Archives for October 2011

Blowing my own trumpet: music and euphemism

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:02 UK time, Monday, 31 October 2011

The news today that radio stations are to be given extra guidance to avoid playing sexually-explicit songs got me thinking about euphemism in pop music and the seemingly diminishing art of cloaking the rude in nuanced language.


AC/DC, masters of innuendo

No longer can radio stations profess innocence in examples such as Brick FM stating they thought a particular slang term invoked panini - toasted sandwiches. And no longer can stations play live concerts that are littered with expletives, even if they flag the risk first.

Jolly good, I say.

I find overt swearage in songs to be far more often embarrassingly crass than artistically meritorious. It's normally unimaginative - unless it's one of the few examples in which a single swearword can elevate things (think the end of Killing In The Name by Rage Against The Machine for a good example). It's also often simply ephemeral.

There's no reason for rude words when things can be far more entertaining while retaining a sly salaciousness.

If we look at popular music, even the term 'rock 'n' roll' is a euphemism for sex. Teenagers as a concept were only realised in the post-war world of the 1950s and that generation took to the potential freedoms with aplomb. Building on the filthy undercurrents of blues (check out Robert Johnson's lyrics) rock 'n' roll exploded in euphemisms for both sex and drugs.

The musicians who peddled their wares to this new demographic in the 50s and 60s were expert in writing about rude subjects in order to get their songs into the homes of their audiences, past the censorious power brokers of the radio stations and even their own record labels. The head honchos at EMI might have blanched had they looked below the surface of songs such as The Beatles' Please Please Me.

Come the 1970s the euphemism became an art form in itself, no longer a wink and a nod to those in the know, but a full-on pun fest. Acts such as Kiss and especially AC/DC built careers on such risqué behaviour. It reached its apotheosis in the genuinely laugh-out-loud humour of Spinal Tap's songs. If there's a funnier collection of euphemisms than Big Bottom or Sex Farm I have yet to hear it.

These days media is less concerned with sticking to their social and sexual mores of a Christian hegemony, and it's possible to see just about any video on late-night music TV; so there's less need to mask meaning through lyrical inventiveness. On the flipside, some musical euphemisms have made it into such sites as The Urban Dictionary - especially from the world of rap. They have developed a life of their own.

So where do we stand now? Perhaps the knowledge that out-and-out obscenity stands less of a chance of getting past Ofcom these days will engender more songwriters to think more inventively about their lyrics. I'm sure the twin preoccupations of drugs and sex will continue to occupy the minds of young people making music - so let's have some great euphemisms.

What are your favourite euphemisms? Or can you think of any Welsh examples? 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.

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Sŵn Festival: my highlights

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 31 October 2011

I know it's been another lifetime since Sŵn Festival already, and some reviewers were able to file live reviews from various venues on the spot. I've gone away, had a good chew over the amount of music I heard over the four-day festival, and have a little summary of some of my unexpected finds and musical highlights.

Overall, despite the festival growing and changing and celebrating its fifth birthday this year, Sŵn has managed to keep the balance between new, local and international. Admittedly a few queues and almost a horrible crush at O'Neill's aside, it's still an exciting, bar-hopping experience.

Five years into going to SXSW in Texas and I didn't feel quite the same feeling of liberation. There you sometimes have no chance to get in to a hot ticket despite going at an early hour. I once had to bribe a bouncer $10 to get me in round the back door, only to find it was a bit rubbish inside.

Anyway, Sŵn was a wonderful weekend, and what a wonderful array of new sights and sounds I have experienced. Here are my top 10 finds:

Theme Park. A band from London who've astoundingly only been together a few months. They were the first complete surprise, sounding like a fresh Vampire Weekend or Local Natives, all jerky, melodic, African guitar sounds, and intricate drums. They'll soon be touring with Summer Camp and Neon Indian.

Niki And The Dove Like a high-pitched Cyndi Lauper with a dramatic, engaging scandinavian frontwoman, who's all power moves and beautiful broken English. They are an unusual signing to Sub Pop but in partnership with Mercury, so they've got a bit of muscle behind them. Go to their website right now and sign up for free track The Fox.

YAAKS are a dance punk quintet from Eastbourne, who i caught by happy accident at Dempseys pub on the first evening of Swn. They're described as "dark dance" by the Guardian's Paul Lester, who made them number 979 in the New Band Of The Day series. Their infrequent but funny blog is worth a look.

Fixers aren't so much of a new find for me; I've been playing their music on the radio for about a year, but this was the first time I saw them live. They are a five piece experimental psychedelic pop group from Oxford signed to Vertigo. Their live show is packed with intense, energy, fervour and 'music is life' seriousness.

Joshua Caole. Confession time: many moons ago I was told to listen and watch Joshua by a friend in Cardiff. Two years later, and I made sure I do on the quiet Sunday afternoon at 10 Feet Tall. The troubadour from the Forest of Dean was sitting before a healthy crowd, he had a bleeding hand as he thrashed the guitar, his voice even and calm. It made for a dramatic spectacle, and I was left wanting more.

Daughter. Elena Tonra and Igor Hatfield from Switzerland are a delightful pair: their combination of quiet charm, intricate and delicate musings are the most captivating performance I see during Sŵn. Look even closer to the brooding lullabies and the words will shock and twist beyond their immediate folky appearance. Their Wild Youth EP is out now and available on their Facebook.

Sam Airey. Talk about impact! One self-released EP, and one visit to the Introducing Uploader and soon enough a few of us DJs are tripping over ourselves to play his music and find out more about him. That was in the summer, and this Sŵn festival was a chance to see him play. Listen to his simple honeyed vocals up close and bask in the warm glow of the world he portrays.

Denuo. It means 'fresh start' in Latin and here is another young voice, like Sam Airey, who came to prominence earlier this year being selected for the Radio 2 concert supporting the Manics at their hometown gig. It's another young voice which sounds wise beyond his years. Denuo is fresh faced and yet sings bitter heartbroken tales on the EP Wolf River.

Right Hand Left Hand. This band are no newcomers in Cardiff and no strangers to Sŵn, but the powerful duo of established musicians Rhodri Viney and Andrew 'Bernie' Plain is a force of nature and one of the Sunday afternoon highlights of the weekend. "Experimental, rock, shoe-gaze" reads their web description but they are so much more - a rolling, cascading wall of sound with a new album out soon to boot!

Zervas And Pepper. This band are funny and musically on a totally different planet from everything else I've mentioned so far. It's the Californian harmonies, and alt country warmth of Zervas And Pepper that makes them a million miles away from any other Welsh sound! Formed by Kath Pepper and Paul Zervas, they exist in their own world, sing on another plain, and are pure escapism loveliness.

Thanks to the Sŵn festival organisers and crew for making the weekend so memorable too.

Crunch 2011 at Hay-on-Wye

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:42 UK time, Friday, 28 October 2011

The line-up for next month's Crunch Festival (18-20 November) has been announced, with an eclectic range of artists joining the Hay event.

British Sea Power

British Sea Power

Some of the music highlights include Abi, Hamilton and Yan of British Sea Power playing some of the band's favourites and rarities in a semi-acoustic style; 65daysofstatic's Paul Wolinski playing as Polinski with "a heady science-fiction inspired soundscape of beats and noise"; Mara Carlyle; Franz Nicolay, formerly of The Hold Steady; Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo and Beaty Heart.

A full line-up can be seen on the official website.

Produced by the Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI) and held annually in Hay-on-Wye, Crunch "brings together leading artists, philosophers, commentators and art world professionals from the principal to the subversive in a dissection and celebration of the arts in contemporary society."

There are debates, talks, workshops, exhibitions and live performances all available over the weekend.

A spokeswoman for IAI said: "From a Welsh perspective, an interesting highlight is Siôn Russell Jones, who will be supporting Mara Carlyle. He is a rising Cardiff singer-songwriter on Jonathan Powell's label.

"Arts Council Wales chair Dai Smith and artistic director of the National Theatre Wales John McGrath are both coming to Crunch; among other things they'll be doing a talk titled The Dragon's Heart - 'From the Gorsedd of Bards to the National Eisteddfod, Wales has a history of grassroots participation. Smith and Director of National Theatre Wales John McGrath ask whether the rest of the UK can learn from this paradigm.'"

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 23 October 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 13:04 UK time, Wednesday, 26 October 2011

This week's show is now available via the BBC iPlayer. Please visit the link any time between now and the start of the next programme.

The show is - inevitably - flavoured by the excellence of the past weekend's Swn Festival. Sŵn is a breathless and brilliant celebration of new (mostly) leftfield music across an impressive spread of Cardiff's venues and hostelries. It's the best weekend of the year - much better than Christmas... because who'd think to wrap Brandyman up and gift you them on Christmas morning?

My Sŵn was, this year, a little different from years gone by. I did a bit more DJing and had the honour of presenting the inaugural Welsh Music Prize (the award for the best album of Welsh origin 2011). And, although there were a few fluffed lines, it was a magnificent, humbling experience. Handing the award over to Gruff was one of the happiest moments of my life - as can be seen quite clearly from my facial expression as I make the announcement.

And Radio Wales spent much of Saturday hosting our Best of Sŵn (slightly self-aggrandising, but who isn't these days?) acoustic sessions at KuKu Club in the bowels of one of Cardiff's swankiest hotels. I co-hosted with the most excellent Bethan Elfyn and you can hear some of the Welsh highlights from those sessions during this show: tracks from Race Horses, Sam Airey and Denuo.

I didn't get to see as many bands this year (hence the lack of the traditional really, really long blogs on the subject), but I do play a selection of the best bands I did manage to catch.

Hwyl Sŵn 2011 - you were amazing. I can't wait for 2012.

Elsewhere in the show you'll hear a selection of the best new Welsh sounds that have arrived in my inbox this week.

Don't be shy in getting any demos/new releases/tips to me. The email address for download links/mp3s etc is

This coming Sunday night's show (30 October) will feature a woofer-worrying mix of bass attuned brilliance from Jay Robinson and a live set from Paper Aeroplanes (recorded at Focus Wales in Wrexham back in May - it's beautiful!).

I have a number of Welsh music events coming up that I'll be DJing at, and it'd be excellent if you could join the throng:

Sunday 30 October: The Dulcimer, Manchester - Meredith Nights present Plant Duw/Yucatan/Tom Edney & me & DJ Fuzzyfelt DJing

Friday 4 November: Connah's Quay Civic Hall - The Keys/The Method/Houdini Dax & me DJing

Friday 18 November: Telfords Warehouse, Chester - Yr Ods & (you guessed it) me DJing

Tuesday 22 November: Telfords Warehouse, Chester - Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog/Georgia Ruth + band & me DJing (shameless!)

For the stattoes amongst you (probably just me) here are some show-related statistics automatically generated by my Orwellian show database:

1384 unique songs/ 1773 Total. 770 Artists in 42 shows since 1st, Jan '11 (~songs per show:42, unique artists per show:18) Welsh:92%

Thank you for listening (feel free, please do, to share the iPlayer link with whoever you love the most).

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Polymers Are Forever'

GRUFF RHYS - 'Sensations In The Dark'

KEYS, THE - 'People Meet People'

ASTROID BOYS - 'Punkrock Crowd ( Exotope Clean Edit )'

BRANDYMAN - 'Heavy Metal Uncle'

RACE HORSES - 'What Am I To Do? ( Best Of Sŵn Live Session )'

DAUWD - 'Ikopol'

S T D - 'Petit Mal'

SHY AND THE FIGHT - 'All That We See Or Seem'

TEXAS RADIO BAND - 'See What You're Saying'

STRUCK A NERVE - 'Can't Lose Out'

BILLY PHONO - 'Cavity'

ALEMBIC - 'Dundun'
London ( Welsh Label )


BOATBAR TO HAMBURG - 'Comfort Eating'

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'New Adventures'


BASTIONS - 'The Lengths ( When Wants Become Needs )'

MASTERS IN FRANCE - 'Orbitoclast'

LOS CAMPESINOS - 'Hello Sadness'

MY PET MONSTER - 'School Ii'

SEX HANDS - 'Way No Way'


SAM AIREY - 'Endless Sea ( Best Of Sŵn Live Session )'

TRUCKERS OF HUSK - 'Person For The Person'

FRIENDS ELECTRIC - 'Puzzle Pieces'


HENRY'S FUNERAL SHOE - 'Anvil And Chains'
Ystrad Mynach

BITFORM - 'Halloween Bass Bash Opener'

JAY ROBINSON - 'Get Mad Now'
Colwyn Bay

DAN AMOR - 'Run You Like A River'

LAURA J. MARTIN - 'Salamander ( Featuring Euros Childs )'


CATE LE BON - 'Puts Me To Work'



Y NIWL - 'Un'

HOUDINI DAX - 'Robin You Lie'

THREATMANTICS - 'Dumpamundo'

DENUO - 'Boston ( Best Of Sŵn Live Session )'

JOHN LAWRENCE - 'Sunday Song'

BLACK EAGLE CHILD - 'The Lost Button'
Milwaukee/ Bridgend (label)

Oooooh, the boring, unglamorous, practical stuff...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:09 UK time, Wednesday, 26 October 2011

It would be fair to say things have been pretty busy over the last few weeks. Looking forward in the schedule between now and Christmas, things just seem to get busier.

Over the next few weeks we will be exploring new Dutch music with principal guest conductor Jac van Steen, embarking on another series of education concerts with Grant Llewellyn, kicking off our new series, Symphony, travelling around north Wales and completing hours of recording.

However, it isn't the growing pile of music in the corner that is concerning me today. Indeed, it is a much more practical concern.

Two weeks ago, my bow seemed perfectly fine and happy. It was smooth in the legato passages, springy, yet controllable in off-the-string passages, just the right amount of heavy when required to play in a less genteel manner. Now? It is shedding hair at the rate of no man's business. Simply coaxing it into a lovely smooth line along the string is like trying to coerce a much abused shopping trolley in the direction you want it to go at the supermarket. I need a bow rehair.

Despite my father's not infrequent offers to go out and chop the tail off some poor unsuspecting equestrian beauty, I still prefer to leave it up to the professionals and have my bow rehaired by a respected bow expert. Finding the time to do this, however, is another matter.

It's the same with changing strings. For me, the need to do this seems to happen almost instantaneously. I'll have a lovely set of strings on, all beautifully played in and gorgeously resonant then suddenly, almost overnight, they will sound as resonant as a lead bell covered in leather tolling in a complete vacuum (I exaggerate, but only so you feel my pain).

But when is a good time to change strings (unless one has snapped, in which case it's a bit obvious)? We all like to have strings in their optimum condition for big concerts, auditions, recitals etcetera, but change them too close to the event and you'll spend the whole time panicking about retuning, and change them too early and you'll miss them at their zingy best!

Wind players, in particular those of the double reed persuasion, have a constant predicament. Needing different reeds for different repertoire, they are continually choosing, measuring, gouging, scraping, soaking and tying on reeds in the hope of creating one just right for what they are playing.

Being a musician is sadly not just about playing great music and wearing pretty dresses (I wish it was because I really like clothes). Your instrument is an extension of yourself and when something isn't right it's like trying to run a marathon with a stone in your shoe.

I wish there was a 24/7 expert bow rehair service. Perhaps it's a niche in the market someone should investigate. On that note, I'm off to call my bow man to see when he can fit me in!

The National Orchestra of Wales is performing with conductor Jac van Steen, and violinist Tasmin Little, on Wednesday 26 October at BBC Hoddinott Hall. For further information and tickets, please visit, or call 0800 052 1812.

Sŵn Festival 2011, Cardiff

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James Roberts James Roberts | 08:10 UK time, Tuesday, 25 October 2011

If Thursday's Sŵn-related larking possessed a wonderful sense of anticipation, then Friday night brought it all together.

Cardiff University's Solus in all its metallic gloom is hosting the hotly anticipated Joy Formidable, and the conclusion to their recent tour. Before this, however, Northern Ireland's So I Watch You From Afar bring their Battles-meets-Pelican instrumental metal. Wading through the fretboard noodling makes the noise worth the wait.

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable. Photo: Stereoboard

Next door, Man Without Country bang their synth barrage through a fog of dry ice before the main event of Joy Formidable. Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt are flanked by a nautical scene including a lighthouse and a huge gong. This scribe would like to thank Ritzy and co for shredding what was left of my hearing. They are very loud, confident and sounding like a spiral staircase falling down an escalator; soaring through austere and bombastic renditions of Whirring and Abacus - stunning songs form a stunning début album.

Winding from the uni and into Cardiff, the usual inhabitants of venues occupied by Sŵn find drunken salvation in the fun pubs of Greyfriars Road. Over at Womanby Street, the epicentre of Sŵn, it is brimming. Fresh and familiar faces alike mingle, and mainly queue. And the queues are it seems a necessary evil of success. I'm sure The Victorian English Gentlemens Club are great. The drums and shrieks can be heard from the pavement outside.

The same goes for Gallops. Word, literally, on the street is they smashed it. Resigned to mammoth queues, we slither towards any venue that isn't 10-deep at the bar and look forward to Saturday and Wales' premier surf rock purveyors Y Niwl.

The Dick Dale-influenced quartet kick things off on Saturday afternoon in Cardiff Arts Institute to a mixture of hungover types and a surprising number of actual children. From our point of view the mixture of strategic lager and amazingly authentic surf jangle is just the tonic. Then it's off to Buffalo Bar for Wrexham's Mowbird. The dark red hue and bunting in Buffalo is a giddy contrast to the autumn sun, and behind the bunting, Mowbird riffle through their wondrously shambolic Sebadoh-esque sleepy-eyed surf rock (yes, again). Great thing about the three boys and lady of Mowbird is they are never the same twice, and do check out their Bandcamp pages. This reviewer is a bit in love.

Anyway day turns to night, Sŵn hits its stride. Y Niwl play (yes, again) through a power cut in Dempseys, The Fall do their thing in the Great Hall at Cardiff University and Esben And The Witch affirm in Buffalo Bar that they are indeed ones to watch. Over in Chapter Arts Centre, meanwhile, The Roseville Band and Christopher Rees bring dexterous acousticness to Canton before it's back to the post-Soviet bread queues and, in lieu of seeing any music, we are now part of a crowd watching a barefoot lady smashing a stiletto heel through a Ford Ka windscreen. Nice.

Right Hand Left Hand

Right Hand Left Hand. Photo: Pollywaffle

Sŵn Sunday. As usual the whole weekend is a blur. Obviously, a sensible above-board blur. Right Hand Left Hand bring their Trans Am-laden hooks and bombast to Dempseys, ably followed by Kutosis and the grown up rock of Tiger Please.

A few streets away in O'Neill's, Truckers Of Husk offer their neo-prog, followed by the ever-popular Sweet Baboo. Upstairs at 10 Feet Tall we find Mackem folk type James McKay with a great voice and a ballsy set that belies his skinny bookish frame. Humble and eloquent (a 20-something singing about how Thatcher screwed over the North East is usually a recipe for a train wreck) his reversioning of a rap about the London riots is spellbinding.

Back upstairs in Dempseys an undoubted highlight is Saturday's Kids. It is as if we are transported back to Washington, DC, mid-1988. The collage of Sonic Youth and Fugazi is far from aping the past. It's cocksure and absolutely brilliant. Go see them supporting the ever-excellent Future Of The Left. A quick legger to Undertone sees the denim demons Strange News From Another Star, recently returned from touring the Ukraine, rip through their Hot Snakes embossed set.

Witches Drum

Witches Drum. Photo: Simon Boughton

Raging against the dying of the light. Terrified of Monday morning, The Witches Drum end things off in Dempseys. The frontman resplendent in green face paint and marigolds, like Alice Cooper as a 70s, Saturday afternoon wrestler. It makes no sense. It's the perfect end and all we are left with is the tinnitus, tiredness and sadness that one will have to wait another year for Sŵn to once again fight the good fight.

Welsh Music Prize 2011

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James McLaren James McLaren | 07:47 UK time, Monday, 24 October 2011

Over the years various Welsh music awards have been set up, with varying degrees of good intention; I enjoyed their hospitality and applauded the winners of such categories as 'Best Live Venue (Under 500 Capacity)'. But they didn't really mean very much in the grand scheme of things. The inaugural Welsh Music Prize is a far more focused affair - 12 artists, 12 albums, one award. And on Friday evening it went to Gruff Rhys for his third solo album Hotel Shampoo.

Gruff Rhys accepts his Welsh Music Prize

Gruff Rhys accepts his Welsh Music Prize

Rhys beat competition from big rock hitters like Manic Street Preachers, The Blackout and Funeral For A Friend. At the ceremony for the prize, which was fed into the schedule of 6 Music, Gruff said: "I'm really surprised. It was a really strong list of albums and it could have gone to anyone.

"I really didn't expect to win, so I didn't prepare anything," he said as he mounted the dais and accepted the prize from Radio Wales presenter Adam Walton.

Speaking at the award ceremony, Radio 1's Huw Stephens - one of the brains behind the prize - said: "People need to be introduced to new music that's on their doorstep sometimes. Welsh music has come a long way in terms of getting itself out there and making connections with the world so hopefully it's just another way of getting new music out to people."

Among the judges was Radio Wales DJ Bethan Elfyn who said: "It was tough because I know all the people involved. I really respect what they do and they all created really amazing, crafted albums. That in itself is an achievement today."

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Sŵn, Cardiff, Thursday 20 October 2011

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James Roberts James Roberts | 14:07 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

So, once again it's the most puntastic of inner city festivals as Sŵn spreads its tentacles across all sorts of live music venues. This year is the fifth turn for the brainchild of promoter John Rostron and BBC disc jockey Huw Stephens and it is a tonic to see Queen Street, St Mary Street and Cardiff's back alleys festooned with corduroy-clad, bespectacled indie kids and curious music fans.

Anyway, It's Thursday. It's crisp and lovely and autumnal, and honestly, apart from Dempseys pub full of Celtic fans, there is a palpable energy and anticipation ahead of a weekend featuring The Joy Formidable, The Fall, Victorian English Gentlemens Club, Y Niwl and many, many more.

Triggering such enthusiasm for artists spanning a multitude of genres is a victory. For example; seeing arch Caledonian miserablist Aidan Moffat croon his nocturnal laments to a packed, Ten Foot Tall is a hen's teeth moment. There's barely breathing room. A legend sure, but this kind of audience would befit someone of Charlotte Church's calibre.

Which is funny, because the angelic voiced Woodbine enthusiast is fronting a band in Clwb Ifor Bach, supporting French whimsy poppers Herman Düne. The venue is rammed as an earnest mixture of T'Pau and er, The Cocteau Twins makes its way through the ether.

Banded Puma at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff

Banded Puma at Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (Photo: Tom Ashmore)

Sadly and sans face furniture, this reviewer was oblivious to the fact the silver-sequined-clad superstar was crooning away, fronting Banded Puma (a one-off band name, apparently; 'made up band' being an anagram, as you'll have seen immediately) until it was pointed out afterwards. So, a lukewarm glance and slink off to the bar was an entirely objective move.

Herman Düne, Photo: Tom Ashmore

Herman Düne (Photo: Tom Ashmore)

Anyway. The crowd thins then swells for the evergreen Herman Düne and their beardy folk. It's sweet and always has a welcome home in the Welsh capital. Then it's off to Undertone for the bracing, snotty punk of The Cut Ups and Red City Radio and more refreshments. Fixers smash it to a packed upstairs in Dempseys and time and space begins to blur into a mix of smiles and premium lager.

OK, it's a snapshot and the few hours on a Thursday are not enough. Wonderfully there's a genuine sense of discovery with the countless bands on display. There's even club nights under the Sŵn banner for the night owl taking in usual stag and hen do crucibles like Glam and Tiger Tiger. Clichés aside, if you can't find something to tick your musical boxes at Swn you are a rare breed indeed. Get down to Cardiff and get in a queue.

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I admit it: I went into work when I wasn't even needed

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 10:55 UK time, Friday, 21 October 2011

As part of our programme on Friday evening at St David's Hall with associate guest conductor François-Xavier Roth, we will perform Strauss' beautiful Oboe Concerto.

As we are using reduced strings for this work, I had the opportunity to go along to the rehearsal simply to listen, rather than to play. It's one of the massive perks of our job - to have the opportunity to listen to some of the world's greatest artists, not just on the concert stage, but also in the more intimate setting of the rehearsal studio.

The soloist will be French oboist François Leleux and it was with great geekish excitement that Amy McKean (second oboe) and I went to watch the rehearsal.

Discovering Monsieur Leleux's playing was a bit of a discovery for me a number of years ago. I would not have said I was particularly enamoured by the sound of the oboe until I heard his recording of the Telemann Fantasies. After that, I bought his Mozart Concertos recording. Then I discovered his Strauss Concerto. I vowed to never tell another lame oboe joke for as long as I lived.

Watching him in rehearsal was a real inspiration. Every phrase is vivid and lives with feeling, and he has such clarity of expression when explaining what he wants. To be honest, in my experience anyway, the soloist explaining their musical ideas to the orchestra as a whole is sadly not something that happens very often. They'll converse with the conductor or with the leader of the orchestra, but the rest of us are not really 'noticed'.

At times, you can sometimes feel a little as though you are simply there as the vehicle to showcase their brilliance. Which is fine; sometimes the nature of a concerto is that the orchestra just provides a kind of harmonic bed for the soloist to lay their virtuosic pyrotechnics out on. However, with Monsieur Leleux, you get a sense that everyone on the stage is important in being part of the larger creative whole - that everyone's commitment to the music is completely indispensable.

What really bowls me over about his playing however is the sheer effortlessness and natural musicianship of it all. The long, languid lines of the opening movement seem to spin out endlessly and beautifully. When Leleux decides to take a phrase in a certain direction you are left feeling that of course that's the direction it should take, what other direction could it go?

I'm sure you get the picture. I'm normally a bit of a grump when I don't get to play in a work that I really like, but today, I was glad of it. I'm not throwing compliments around like confetti in a bid to pay any sort of lip service to anyone - I genuinely believe François Leleux to be an oboe playing genius and his playing inspires me. I'm sure my colleagues who are lucky enough to be sharing the stage with him on Friday night would agree.

François Leleux will perform Strauss's Oboe Concerto with the Orchestra at St David's Hall, Cardiff, tonight (Friday) at 7.30pm. For more information, contact the Box Office on 02920 878444.

Glass Pear interview

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:24 UK time, Thursday, 20 October 2011

Another member of the talented Griffiths family of Penarth is benefiting from American TV shows and the publicity they bring.

Glass Pear

Glass Pear

Glass Pear, aka Yestyn Griffiths, brother of Jem, is a songwriter and now performer who's had his tracks 'synced' on shows including Grey's Anatomy, Bones, 90210, The Vampire Diaries and One Tree Hill - and now he's preparing to release his second album, completely independently.

So far, he's sold 30,000 digital downloads. The album Streets Of Love was released on his own WOL Records label in 2009, and in the same year the Until The Morning Comes EP with his sister. He followed it up in 2010 with another EP, Sweet America.

I caught up with him to find out more about how this unusual way of working and building a career.

How did these syncs happen? Were they out of the blue or did your American publisher specifically work to get your songs on TV?

I got a demo of the first Glass Pear tracks to Nic Harcourt, a well-known DJ in the US on KCRW radio. He loved Last Day Of Your Life and Vultures and started playing them on his show. Fortuitously he happened to have just become the music supervisor of the new series of 90210. He synced Last Day in the opening episode as the final song. It was a big deal as the show hadn't been around for over a decade. There was a huge audience.

That created quite a buzz about Glass Pear. Then with the help of Zync Music, an independent film TV specialist, more songs were placed in Grey's Anatomy, Vampire Diaries, Bones and One Tree Hill. Eyes Wide Open, a song from my last EP, is also in ABC's upcoming show Missing.

Have the syncs been helping to get more coverage for your work?

As I haven't put anything to radio yet, these syncs have been the principal source of coverage. About three to eight million viewers hear the song in a show in the US. Then the shows get syndicated internationally so people discover the music all over the world. It's a great way to reach people at a time when mainstream radio is difficult and costly to gain access to.

Has being related to Jem helped?

Yes; for instance the connection to Nic Harcourt came via Jem as she knew him. So that helped tremendously. As I also co-wrote several of Jem's songs that were successful it helped me establish a song-writing career before doing Glass Pear. We bounce off each other a lot about music so its been wonderful to have that since I was a little kid.

It's unusual to get syncs without big label support isn't it?

Generally yes. Getting heard by the music supervisors is not always easy if you don't have a contact to them. However, if an independent artist has recorded something really beautiful and captivating then I do believe that great songs find their way out. People start passing them around on the internet and that's one way that may grab the music supervisor's ear.

Is it intentional to work independently?

Yes, I've gravitated to that so that I just make music how I like and release music when I want. I also don't feel I've met a label yet that's a really good fit. I don't rule out working with a label in the future. It's just got to be right and be a long-term collaboration rather than a short-term mistake.

Are you being able to make a living from working independently in music?

If the syncs disappeared tomorrow then I'd be in trouble. They've driven the 30,000 digital sales that Glass Pear has sold so far. They also lead to a fair bit of publishing royalties. So I do branch out and do other things like song-writing for other artists. I've co-written a song called Be Yours on VV Brown's forthcoming album. I just love writing music, whether for myself or for other artists.

Do you have an international fanbase now?

It's small and quite fragmented, with the largest amount of fans in the US. I couldn't tour tomorrow and have packed gigs in South America for instance! But I'm always surprised when I see where people live who have bought the music from iTunes and other places. It's from all over the world and that's really wonderful about releasing music digitally at this time.

what are your plans for the next year or so?

I'm finishing the new album as we speak. It's going to come out in the UK in January or February next year. At the moment I'm just putting a band together to do some London dates soon. I'm hoping to come down and play in Cardiff as soon as I can!

Glass Pear's single Summer is released digitally in the UK on 31 October on WOL Records. It includes remixes by James Hockley of Chicane.

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Really need to get the metronome out...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 12:58 UK time, Wednesday, 19 October 2011

It's amazing what orchestral musicians manage to fit into their spare time. On Sunday, a little cheering squad of us went to watch three of our colleagues, Rob Plane, Naomi Thomas and Neil Shewan, run in the Cardiff Half Marathon. They all finished in disgustingly good times and were recovered suitably to return to work on Monday for a day of soundtrack recording with the lovely and ever-polite Ben Foster.

The rest of the week is devoted to an exciting programme of Britten and double Strauss with our Associate Guest Conductor, François-Xavier Roth.

The opening work on the programme will be Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem and I am very much looking forward to revisiting this work again (we last played it in the 2010 Proms season). Like most works by Britten, it has a really meaty viola part!

I find this a very affecting work. Britten was only 26 years old when he composed it and to a certain extent, he, a devoted pacifist and conscientious objector, used it as a vehicle to express his horror at the war that was unfurling around him and engulfing the world at large. It can come as little surprise that the movement titles come from the Latin words of the Mass for the Dead - Lacrymosa, Dies Irae and Requiem Aternum.

Incidentally, the work was composed as a result of a Japanese commission to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Japanese Empire, but Britten's use of Christian liturgical text was taken as a massive insult (and this being 1940, East and West were not on the friendliest of terms anyway). The Japanese were royally miffed, and the work did not get its première until the following year in the United States.

Listening to the work, it's amazing to be able to recognise the idiosyncrasies we associate with Britten's music already so evident in what is, essentially, an early work. The angular melodies, the driving rhythms, the dissonant yet strangely 'right' sounding harmonies - they are all there.

Playing the work, it's incredible to believe that this is the work of a young man in his late 20s. The viola part is brilliantly written. It plays to the instrument's best qualities and, while using the span of the its range, the part is very comfortable to play. That is not to say that it is lacking in challenge. There is a passage in the Dies Irae movement, where the notes are not in the least bit difficult, but rhythmically...? Well, I feel a little bit stressed just thinking about it. I can hand upon heart say that I will probably spend more time this week sitting with a metronome going over and over that passage than any other part of the concert's programme. It feels like it lasts forever too, but I think that's just the effect I get from not blinking the whole way through it for fear of losing my place and being the one person who plays an extra beat!

Laura and the rest of the Orchestra will be performing Britten's Sinfonia da Requiem on Friday 21 October, 7.30pm, at St David's Hall, Cardiff. For more information and tickets contact the Audience Line on 0800 052 1812.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 16 October 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 13:42 UK time, Tuesday, 18 October 2011

This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. Please visit the link any time between now and the start of the next programme.

Future Of The Left are a big rusty spike in the side of a rather moribund music scene. Pop metal/pop punk is ubiquitous, and although the tropes of rock's anti-establishmentarianism are still present and correct in rock's currently successful incarnation - daft hair, piercings, tattoos, silly trousers and guitars, the guitars now sound - all too frequently - like the least important part of that equation. Rock is pop. Pop is rock. Quite athwart has gone all decorum.

Listening to 6 Music can be a rather disorientating experience. The odd, nasty, off kilter, plain weird stuff is - frequently - the old stuff. The new bands come on and - generally - play their instruments very nicely, with nice tunes, even if they're touted as being a bit extreme.

The contemporary bands who do push the envelope have become more marginalised than ever before. Lucky, then, that a lot of them are happy to exist on those margins, selling the interesting stuff that once may have altered the path of the mainstream via Bandcamp to audiences in the thousands instead of the hundreds of thousands.

Nicky Wire's just done an interview with The Guardian that bemoans the Death of Rock 'n' Roll. He acknowledges pop's current dominance. His band are going to go on hiatus while rock recovers. There was a time when the Manics would have been looked towards to provide the necessary jolt for rock's knackered corpse. Individual rock bands can't redefine the form forever, keeping it fresh. As a cultural entity, rock music has always needed the spit, irreverence and vigour of youth to revitalise it. Chuck Berry begat The Stones begat The Stooges begat New York Dolls begat the Sex Pistols begat Guns N Roses begat the Manics begat Funeral For A Friend begat what, exactly?

Bastions are one of a handful of genre-disrespecting post hardcore bands who are about to reinvigorate the form with a massive defibrillation (in Bastions' case with a debut album called, aptly, Hospital Corners). However, for the most part, rock has been so successfully assimilated into the polite, sanitised, corporate leftfield, it has become the mainstream. It's become dull-eyed, insipid in its glossiness and predictable in its assembly.

Clicky double bass drum - check.

Sweet melodic vocal line - check.

Occasional screamo throat shred - check.

Massive, fist-pumping chorus to drown out any accusations of creative redundancy - check.

Because if you're selling albums - and filling venues - at the speed that many of Wales' most successful bands do (Kids In Glass Houses, Funeral For A Friend, The Blackout et al) who cares about artistic worth or originality? The greatest compliment that anyone can pay a piece of rock music - whatever its shape or form - is to want to hear it. And, clearly, many thousands of people - *young* people - want to hear all those bands and their identikit brethren more than they want to hear anyone/anything else.

As much as rock has the potential to soundtrack the disillusion of the times (say, MC5 or the Stones in '68) it has also been a wonderful vehicle for escapism (Guns 'n' Roses, Cold War hair metal in general) - and bands who have managed to reconcile the two (Manic Street Preachers) are rarer than orthodontists for chickens.

So, we - well, I - need Future Of The Left now, more than ever. They're a lacerating antidote to fast food Metal, to all that sanitised and formulaic bland that is glooping up the ear arteries of the contemporary 'rock' fan. They're fiercely intelligent, both lyrically and musically, but that intelligence is never at the expense of The Force. Not anything to do with midichlorian mumbo jumbo, but the instinctive, primal force that makes rock 'n' roll transcendentally exciting.

It's only after the tinnitus has subsided from a Future Of The Left show that you start to hear the cleverness in the lyrics. That extra level of cryptic fascination - Falkous' lyrics are never straightforward, always compelling - and the focused creative restlessness of the band have maintained their capacity to intrigue.

And - with the announcement of their new EP's release (with their third album to follow in 2012) - they just got a whole lot more intriguing (more slabs of grievous analogue synth than ever before; echoes of Stereolab in the coda to Polymers Are Forever; a skittering avalanche of guitars and verbals as perplexingly ace as anything they've done previously - With Apologies To Emily Pankhurst; something that sounds like muppet zombies playing Squeeze - New Adventures and there are still three other tracks I haven't heard yet. It's an EP that can't stop giving.)

Andrew Falkous - I'm too plain old to start calling him Falco now - comes aboard this week's show to tell us a little about the new EP. We don't discuss any of the above, but I do get to play you two tracks off the new EP (released on Xtra Mile on 14 November).

Suffice to say: rock is dead, long live Future Of The Left.

That's an awful lots of words dedicated to 15 minutes of the show. Elsewhere Huw Williams plays a song about curry that has me fantasising what his tweepop kneecaps would taste like in a Tikka Masala sauce. Lara Catrin translates some Galwad Y Mynydd. Ben Hayes plays a record with the most infectious handclap of all time. And we have a bristling mass of Welsh sounds, including first time plays for Phil Kieran vs. White Noise Sound, Buffalo Ben, Skarpa, Tylwyth Teg, Kevin, Weak(end) Arrows, Bex Elliott, Ellie Larke and Uther Moads.

Please send mp3s/download links to

It's Swn Festival this coming weekend. It's my favourite weekend of the year. I hope to see you there.

Have an excellent week! Many thanks/diolch o galon.

STRANGE NEWS FROM ANOTHER STAR - 'I Am Weatherproof ( Album Version )'

BRIGHT YOUNG PEOPLE, THE - 'Hang Up ( Radio Edit )'

LOS CAMPESINOS - 'Hello Sadness'

COLORAMA - 'Lisa Lan'

JOHN LAWRENCE - 'Indian Summer'

DAN AMOR - 'Taflu Dy Lais'

GRUFF RHYS - 'Whale Trail'

IFAN DAFYDD - 'Treehouse'

WHIP, THE - 'Secret Weapon ( Gallops Remix )'
Oldham ( Welsh Remix )

JOY FORMIDABLE, THE - 'Cradle ( Fang Island Remix )'

BASTIONS - 'Augury'


Future Of The Left - 'With Apologies To Emily Pankhurst'

ANDREW FALKOUS - 'Spoken Contribution'

Future Of The Left - 'Polymers Are Forever'

SATURDAY'S KIDS - 'Unattainable'

SONIC YOUTH - 'Snare, Girl'
New York

DERRERO - 'Radar Intruder'

HOWL GRIFF - 'Jean's Therapy'

HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution'


BEDFORD FALLS - 'Wilmington'

GRETA ISAAC - 'Don't Go'



BUFFALO BEN - 'Chill Deep'

HAIL THE PLANES - 'Brother [ Trwbador Remix ]'

KEYS, THE - 'Fire Inside'

KUTOSIS - 'Salton Sea'

MOWBIRD - 'Empress'

CHLOE LEAVERS - 'Rhoist I'n Oleuni'
Colwyn Bay

SKARPA - 'Darkness Of The Mind'
Newtown, Powys

DOOM REGGAE - 'Terror Jungle'

DEE SHAE - 'On My Own ( Featuring Y T U 13 )'

PETE LAWRIE - 'Half Way Home'

GERAINT JARMAN - 'Breuddywd Ar Y Bryn'

TYLWYTH TEG - 'Y Delyn Newydd'

KEVIN - 'Brifo'

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'



WEAK(END) ARROWS - 'Sugar Pie'

BEX ELLIOTT - 'Hidden'
Llandrindod Wells

ELLIE LARKE - 'Love For Sale'

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'

JIM FORD - 'Dr Handy's Dandy Candy'
Kentucky, U S A


Welsh Music Prize: let judging commence!

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 14:30 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

This week in the thick of the Swn festival the organisers, Huw Stephens and John Rostron, will be announcing the latest arm of Swn, The Welsh Music Prize.

The 12 albums nominated for the Welsh Music Prize

The 12 albums nominated for the Welsh Music Prize

This prize for the album of the year is an exciting addition to the festival, and we'll hear the results after they are announced at a ceremony this Friday at the Kuku Club in Cardiff.

Today, I'm heading off to meet with the rest of the panel of judges involved in choosing the winning album. The judges are a mixed but experienced bunch, from Ashli Todd, co-owner of Spillers Records; Dai Davies, governor at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama; David Exley, booking agent at Coda Music Agency; Jude Rogers, a journalist writing for The Guardian and many other publications; Mike Williams, deputy editor of NME; Neil Pengelly, head booker for Reading and Leeds festivals; Stephen Bass, co-founder of Moshi Moshi Records; Tom Baker, founder of Eat Your Own Ears and Yvonne Matsell, co-founder of NXNE Music Festival in Canada.

The best thing about the list of judges above is that they'll be listening to the albums with fresh ears and very little personal bias, and a world of experience in the music industry. I'm expecting quite a lively discussion later.

From my perspective, although very familiar with the artists, and sometimes over-familiar with some of the songs, I found myself over the weekend listening afresh to the whole line up: a selection which was collated from suggestions from music industry insiders, label owners, and the general public here in Wales:

  • Al Lewis - In The Wake (ALM)
  • Colorama - Box (See Monkey Do Monkey Records)
  • Funeral For A Friend - Welcome Home Armageddon (Distiller Records)
  • Gruff Rhys - Hotel Shampoo (Ovni/Turnstile Music)
  • Lleuwen - Tan (Gwymon)
  • Manic Street Preachers - Postcards from a Young Man (Sony)
  • Stagga - The Warm Air Room (Rag and Bone Records)
  • Sweet Baboo - I'm a Dancer/Songs About Sleepin' (Shape Records)
  • The Blackout - Hope (Cooking Vinyl)
  • The Gentle Good - Tethered for the Storm (Gwymon)
  • The Joy Formidable - Big Roar (Atlantic Records)
  • Y Niwl - Y Niwl (Aderyn Papur)

I was driving from Cardiff up to visit family in mid Wales, and the long journey through an autumnal Welsh mountainous landscape was the perfect backdrop to immerse myself in the albums as a complete set. I remember reading about John Peel's annual drive down to the Sonar festival, where he'd work through a bin bag of demos. Too often I'm listening to music in a rushed manner for work, or it is on in the background as I potter around the house - in the car, there's no escape!

Without revealing the result (as I don't know it yet) I can just tell you that it was an absolute thrill to listen to each album. Each one was totally different in style, content, approach, and musical genre. From the intense dubstep sounds of Stagga to the fullness and composure of The Joy Formidable's Big Roar, Gruff Rhys's hooky melodies, to Lleuwen's incredible harmonies.

The list was a real cross range of the sounds of Wales and I'm sure there will be those 'Marmite' moments for the judges, but at least the clichés of the 'Welsh sound' - whatever that may be - cannot be true of this list. There's folk, rock, indie, surf, and dubstep, so quite a range in only 12 albums.

As I head to the discussions, I've been asked to take with me my top three albums, and pick one in particular to champion. I've been asking myself in what way can I judge, choose and pick from such a range of musical styles, experience and talent. It's a responsibility to choose an album which will be hailed as the best album in Wales this year, but I guess the only thing I can do is choose based on personal taste, levelled with years of listening to music, but generally as a music fan, asking myself which album was the most pleasure to listen to. A simple basis for choice then in the end, but I'm sure it'll be just a springboard for the discussions ahead.

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Beyond Borders in Swansea

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:58 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

Among all the events for Sŵn 2011, one of the most interesting is Beyond Borders, in Swansea on Friday 28 October.

White Noise Sound

White Noise Sound

Beyond Borders is a grant scheme run by the Performing Right Society and is designed to assist musical cooperation between areas of the UK, in this case Wales and Northern Ireland. Belfast DJ and composer Phil Kieran is working with Swansea experimental group White Noise Sound at Volcano Theatre, in the newly-redeveloped High Street area of the city.

Phil Kieran

Phil Kieran

The gig comes after the two parties have collaborated, working up ideas brought by the other, with a third, completely collaborative, effort. The concert will feature these new works, as well as pre-existing material.

White Noise Sound, who have recently released their début album (on Alive Records, home of The Black Keys and Iggy Pop), produced by Pete Kember of Spacemen 3, said: "We're confident the collaboration with Phil will create some very interesting results. We're looking forward to this."

The gig takes place on Friday 28 October at the Volcano Theatre Company, Swansea, from 8-10.30pm

Beyond Borders Swansea has been put together by Northern Ireland's Oh Yeah Music Centre, Welsh Music Foundation and Swansea Creative Hub.

Gig dancing etiquette

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:00 UK time, Monday, 17 October 2011

Last night I went to see old-school, 'crusty' politicopunks New Model Army at Cardiff University and I was the youngest person there, pretty much. Seeing as the band formed in 1980, that's not too much of a surprise. But what did surprise me was the participation of the heroically-grizzled audience.

New Model Army crowd build impressive human pyramids

New Model Army crowd build impressive human pyramids

Despite the distinct vintage of the fans, they danced with aplomb and delighted in building elaborate human pyramids with willowy women atop the piles. Buttressed and structurally-sound, these triple-height edifices were surely the work of engineering students of the 1980s. I doubt a media studies student of today would know how to do it.

I was accompanying my girlfriend who assured me that this kind of behaviour was all the rage in the alternative rock and goth scenes of the 1980s: all waved arms and pogo-ing. It made me realise that I'd not seen this kind of dancing for many years. Surely it can't have fallen out of use?

If i think back to watching footage from Reading or Glastonbury in the early 1990s, pogoing was the de facto way in which to dance to the rock and indie of the time. Up and down on the same spot, with a spot of well-done crowd surfing, even to the harder stuff. It wasn't until you got to the pretty extreme metal that people began beating the whatsit out of each other.

The circle pit, the slam dance and the wall of death were the preserve of punk and hardcore gigs, slowly working their way out of the NYC and DC dives.

By the time I was DJing at Cardiff Barfly's pop-punk shows in the early part of the last decade, though, dancing had changed. I hauled a 13 year old reprobate out of one crowd for wall-of-death-ing with feet first, into the face of a girl; and it wasn't uncommon for kids to go flying with bits of themselves bleeding or bruised, from a circle pit.

All very enjoyable I'm sure, but to me gig dancing should be aid the communal consumption of the music. It's not unusual these days to see what are essentially pop-rock bands full of radio-friendly hooks to ask the audience to get a circle pit going, or a wall of death. I'm sorry, but unless you've made the choice to see a hardcore band that you know advocates dancing like that, it shouldn't be foisted upon you.

The overly-macho, testosterone-fuelled, elbows-and-knees japery of punk (and god knows I've loved that on occasion) means a disconnection between the band and the majority of the audience. By creating a vacuum at the front, filled only with tousle-haired teens and the occasional fat old punk, the rest of the audience find themselves caring more for their own safety than what the band are playing. It can turn a good vibe sour.

I'd like to see a return to more old-fashioned ways of dancing to rock bands. It's possible to get close to the band and their music by having a good old pogo. If it worked for Nirvana it's good enough for anyone.

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Sent to sit on the naughty step...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 11:06 UK time, Thursday, 13 October 2011

This week I have no desk partner. I am like a little Norma No Friends, sitting on my lonesome at the back of the section. I look like I have been sent to the naughty step to think about what I've done (I definitely might have used a little bit of vibrato when I got carried away during Beethoven 9 the other night).

As you may know, in the string section we sit in pairs known as desks. This helps the flow of communication from front to back (someone can deal with the marking up of parts whilst the other continues to play), the blending of sound, the clarity of the divisi lines and uninterrupted page turns.

Our string section also works on a rotation system. After the numbered chairs, which are permanent seats always filled by the same people (generally the first two desks), the seat in which you sit changes, either with each programme or bi-weekly, depending on how your elected section rota manager chooses to work it out.

This has a number of practical positives. Firstly, you never have to spend all of your time at the back of the section. In the violas and second violins that would be a miserable existence as it would place you either directly in front of the high wind or directly in front of the brass, all day, every day.

Now, when I say that, I mean that with the greatest love and respect for my colleagues. If they are called upon to play fortissimo, then play fortissimo they must and it is the nature of their instruments that the sound often be quite penetrating. It is no one's fault, it is a simple fact of acoustics. However, without a doubt, sitting directly in the line of fire, as it were, each day, could eventually have a detrimental effect on a player's hearing.

Secondly, it gives you the opportunity to play alongside each of your colleagues. We have a fabulous viola section and I have learnt a lot from each of my viola colleagues since joining the orchestra.

However, this week the required string strengths meant that we would have an uneven-numbered viola section with someone sitting on their own. AND IT WAS ME (cue minor huff). I hate sitting on my own - it's more difficult to blend with everyone else; you've got to do all the secretarial work yourself but still not miss any of the playing out; you feel like a little viola peninsula separated from the main body of the viola island and you've no one to (quietly and discreetly) gossip with during the bits you're not rehearsing.

So, if you are at our Swansea Festival concert tonight (Thursday) or our Hoddinott Hall concert on Saturday, do give me a little wave. It's lonely back there on your own! I look like I've been sent to sit on the naughty step...

BBC Radio Wales presents the 'Best of Sŵn' Festival Showcase

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 12:10 UK time, Wednesday, 12 October 2011

On Saturday 22 October Adam Walton and I from BBC Radio Wales will be hosting a special stage of acoustic sessions at the plush location of the Kuku Club, Greyfriars Road, Cardiff.

We'll be showcasing a selection of some of our favourite bands appearing at Sŵn this year, and broadcasting them across the weekend, on my show at 6.30pm on the Saturday, and Adam's show on the Sunday from 10pm.

Race Horses

Race Horses

Adam and I have been supporting, enjoying and hosting stages every year since Sŵn started, and for this, the fifth year of Sŵn, we're making it special, intimate, and exclusive with a guestlist-only audience watching six of the best up and coming bands at the festival. We support Sŵn as it's been a real hub of excitement, a real meeting of minds in terms of musicians and fans who love new music and it's great to reflect this on BBC Radio Wales too.

It's also part of Radio Wales' ongoing commitment to new music in Wales, in that it's the last in a series of broadcasts from festivals this year. We started at April's Laugharne festival, travelled through the summer till we hit August's Green Man festival.

The bands will include Welsh favourites Race Horses who will be playing their first ever acoustic session. The band, who are signed to Fantastic Plastic, have seen 6 Music in particular get behind their new songs including Benidorm.

Also on the bill are the boy/girl duo Summer Camp, aka Elizabeth Sankey and Jeremy Warmsley. They have a beautiful new album out at the end of this month called Welcome To Condale, on their own label Apricot Recording Company (in conjunction with Moshi Moshi). Elizabeth has such a unique voice, so I'm excited to hear an acoustic session by them.

Daughter is another name that has cropped up in new music circles recently. The stunning and fragile folk voice of Elena Tonra blew me away when I first heard it. The London singer has an EP coming out called The Wild Youth released via Communion Records on 21 November, so I hope we hear something from it in the showcase.

Welsh singer Denuo first came to my attention when I heard he'd been self-recording a soundtrack to his travels around the north Wales coast, called Wolf River. What cemented my attention was the call to support Manic Street Preachers at their Radio 2 concert in Blackwood Miners Institute earlier this year. I've been playing his music ever since and really look forward to what he'll bring to the session on Saturday.

Sam Airey, the Leeds-based, north Walian singer/songwriter sent us his music through the Introducing Uploader, and it was instantly taken as one of the rare treasures that you find within a pile of demos. He's since had the support of Huw Stephens on BBC Radio 1, and recorded a Maida Vale session, and was a welcome addition to the Sŵn line up. His voice and heartbreaking style is reminiscent of Bon Iver or Nick Drake, just touching to the core. His first single The Blackout was released earlier this year.

We're also honoured to be hosting another beautiful troubadour Benjamin Francis Leftwich. He might just sneak a few covers into his set, and if that sound like something you'd like, why not download his covers EP for free from his website?

Please note artists not necessarily appearing in this order.

For more info on our showcase at Sŵn, or to tune in to the broadcast, head to the website for all the details:

Michael Forever: The Tribute Concert - Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, 8 October 2011

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:45 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Following months of anticipation and speculation in which artists were confirmed and some dropped out, rumours flew and fan groups complained, the Michael Forever tribute concert went ahead at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium this weekend. We sent along Sam Edwards, and this is her review of the night.

Read the rest of this entry

At the Swansea Festival

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:14 UK time, Monday, 10 October 2011

Last week was a bit quiet. We had no concerts, but were locked up in the recording studio. Occasionally we were allowed to emerge, blinking, into the outside world in order to forage for caffeinated beverages. By the time the working week was done it appeared autumn had arrived!

This week is quite a busy one for us and there are plenty of great works to hear. On Thursday we will be performing at the Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, under the baton of our principal conductor Thierry Fischer.

On the bill of fare will be Ravel's oh-so-sexy Piano Concerto in G with pianist, Steven Osborne. Mr Osborne recently recorded Ravel's complete solo works for piano (no mean feat) so this will be a wonderful opportunity to hear him perform this concerto after his marathon Ravel immersion! For the geeks amongst us (like myself), there is a very interesting article on the Guardian online about Mr Osborne's Ravel journey.

Maurice Ravel

Maurice Ravel

Also on the programme is Mussorgsky's A Night On The Bare Mountain. I have a clear memory of hearing this work for the first time. I was about nine years old and had only just started viola lessons. The extent of my classical music knowledge was that the viola was bigger than the violin, that Beethoven had funny hair and F natural was not the same as F sharp (thanks to Aunty Margaret for clearing that mystery up for me).

I was curled up in a chair with my dad and it was Boxing Day. For Christmas, Santa had left me a video of Disney's Fantasia and when my Mum popped it into the video player and Stokowski took to the podium and the opening chords of his orchestral arrangement of Bach's Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor blared out, my mind blew.

The final work in Fantasia, A Night On The Bare Mountain, scared the life out of me (don't even start me on The Rite Of Spring). The animation that went with it was genius and I recall being really relieved when the Angelus bell tolled, heralding the end of Chernabog's demonic rule on the mountain!

By the time we had finished watching Fantasia that Boxing Day evening, there was a little bit of me that already knew what I wanted to do with my life. It woke something in me that I had neither the words nor comprehension to express. Over the years, I watched my video of Fantasia so many times that it started to go funny in places, the way videos were wont to do.

Nowadays I get so excited when I play any of the works that were on it - it reminds me why I wanted to play in the first place. As a working musician, it can be really difficult to keep your enthusiasm up at times and its good to be reminded of what made you fall in love with music in the first place.

(PS I now have Fantasia on DVD)

BBC National Orchestra of Wales will be playing at the Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea, on Thursday 13 October, 7.30pm. For more information and tickets, visit

Katherine Jenkins in unique Twitter experiment

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:57 UK time, Thursday, 6 October 2011

Katherine Jenkins will première her upcoming album Daydream (out 10 October) with an innovative Twitter campaign which will encourage her fans to collaborate online to hear the album for the first time.

Katherine Jenkins

Launching tomorrow, fans will be able to hear a full pre-release stream of the album at However, the album will only be unlocked when the hashtag #kjdaydream has been tweeted 10,000 times. Fans will be encouraged to work together to help ensure that the 10,000 tweets mark is reached as quickly as possible.

A running tally of the total number of tweets will feature on her website. Katherine has a huge and devoted Twitter fanbase which looks set to break the 100,000 followers mark very soon. Her new website includes a dedicated section for her Twitter stream where fans can read her updates and view photos without leaving the website.

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Trwbador In Session BBC Radio Wales, 1 October 2011

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Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 13:07 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

For a radio show that makes a habit of welcoming many of the big and boisterous rock bands in session, last weekend we turned the tables completely and had the most delicate sounds of Trwbador in session.

Capturing all the vocal kook of Kate Bush, and the toy musical charms of Coco Rosie, they are the most magical of musical experiences, and indeed best experienced by leaving your worldly weary cynicism by the door and entering their childlike world. It was truly captivating.

To share with more of you, I've written down a little of our chat on the show last week, and we've got a session track to share here on the blog.

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Beth: How are things in the Trwbador camp?

Owain: Very good - we just came back from Ireland!

Angharad: Yes, just last week, we played a Cabaret Culture night.

B: I've heard the Irish crowd are always quite wild and enthusiastic; is that true?

A: Very enthusiastic. Owain and I ran out of money on our second day there and went busking in the street. They were so enthusiastic they helped pay for our lunch, so they fed us!

B: You've just played Onions Make Me Cry, a rather strange subject matter, but do you like the choice of everyday subjects?

A: This is originally a song written by an artist called Princess Moon Feathers. We like how it sounded like Coco Rosie, so we asked if we could cover it.

B: What other subject matter do Trwbador cover? I've noticed a few weather songs.

A; Can't beat 'weather talk'!

O: Breaks the ice! (boom boom!)

B: Have you done every season?

O: We haven't done autumn, and that's my favourite season, so we're saving the best till last.

B: Your current EP is called Sun In The Winter, which comes out on Owlet Records, all handmade and lovely. Why did you want to do it DIY?

O: We just wanted to get records out there and thought no-one else is going to do it for us. We had help though!

B: You've also put compilations out by other bands too, so it's grown?

A: It's always exciting to hear about new artists.

B: Tell me about some of the bands.

A: There's an artist called Telefair, currently living in Manchester, moved there from North Wales, he's amazing! He's got an EP out on Owlett.

O: Violas.

B: Brilliant band!

A: A lot of energy - very good!

O: We're trying to sort something out with them right now.

B: Great pop, following on from the Race Horses tradition. On a tangent, how did you two meet? I first met you, Angharad, as a dance producer, but what you do now is very different.

A: It is very different, but I don't like to be limited anyway.

O: When we met, she was making techno, and I was making hip hop.

B: Wow! What happened there?

A: Two negatives made a positive! We studied at the same college, Owain went off to study creative sound of music at Newport, and I was a drop-out from the sound technology course at Cardiff; then we moved back to the country.

And the rest is a beautifully-crafted, creative vision of music that's truly original in Wales, running a record label and making music like no others. Welcome to the wonderful world of Trwbador.

Manic Street Preachers interview on Radio Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:35 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

"Welsh rock and roll royalty" joined Jamie Owen on Radio Wales yesterday: James and Nicky of Manic Street Preachers came into the studio to talk about their career, their friendship and their upcoming singles collection, National Treasures.

Listen to the full interview here:

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Black Eyed Peas pull out of Michael Forever concert

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James McLaren James McLaren | 07:37 UK time, Wednesday, 5 October 2011

American pop act Black Eyed Peas have pulled out of this weekend's Michael Forever concert, citing "unforeseen circumstances".

Blck Eyed Peas

Black Eyed Peas

"It is with regret that we announce the removal of Black Eyed Peas from the Michael Forever bill, but I look forward to a great night with other earth shattering artists," said Chris Hunt, the chief executive officer of Global Live Events.

The concert (Saturday 8 October, Millennium Stadium) will be hosted by Radio One's Fearne Cotton and actor/musician Jamie Foxx. The rest of the line-up includes Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Gladys Knight, Smokey Robinson, Leona Lewis, Alexandra Burke, JLS, Diversity, Ne-Yo, Pixie Lott, Alien Ant Farm, Jennifer Hudson, Craig David, La Toya Jackson and 3T.

Beyoncé will perform by video.

Gruff Rhys - Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Sunday 2 October 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 16:00 UK time, Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Llandudno's Venue Cymru is an excellent facility, with all of the romance that word conveys. It's a sensible theatre, filled with sensible seats, lit by sensible lighting, with a sensible, unobtrusive carpet. All traces of character or charisma have been sacrificed to the utilitarian. As my friends and I hurtle down the A55 (although 'hurtle' in an over-laden one-litre Polo is wishful thinking) I worry that this mightn't be the best place to witness Gruff Rhys and his phantasmagoric show.

Gruff's tactic to confound the moribund is to turn the lights down real low. It's proper gloaming for music-hungry owls as we shuffle in, too late to catch Y Niwl (mortifying!). The stage has two counters to illustrate the Hotel Shampoo theme, but that's the only real sop to the concept.

The reason for the dimness becomes apparent when Gruff, with Y Niwl as his backing band, take the stage: a constant stream of off-kilter film clips are projected onto the back wall throughout the gig - images of garden birds, coupling couples, trippy patterns and clouds. It's an excellent accompaniment to the music that gives Gruff and Y Niwl the freedom to concentrate on making sounds.

And what sounds...

Alun's peerless twang, Sion's enervating bass, Pete's rolling groove, Gruff Ab Arwel's stabs of garage organ or second guitar. Recorders and various 'toy' instruments enrich sonic proceedings. It's an inspirational junk shop of ideas: retro instruments, plastic toys, pimped up Spanish guitar, all conjoined like droids in the belly of a Jawa transporter.

It's a very modern aesthetic of making best use of what's around you. Whatever has the potential to illuminate life with fun sparks. And - make no mistake - for all of the emotive heart in his songs, Gruff's motivating philosophy appears to be one of restless musical adventure and fun. His entire back catalogue is testament to that: anathema to dullness and suffocating grey.

It's all a tapestry around Gruff's voice. I don't know whether he gets as much credit for his singing as he deserves. His voice is suffused with a lachrymose joy, as rich and complicated as the music he writes. It conjures tears out of reluctant ducts during Pwdin Wy 2, despite me only understanding one word in six.

Much of the first half of the set is a reminder of how brilliant his first solo album, Yr Atal Genhedlaeth, was. The playground singalong simplicity of Gwn Mi Wn, Ni Yw Y Byd and Pwdin Wy are timeless and impossible to resist. Smiles spread throughout the crowd. The double dip gets speared by notes and unity. Money does matter, unfortunately, but it's piffle in a puddle compared to the nebula of wonder hung around this room by Gruff's songs.

Candylion could charm a tax collector. In A House With No Mirrors, all Stooges' guitars, sounds so much more than a one-off tributary. Cycle Of Violence is a 21st century Love hooking in Hindi melodies, flamenco and West Coast psych so naturally you start to feel whole centuries and cultures nuzzling together. Caerffosiaeth, where Gruff backs himself with a scratchy 7" of Bontempi beats on a portable record deck, is simple, unshowy avant garde, a strange flowering of his love for Datblygu.

Only a quarter of the set is dedicated to Hotel Shampoo, the album he is ostensibly touring. I imagine that the set will morph, change and evolve as it progresses. Honey All Over was my highlight amongst a firmament of highlights, with harmonies even more luscious and impressive than those that break out over the album version.

Throughout, Gruff is the most genial and quietly entertaining of hosts. He's funny as heck, even if I'm not always entirely sure what he's saying.

The concert finishes with Skylon. Gruff plays aeroplane sounds on the record player. A drone fills the room like a million meditative bees. An airliner seat is brought to the front of the stage. Clouds fill the backdrop. Sion pins us to our seats with a hypnotic bass line. 15 minutes of the same few chords purr in the background like a plane in flight. Gruff intones his way through the drama that unfolds within the cabin.

The final "SKYLON!" is screamed as if, in this version of the song, the plane explodes just at the point it appears to have been saved by our bearded hero. The sky splits, we plummet to the ground, the house lights come up and the spell is broken.

We troop out of Venue Cymru - now, resolutely, just a theatre again, the grotto of wonders it has been for the last couple of hours already fading. I buy a mug and a couple of tour singles (beautiful!) and something strikes me like a casey in the face as I stand in the foyer. I've seen Gruff twice in the space of a few weeks. Both sets were very different, but equally great. Yet, in neither set did he once touch upon the glowing majesty of his day job's back catalogue.

That is astonishing.

Quietly - with some searingly loud interludes - this man has become the finest songwriter and visionary these isles - all of them - have produced for a very, very long time. On the dark way home, I tweet that I want this gig on a loop on my deathbed. I'm not being morbid - it's a homage to Huxley's hallucinogenic trip off this mortal coil (but a legal equivalent).

Gruff's music encompasses so much of what I love about being alive. If the Pharaohs got to be buried with their dearest possessions as company for the afterlife, I just want these wonderful sounds, please. For eternity.

Gruff Rhys plays St David's Hall, Cardiff on Wednesday 5 October.

Reflections on last Friday night...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 17:37 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

What an incredible October weekend! This weekend's heat wave thankfully coincided with a whole weekend off for the orchestra. On Sunday, a few of us went to the beach for a barbecue and to lie on beach towels, which gave me some time to reflect on our concert last Friday night.

Two things struck me from the very beginning of the concert. Firstly, how smart the gentlemen all looked in their tails! I love it when the men wear tails - it reminds me of watching old footage of orchestras from back in the day; tails may be considered an archaic form of dress these days, but I think they look great. No man can look scruffy in tails, even if he tries really hard. Bring back tails!

The second thing that struck me was the audience. St David's Hall has a deceptively large auditorium and it was encouraging to see it so well filled. You all looked very lovely in the audience too!

There was a tangible atmosphere of expectancy for the Adams and the children's chorus (made up of the choristers of Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester) added a chilling edge to the work. It's remarkable that such small people can make such a large noise.

The heat onstage was quite fierce on Friday evening and I was glad to get offstage at the interval. As we were about to come on for the second half, all psyched up and ready to go for a spot of Beethoven with BBC National Chorus of Wales, the fire alarm went off, resulting in a complete evacuation of the building.

There's an air of anti-climax when something like this happens and it doesn't do much for your concentration levels. There's a lot of uncertainty as to how long proceedings will be held up, and then, once the building has been declared not in actual fact on fire, will there be sufficient time to complete the concert? As it turned out, St David's Hall was not ablaze and with only a short delay we were back on.

This was my first Beethoven 9 and I now find it an even more remarkable work than I had done before. When you think about it, this symphony is incredible in so many ways. At the time of its première, the magnitude of its orchestral forces dwarfed anything that had been composed previously. The length of the work was unprecedented and it is one of the earliest works to include a full chorus, plus soloists. If you consider the fact that Beethoven was probably completely deaf by the time he composed this colossus, you cannot fail to be amazed by this work.

I believe this symphony was the perfect foil to the Adams. While the opening work was a commemoration of unthinkable tragedy, the Beethoven lifts the listener out of despair. Even today, I feel it is one of the most amazing tributes to man's resilience and to our ability to rise above our circumstance. It is a truly awe-inspiring celebration of humankind.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 2 October 2011

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 16:02 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

This week's show is now available on the BBC iPlayer. Please visit the link any time between now and the start of the next programme

Where do I start? Because there's so much to tell you about - so much bristling aural content - in this week's programme, it's difficult to know where to begin.

Let's start with the man whose unfettered imagination, wily chord changes, and penchant for dynamic shifts and bellowings that'd shake black holes off their hinges changed music forever. Without Pixies there'd be no Nirvana. It's impossible to gauge the exact depth and breadth of the Boston band's influence. But if you have friends who don't feel an affinity with Gouge Away, Gigantic, Wave Of Mutilation, Where Is My Mind? etc. then I would seriously reconsider your relationship with. One day, they may bring a James Morrison CD into the house.

How quaint! I said "CD".

Anyway, the man who wrote the songs listed above was Charles Michael Kitteridge Thompson IV aka Black Francis aka (following Pixies' initial split) Frank Black. And in this week's show we have a play for the recently re-discovered acoustic session he recorded for me in Mold on 17 May 1994. It's ace. Hands down.

Hands up who wants to hear some fine Welsh electronica as performed with great adroitness at this year's Gwyl Gardd Goll? You do? Excellent. We have 14 minutes of Land of Bingo's glorious, bass and cinematic melody-heavy set from that glorious Saturday evening.

In amongst the 40-ish slabs of tuneage and creativity, I have a first play for the lead track from Future of the Left's forthcoming EP. It's called Polymers Are Forever. It is monumental in its aceness and has a coda that'd transfix a rabid bear.

There are proper first time plays for Alembic and Rajesh David. Ben Hayes thrills us with some Aussie horn punk. Lara Catrin translates Datblygu. And there are sounds to thrill, beguile, annoy and inspire you.

Please bung demos/gig info/new releases etc to

I highly recommend reading these articles before you send in your tracks. They go into exhaustive detail about what I'm looking for, and highlight some of the things you can do to improve your chances of radio play: submitting music to the show - dos and don'ts: #1, #2, #3, #4.

JULIAN COPE - 'I Come From Another Planet, Baby'

ALEMBIC - 'Dundun'
London ( Welsh Label )

Mold / Leicester

CRASH DISCO - 'Chezza V'


VVOLVES - 'Clearer ( E P Version )'
Monmouth / Cardiff

FRANK BLACK - 'The Man Who Was Too Loud ( Acoustic Session 1994 )'
Boston, US

Natick, US

GRUFF RHYS - 'Whale Trail'

STEREOLAB - 'Mellotron'

GIRLS - 'Just A Song'
San Francisco ( Welsh Management )

HALF MAN HALF BISCUIT - 'Tommy Walsh's Eco House'


SHY AND THE FIGHT - 'All That We See Or Seem'
Chester / Llangollen

KLING KLANG - 'Rocker'

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Polymers Are Forever'

JESUS LIZARD, THE - 'Mouth Breather'
Austin, Texas, US

S T D - 'Quantum Stupor'

FRANK BLACK - 'The Men In Black ( Acoustic Session 1994 )'
Boston, US

SLEEPY PANDA CLUB - 'Ghost In The Mirrorr'

CATE LE BON - 'Puts Me To Work'

LOWLAND HUNDRED, THE - 'Salt Water Bathing'

MC MABON - 'The Futility And The Greatness'

DOOM - 'Ballskin'

ALICE CLARK - 'You Hit Me ( Right Where It Hurt Me )'

AKIRA THE DON - 'Babydoll'

GALLOPS - 'Jeff Leppard'

SEX HANDS - 'Way No Way'
Dwygfylchi / Llanfairfechan / Conwy

BIRTHDAY PARTY, THE - 'Release The Bats'

FALCON LAKE - 'Gold Cult'
Newport / Cardiff

LAND OF BINGO - 'Live Set From Gwyl Gardd Goll 2011'
Mold / Manchester

RICHARD JAMES - 'Do You Know The Way To My Heart?'
Croes - Y - Ceiliog

LANDSLIDE - 'World Keeps Spinning ( Monky Remix )'

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor / Cardiff

DATBLYGU - 'Nos Iau Ar Y Arfordir'

COLORAMA - 'Mas Ar Y Dre'

FRANK BLACK - 'Calistan ( Acoustic Session 1994 )'
Boston, US

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'

SAINTS, THE - 'Know Your Product'
Melbourne, Australia

RAJESH DAVID - 'Mirabai'


Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:23 UK time, Monday, 3 October 2011

This weekend sees the start of the Swansea Festival of Music and the Arts, with classical, opera, jazz and dance events taking place.

Smattered across three weeks from 6-22 October, the festival is bringing some top talent of the genres to Wales' second city, with lectures adding to the attractions too.

Some of the main musical events:

Friday 7 October, 7.30pm
The Lord Mayor's Reception Room, Guildhall
Festival lecture with Professor David Wyn Jones: Beethoven the Revolutionary, an illustrated talk examining Beethoven's complex musical personality.

Tasmin Little

Tasmin Little

Saturday 8 October, 7.30pm
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with Thomas Dausgaard (conductor) and Tasmin Little (violin), playing Beetghoven's Overture: Egmont, Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1 in G and Brahms' Symphony No.4.

Fflur Wyn

Fflur Wyn

Sunday 9 October, 3.00pm
St. Mary's Church, Swansea
Côrdydd with Steffan Morris (cello), Fflur Wyn (soprano) and Festival Ensemble to include Requiem by John Rutter and the first performance of a new work by Paul Mealor commissioned by the Friends of the Festival.

Monday 10 October, 2.30pm
Council Chamber, Civic Centre
Stravinsky's Firebird: with an eye to the concert on 13 October, Chris Weekes will examine the fairy-tale ballet which achieved immediate and lasting success for Stravinsky following its Paris première in 1910.

Monday 10 October, 6.30pm
Committee Room 3, Guildhall
Huw Tregelles Williams talks to Dame Gillian Weir about her career highlights prior to her organ recital at 7.30pm. The recital features William Mathias' Variations on Braint; Franck's Choral No 1 in E; Dupre's Verset on Ave Maris Stella; Flor Peeters' Toccata, Fugue and Hymn on Ave Maris Stella; Saint-Saens' Prelude and Fugue in B major; Liszt's Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H; Guy Bovet's Salamanca; Boellmann's Allegretto con moto and Lanquetit's Toccata in D.

Tuesday 11 October, 6.30pm
Committee Room 3, Guildhall
Huw Tregelles Williams talks to Geraint Lewis about his piano sonata, Anatiomaros, commissioned by Friends of the Festival, prior to its première (Brangwyn Hall, 7.30pm) which features Beethoven's Sonata No 23 in F minor; Opus 57 (Appassionata); Geraint Lewis' Anatiomaros; Liszt's Années de Pèlerinage and Wagner, transc. Liszt's Isolde's Liebestod

Thursday 13 October, 7.30pm
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea

BBC National Orchestra of Wales with Thierry Fischer (conductor) and Stephen Osborne (piano). Programme includes Debussy's The Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian; Ravel's Piano Concerto in G; Mussorgsky's Night on a Bare Mountain and Stravinsky's Suite: The Firebird (1919 version).

Saturday 15 October, 7.30pm
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra with Yuri Simonov (conductor) and Nikita Borisoglebsky (violin). Programme includes Rimsky-Korsakov's Capriccio Espagnol; Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D and Dvorak's Symphony No.9 in E minor (from the New World).

Sunday 16 October, 7.30pm
Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea
Festival Jazz with Richard Rodney Bennett (piano) and Claire Martin (jazz vocalist).

Monday 17 October, 7.30pm
National Waterfront Museum
The Patti Legend: Simon Rees, Dramaturg at Welsh National Opera, explores the career and recordings of Adelina Patti and her connections with Swansea.

Elin Manahan Thomas

Elin Manahan Thomas

Tuesday 18 October, 7.30pm
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
A Tribute to Vivaldi with Elin Manahan Thomas (soprano) and Florilegium (period instrument ensemble).

Wednesday 19 October, 7.00pm and Friday 21 October, 7.00pm
Grand Theatre, Swansea
Welsh National Opera with John Caird (director) and James Southall (conductor). Mozart's Don Giovanni: a new production sung in Italian with English and Welsh surtitles.

Thursday 20 October, 7.00pm and Saturday 22 October, 7.00pm
Grand Theatre, Swansea
Welsh National Opera with Giles Havergal (director) and Alexander Polianicheko (conductor). Rossini's The Barber of Seville sung in English with English and Welsh surtitles.

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