affection. He was simply a great player." Other notable Welsh births during the Christmas season include actor Anthony Hopkins on New Years Eve 1937 and singer Aled Jones on 29 December 1970. Nos Galan Races The Nos Galan Races are now held every New Year's Eve in and around Mountain Ash. The very first races were held on 31 December 1958, the aim being to celebrate the life and career of legendary Welsh runner Guto Nyth Bran. Legend declares that Guto was so fast that he could catch a bird in flight and that he once ran from his home to Pontypridd, a distance of over seven miles, before the kettle boiled! These days there are races over various distances, the Nos Galan Beacon being lit to signal the start of the various events. The record for the four mile race was set by Tony Simmons in 1971 and, at 17 minutes 41 seconds, it is a time that still stands. The record for the 100 yards sprint is also a long-standing one, being set by Nigel Walker in 1988. Part of the appeal of the Nos Galan Races is that every year a mystery runner - his or her name kept secret until the night of the races - takes part. Mystery runners in the past have included athletes Lillian Board, Kirsty Wade and David Hemery and rugby stars Jamie Roberts and James Hook. Tragedy, of course, has also been ever present in the story of Welsh Christmases. On Christmas Day 1806 the Conwy Ferry sank, drowning 13 people, while on Boxing Day 1863 an explosion rocked the Gin Pit in Maesteg, causing the deaths of 14 miners. On New Years Day 1824, a shipwreck on the Great Orme saw the deaths of 14 passengers and crew while on 1 January 1916, at the height of World War One, the Mumbles lifeboat capsized, drowning three of the crew. Inevitably, there have been many other disasters around Wales over the festive period. The Christmas season, however, is not the time to think of human misery and pain. Rather, it is a time to celebrate and be happy. And Welsh men and women have done so for many years. They will undoubtedly continue to do so for many more to come. Phil will be chatting with Roy Noble on Tuesday 27 December from 2pm on BBC Radio Wales about this article.

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  8. It's certainly feeling milder out there today compared to recent days. Temperatures 10 to 13 Celsius, 14 Celsius, 57 Fahrenheit in Flintshire. Incidentally, 14 is 5 degrees above the seasonal average and the highest since December 8. Mind you, it's been even warmer in the past. On December 18, 1972, the temperature at Abergwyngregyn in Gwynedd soared to 18 Celsius, 64 Fahrenheit. The air over us today has come all the way to Wales from the Azores but as it crosses the sea it cools forming cloud, mist and drizzle. Some places will stay dull and damp today but others dry and even bright because down wind of the mountains the air tends to dry out, the cloud lifts and breaks with a little sunshine e.g. in Wrexham and Welshpool. The mild conditions will continue into Thursday but on Friday a cold front will bring a spell of rain followed by brighter weather and showers. On Friday into Saturday the air will be cold enough for a slight frost, especially in Powys and Monmouthshire where temperatures will fall close to zero, but the cold snap will be short-lived. December last year was the coldest in a century. On December 25 the temperature at Llysdinam near Newbridge on Wye in Powys didn't rise above minus 7.8 Celsius but it will be a different story this year. Temperatures on Christmas Day will be well above freezing, typically 9 to 11 Celsius. A little rain and drizzle is likely as well and most of the rain will be on the hills in the west and north west, the Cambrian and Snowdonia mountains. Meanwhile the south and east of the country may stay largely dry. The wind will turn into the south west and pick-up, becoming fresh to strong with gales in north west Wales and through the Irish Sea on Christmas Day. So, the weather is not very festive this Christmas - turning milder and becoming windy but at least people will be able to get around easily without fear of slipping over on the ice. Derek

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  9. The search to find the 2012 BBC Young Musician is under way and for the first time will be held at the new Dora Stoutzker Hall at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in Cardiff. From the passionate and talented musicians eager to be part of this musical journey, 122 were selected to be heard again in the second round, the category auditions, with 25 been offered a place at the category finals in March - Monday-Friday, March 5-9 - with the semi-final on Sunday 11 March, both at the Dora Stoutzker Hall. Marking 34 years since BBC Young Musician was launched, an astonishing 453 applications were received for 2012 with 404 hopefuls auditioned across the United Kingdom during the regional auditions. Paul Bullock, series editor of BBC Young Musician, says: "We are thoroughly looking forward to welcoming a new wave of outstanding young musical talent to Cardiff for the next stage of the contest. "We're also delighted to be returning to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where I'm certain the 25 category finalists will enjoy the outstanding new facilities and the excellent acoustics of the Dora Stoutzker Hall that opened earlier this year." Five performers per category will perform in front of a panel of respected adjudicators and audience at the category finals, with the five successful category winners receiving a place in the Semi-Final. From these just three will be selected to go through to the BBC Young Musician 2012 Final in May. Audiences at home will not be disappointed as performances will be recorded for broadcast on BBC Four and BBC Two. Rhian Williams, producer of BBC Young Musician, says: "The standard of performance in the category auditions last week was truly astounding! I'm very much looking forward to hearing the 25 performers selected to go through to the 2012 category finals again when they make their way to Cardiff in March." Previous winners and finalists have gone on to major international careers with recent winners such as Jennifer Pike, Guy Johnston and Nicola Benedetti now enjoying great success, not only as soloists but also as recording artists. Pianist Lara Melda, winner of BBC Young Musician 2010, explains how the competition has supported her career so far: "Taking part in such a prestigious event has already given me several exhilarating performing opportunities all over the UK and beyond, from performing with the Borusan Philharmonic Orchestra in Istanbul to the Antakya Piano Festival in Turkey and a performance in Japan in 2012." To launch the week, BBC Young Musician includes an evening of short recitals at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama on Sunday, March 4 as part of Music Nation Cymru, with performances from past winners; violinist Jennifer Pike (BBC Young Musician 2002), trombonist Peter Moore (BBC Young Musician 2008) and percussionist Lucy Landymore (BBC Young Musician 2010 Percussion Category Winner). For the latest news, history of the competition and to see previous performances, visit bbc.co.uk/youngmusician The venue for the final will be announced in January. Category finals Keyboard - Monday 5 March, 7pm Brass - Tuesday 6 March, 7pm Strings - Wednesday 7 March, 7pm Woodwind - Thursday 8 March, 7pm Percussion - Friday 9 March, 7pm Semi-final: Sunday 11 March, 7pm BBC Young Musician recital - Music Nation Cymru, Sunday 4 March, 7pm Tickets: £6, student/child concession £3 Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama box office: 029 2039 1391. Open Monday to Friday 10am - 5pm to purchase tickets by telephone or in person. Answering machine in operation outside of opening hours. Standard geographic charges from landlines and mobiles will apply and calls may be included in your telecom provider's call package. A £1.75 transaction fee applies to all bookings made online with an optional postage charge of 70p. Payments made by credit/debit card must be over the value of £5. A 50p fee applies to all credit card transactions made in person or telephone. No fees apply to bookings made by debit card.

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  10. Last Saturday night I played the above, some of my favourite tunes from this year representing some of the bands who've been the most prolific, impressive and exciting to watch. You can hear the countdown and the show in full here. Sam Airey - The Blackout Houdini Dax - OLL Los Campesin...

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