Archives for December 2011

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 25 December 2011

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:11 UK time, Thursday, 29 December 2011

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?'


GRUFF RHYS - 'Sensations In The Dark'

METABEATS - 'The Snap Featuring Mudmowth, Rtkal & Ruffstylz ( Radio Edit )'

SKINDRED - 'Warning'

WIBIDI - 'Some People'

LLWYBR LLAETHOG - 'Bodlondeb Ty Cnau ( Featuring David R. Edwards )'
Blaenau Ffestiniog / Cardiff

KORELESS - 'Up Down Up Down'

Brighton / Cardiff

KNICKERS - 'My Baby's Just A Baby ( But I Love Him So )'
London / Cardiff Distribution

Y NIWL - 'Chwech'

KEYS, THE - 'I Tried To Find It In Books'
Resolven / Cardiff


GALLOPS - 'Joust'


LOVELY EGGS, THE - 'New Allergies'

GENTLE GOOD, THE - 'Llosgi Pontydd'

LLEUWEN - 'Cawell Fach Y Galon'

TINY SKITZ - 'Grime Is The One'

YR ODS - 'Troi A Throsi'

JONNY - 'Waiting Around For You'

EUROS CHILDS - 'Something On My Mind'

BASTIONS - 'Visitant'

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

JAY ROBINSON - 'Get Mad Now'
Colwyn Bay

GOLDEN FABLE - 'The Chill Pt. 2'


SWEET BABOO - 'The Day I Lost My Voice'
Bangor / Cardiff

IFAN DAFYDD - 'No Good ( 12" Version )'

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

LOS CAMPESINOS - 'Songs About Your Girlfriend'

HOUDINI DAX - 'Robin You Lie'

H. HAWKLINE - 'You Say You Love Me'

MC MABON - 'Health And Safety'

AKIRA THE DON - 'Babydoll'

BWGAN, Y - 'Dali Lawr'
Porthmadog / Caernarfon

PULCO - 'Whistle Frog ( E.p. Version )'

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Polymers Are Forever'

SATURDAY'S KIDS - 'Whisper In My Ear'

TRUCKERS OF HUSK - 'Dear Malcolm Sullivan I Hope You're Alive?'

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

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

JOANNA GRUESOME - 'Sugarcrush'

LOOSE CAPACITOR - 'Frankensynth'

TRWBADOR - 'Sun In The Winter'
Camarthen / Cardiff

HUW M - 'Ysgafelloedd Gwag'

CHLOE LEAVERS - 'Don't Leave Your Joy'
Colwyn Bay

COLORAMA - 'Lisa Lan'

COWBOIS RHOS BOTWNNOG - 'Celwydd Golau Ydi Cariad'
Llyn Peninsula


STRUCK A NERVE - 'Can't Lose Out'

SAM AIREY - 'The Blackout ( Radio Edit )'

XXXY - 'Ordinary Things'

DAU CEFN - 'Cariad'
Caernarfon / Cardiff


Saying goodbye to Ukraine, Gary Numan and 2011

Post categories:

Jayce Lewis Jayce Lewis | 13:50 UK time, Thursday, 29 December 2011

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; I am very pleased to have my work used. It's Ironic that they did a cover of Cars with Gary Numan a few years back (featuring Gary), and yet I'm not sure if he knows I'm friends with them.

Jayce Lewis with Fear Factory

Jayce Lewis with Fear Factory

Touring with Gary and co has been both amazing and fascinating. Amazing because for someone who is the pioneer for what I and almost everyone else does within modern music, he is one of the most humble and nicest guys you could ever wish to meet (let alone share the stage with); his crew were outstanding and and his band Ade, Tim, Rich, (Bass) Tim and Dave are amazing and talented. It's a shame that all great parties come to an end... until next time I guess.

Being on the road is like you're separated from society, with no gauge of time or surroundings (except the bus) it's almost a time capsule: your body clock goes way out and you adapt to living this way very quickly. I had some new crew out on the road with me for December, some have never toured, or even been on a tour bus. It was interesting to see it for the first time and how fast they adapt to the new way living for a week or two. There are things they did that I used to do and somehow don't any more - like venturing around the new city you have arrived in etcetera - I really should do that more.

First thing to be done in January is to film the new video to track, Electric Medicine. It's been months of planning and story boarding; a close friend of mine by the name of Drew recently came out on the road with us has been busy piecing it all together. I love this new method of video making: get an idea, develop it, get a crew and film. Filming Passes II was done in a similar way and it was very enjoyable. Although it was done on a very cheap SD video camera, I think the vibe and styling masked it up to a point.

Jayce Lewis on stage in Ukraine

Jayce Lewis on stage in Ukraine

2012 is going to be a year of touring and getting the second album finished and released, which is not easy. Doing this 'one man' writing everything business is a double-edged sword and creatively testing at times! 2011 has been the stepping stone for our UK and Europe campaign. It feels like we have finally landed in the UK thanks to Gary, Ade and John (EMI). It took a little adapting as it's very different here from the Asian market, but nonetheless it's an awesome vibe and we are very excited! 2012 here we come!

Jayce - out!

BBC Young Musician 2012 heads to the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama

BBC Wales Music BBC Wales Music | 16:30 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

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

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.

Top ten Welsh tunes of 2011

Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 15:55 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

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.

  1. Sam Airey - The Blackout
  2. Houdini Dax - OLL
  3. Los Campesinos! - By Your Hand
  4. Among Brothers - Loved
  5. Y Niwl - Undegpedwar
  6. Town - Teenage Sky
  7. Kutosis - Devo
  8. Man Without Country - King Complex
  9. Friends Electric - Something You Should Know
  10. Manics Street Preachers - This Is The Day

Sam Airey might be a new name for you and at number one, you might be wondering who he is, but from a track that came in to us via the Introducing Uploader, where all new bands send us their music, to playing live at the Swn festival, he was a wonder: a real treasure of a discovery, a genuine and heartbreaking voice, and an incredibly mature songwriter deserving of the top spot.

At number two is another young act. Houdini Dax are a joy to behold live, a pleasure to be in their company, and write some urgent, raw and exciting music. By Your Hand, from Los Campesinos!'s album Hello Sadness, is one of my favourite tracks from them period, the multitude of chorus, the melancholy of the song, and all the usual charm of the multilayered sounds of the band.

The rest of the bands have entertained, toured, released, and worked tirelessly throughout the year, and their names have cropped up time and time again - especially Manic Street Preachers, who finished off the year in style at the O2 last weekend, what a year they've had!

However, there are lots and lots of tracks missing - Gruff Rhys, winner of Welsh album of the year with Hotel Shampoo, Sweet Baboo, The Joy Formidable, The Gentle Good, Lleuwen, and indeed all the nominees of album of the year prize back in October.

There's the host of rock bands Kids, The Blackout, Cuba Cuba, Tiger Please and more, who have all released incredible albums this year. There's also a whole host of bands who came, recorded sessions, performed festival stages, and came through the BBC doors over the last 12 months.

Thankfully, some of these will be featured in the Best in Show programme, which airs this Christmas Eve at 6.30pm. The rest, I hope, will feature in Adam Walton's 50 track special best-of-the-year show on Christmas night. There will still be those we've missed out completely, but these lists aren't comprehensive - they are a snapshot of the year that's been, and what a joyful, wide ranging year it's been for Welsh music. Here's to 2012.

More of my Like Lists:

New discoveries

Albums of the year

Favourite interviews

  • Michael Sheen at Laugharne Festival, April
  • Manic Street Preachers session and studio interview, November
  • The Blackout vs GLC pop quiz at Merthyr Rocks Festival, September
  • Kids In Glass Houses BBC Studio Session and pop quiz, July
  • Howard Marks at Green Man Festival, August
  • Wynne Evans, tenor, November
  • Joe Dunthorne, author of Submarine, November

Gigs of the year

  • Public Enemy and Ice Cube at Cardiff University Sept 2011
  • Manics at Motorpoint Arena May 2011
  • The Keys, Colorama and Zervas & Pepper at BBC Social Club, Llandaf, Dec 2011
  • Future of the Left, Saturday's Kids at Clwb Ifor Bach Dec 2011

Festivals of the year

  • Machynlleth Festival, May
  • Greenman Festival, August
  • Reading Festival, August
  • Big Chill Festival, August
  • Maes B, Eisteddfod, August
  • Swn Festival, October

Non-musical highlight

The rugby world cup and Wales football team wins!

Manic Street Preachers at the O2, London

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 12:25 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Manic Street Preachers played their one-off Greatest Hits show at London's O2 on Saturday, with guest appearances from Gruff Rhys and Nina Persson. We asked some attendees to give us their impressions of the night.

Greg Haver, Manics producer

Nearly 22 years ago one of my long defunct bands had a full page "Next big thing..." article in the South Wales Echo. At the bottom of the page was a footnote that a new South Wales band, the Manic Street Preachers, had released their first single.

Fast forward two decades to last Saturday night in front of a packed O2 Arena in London the Manics played that very song, along with another 37 of their hit singles which spanned the intervening years. It was a celebration of an amazing career, every song a snapshot of my - and the audience's - life over that time.

From that newspaper article, through my involvement with them when we shared a backstreet Cardiff rehearsal room, to becoming their engineer and producer for part of their career and a live musician during the Greatest Hits tour was a wonderful journey which defined a large part of my life, making last night quite emotional. We may not see a band like them again. I look forward to their next move with excitement and anticipation.

I'm sure they won't disappoint.

Simon Price, Manics biographer and journalist

The Manics set themselves an insane challenge, playing 38 a-sides in one night at Britain's biggest mega-shed and selling it out. But when you think about it, the Manics' entire career has been one long insane challenge, trying to bring intelligence, literacy and socialist principles to the masses via something so dumb as rock'n'roll music. And, more often than not, succeeding.

The 02 is Britain's most Hellish venue, from the excessive security searches to the obscene drinks prices to the steeply-banked seats that are so far away from the stage that you might as well be watching on TV, but the Manics fans made it less like a battery farm and more like an indoor safari park, with the abundance of faux-leopard fur and flamingo-pink feathers.

"We're here to celebrate the possibly defunct form of the Situationist-esque pop-punk single," announced James Dean Bradfield, but the format meant that they couldn't cherry-pick just their favourites. My personal highlights of this unique show were two songs which, in the normal run of things, they're reluctant to play: Revol and Life Becoming A Landslide. By definition, the completist format of the show obliged them to revisit singles which are neglected and unloved (whether by the band, their public or both). In a surprising number of cases, these bastard children of the back catalogue shone: Empty Souls and There By The Grace Of God, in particular, seemed to rise to the occasion, although James' pessimistic predictions about the reaction to So Why So Sad became a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Well, I enjoyed it.)

There were a couple of special guests: Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys helped to bring a minor Manics single, Let Robeson Sing, to life, and The Cardigans' Nina Persson thrillingly reprised her duet with Bradfield on Your Love Alone Is Not Enough, although the feverish rumours about who might join them for Little Baby Nothing (will it be Kylie again? Will Traci Lords show up?) came to nought as James took on the entire song.

Bradfield and Nicky Wire emerged as a skilled comedy double act, the latter teasing the former by announcing "I can't wait to get into a dress. How about you, James?", and the singer complaing that the bassist had snipped a ribbon from the back of his sailor suit "because it doesn't suit me".

It's a tribute to the quality of their songwriting that this epic gig never seemed to flag, and also to their physical strength (even if Wire admitted he'd done his shoulder in midway through the second half). After a show which lasted for over three hours, Sean Moore, in particular, deserved some sort of endurance medal for pulverising the drums for so long. And it was a relief that James, who has a habit of contracting laryngitis or flu at just the wrong moment, managed to hold out.

As Wire smashed his bass in a blizzard of confetti 'snow', it felt like yet another against-the-odds triumph. By all accounts the band themselves were exhilarated and buzzing backstage, and the talk of an "indefinite hiatus" after the 02 show has shrunk to "three years", then "two years", and then "we have to take this show to Japan!!" (from the band's official Twitter account, @ManicsPostcards). Which is as predictable as it is heartening: I knew the Manics' work ethic and restlessness would kick in and prevent them taking too long a holiday. We can't afford to do without a band this great for long.

The setlist was non-chronological, and in two sections with an interval in between. The second half began with Australia.

  • You Stole The Sun From My Heart
  • Love's Sweet Exile
  • Motorcycle Emptiness
  • It's Not War (Just The End Of Love)
  • Everything Must Go
  • She Is Suffering
  • From Despair To Where
  • Autumnsong
  • Empty Souls
  • Let Robeson Sing (featuring Gruff Rhys)
  • Faster
  • Life Becoming A Landslide
  • Kevin Carter
  • Little Baby Nothing
  • This Is The Day
  • The Everlasting
  • Indian Summer
  • Stay Beautiful
  • If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next
  • Australia
  • La Tristesse Durera (Scream to a Sigh)
  • Found That Soul
  • There By The Grace Of God
  • Some Kind Of Nothingness
  • You Love Us
  • Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide Is Painless)
  • Revol
  • The Love Of Richard Nixon
  • Ocean Spray
  • The Masses Against The Classes
  • Roses In The Hospital
  • So Why So Sad
  • Postcards From A Young Man
  • Your Love Alone Is Not Enough (featuring Nina Persson)
  • Slash 'n' Burn
  • Tsunami
  • Motown Junk
  • A Design For Life

Only 12 hours of recording left until Christmas!

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 11:21 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 2011

As I write, it is Monday 19 December and a very dark, wet morning. The National Orchestra of Wales has only two days left to work before the Christmas holidays begin and, much as I enjoy work, I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am.

Since September the orchestra has performed over 30 concerts, a good proportion of them live, and put in more recording hours than I care to think of right now. In our last project for 2011, we will be recording music by Floren Schmitt and Arthur Honegger with conductor Pascal Rophé, but as the end of the year approaches, I think it is fitting to have a little think back on the 2011/2012 season so far.

A number of people in the Orchestra have said that our education concerts, co-ordinated by our Education team in collaboration with Andy Pidcock and conductor Grant Llewellyn, were without a doubt one of their season highlights.

Claire Whitson (double bass) felt that Beethoven's Symphony No 9 with Thierry Fischer was one of her highlights, as the opportunity to perform it doesn't come around every day and the bass part is, by all accounts, rather epic.

I am in agreement with Amy McKean (oboe) - our concert with François-Xavier Roth, Tim Hugh, Lawrence Power and François Leleux was a definite highlight. One of the best things about our job is having the opportunity to meet and work with other musicians whose playing, or approach to music making, inspires you. Our section was delighted to have the opportunity to work with Lawrence Power again, someone who has been such a fantastic advocate of our oft maligned instrument - a gentleman and a fabulous musician.

Few who were in St David's Hall that evening would have failed to be uplifted by Leleux's performance of Strauss' Oboe Concerto and for me, hearing Tim Hugh play was a great experience. He is someone who has managed to simultaneously maintain careers as a soloist, chamber and orchestral musician and that in itself (as well as begging the question, when does he sleep?), is a fairly jaw-dropping achievement.

There are many things to look forward to in the New Year; fresh challenges, new people to work with, new music to discover. I'm looking forward to hearing Shabaka Hutchings in January - it will be really interesting to hear him perform Copland's Clarinet Concerto, a concerto synonymous with the jazz virtuoso Benny Goodman. There is also Tchaikovsky with Tadaaki Otaka!

Right now however, I'm looking forward to some time off; time to catch up with family, time to recharge the batteries. It really has been a very busy winter season and I feel like I have reached the end of my productivity abilities for 2011.

I wish you all a peaceful Christmas, however you choose to celebrate it, and a very prosperous New Year.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 18 December 2011

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 11:12 UK time, Tuesday, 20 December 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.

I woke up this morning (not an intro into a blues song) and it dawned on me that this week's show would be my last live Sunday night show on BBC Radio Wales after 10 years of diligently playing (frequently) un-Christian sounds on Sunday nights.

From 7 January 2012 I will be in a new sonic foxhole on BBC Radio Wales: Saturday nights, 10pm-1am.

I thought the best way to kiss goodbye to Sunday nights would be to treat you to an early Christmas present of many of the best pieces of music that have passed through my radio window since November 2001. So, you get rarely heard session tracks; some favourite album tracks and rare demo recordings of some of Wales' most excellent leftfield to gloriously accessible musicians of the new millennium.

The playlist is detailed below. But anything that encompasses Mclusky, Murry the Hump, Gruff Rhys, Ten Thousand Yen and many others has to have something going for it, other than its presenter's raging ego.

We're also joined by Alun from Y Niwl discussing the brilliant wave of psychedelic surf sounds on the new vinyl pressing of their eponymous debut album. That album won them a Sunday Times Album of the Week back in January. They've toured the world in the last 12 months as Gruff Rhys' house band. And Football Focus chose their track Undegpedwar as its new theme tune. All of which gives us quite a bit to talk about...

Alan Holmes reminds us of Brenda Prescott and the Warm Richards (that's the polite, BBC Wales music blog-friendly version of their name.)

Fresh from a significant birthday (with a '4' in it), Ben Hayes gets as festive as he's ever likely to get with a rather unfestive piece of The Goons.

Lara Catrin's translates one of Wales' great Christmas songs.

And there is great music. Not a definitive list of the Greatest Welsh Songs of the last 10 years, but definitely some of my favourites. I hope you enjoy it. It'd make a strange soundtrack to your office Christmas party but should serve you well in the midst of a sherry frenzy - or in the painful clutch of the ensuing hangover.

On Christmas night at 10pm I'll be broadcasting my Best of 2011 - the pieces of music of Welsh origin that moved me and excited me most over the last year.

On New Year's Day at 10pm I'll be talking to Gruff Rhys about his life making music - and particularly about the incredible, award winning year that has just passed for him; we'll have a Georgia Ruth live set recorded a few weeks ago in Betws Y Coed, and Llwybr Llaethog have crafted something amazing in low, low bass for us.

Happy Christmas/Nadolig Llawen, and a genuine thank you/diolch yn fawr to anyone who has listened to, or contributed music to, the show.

MCLUSKY - 'Friends Stoning Friends'

JARCREW - 'Paris & The New Math'


SUPER FURRY ANIMALS - 'The Gift That Keeps Giving'

Y NIWL - 'Chwech'

ALUN EVANS ( Y NIWL ) - 'Interview Pt. 1'

Y NIWL - 'Undegpedwar'

GENOD DROOG - 'Genod Droog Theme'

RUFFSTYLZ - 'Case Closed ( Radio Edit )'

MOUNTAINEERS, THE - 'Self Catering'

Aberystwyth / Cardiff

KLAUS KINSKI - 'Penguin'

BASTIONS - 'Crooked Hands'

JULIE MURPHY - 'My Father Was'

COLORAMA - 'Sound'

KENTUCKY A F C - 'Outlaw'

ALUN EVANS ( Y NIWL ) - 'Interview Pt. 2'

Y NIWL - 'Wyth'



MURRY THE HUMP - 'Cracking Up'

Cardiff / Brighton

BOY, THE - 'Don't Wanna Waste'

CAVES, THE - 'Wow Machine'

ALAN HOLMES - 'Spoken Contribution'


MELYS - 'Chinese Whispers'
Capel Curig / Betws Y Coed

TRWBADOR - 'Off Beat'
Camarthen / Cardiff


MC MABON - 'Be Di Be'

SCHOOL, THE - 'Is He Really Coming Home?'

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Small Bones Small Bodies'

GALLOPS - 'Window F X'

DIDZ & CHICO - 'Something New'

INFINITY CHIMPS - 'Drws - Y - Coed'


9BACH - 'Cariad Cyntaf'

GRUFF RHYS - 'Ni Yw Y Byd'

ALUN EVANS ( Y NIWL ) - 'Interview Pt. 3'

GLOW - 'Chimes'
Newport / Bristol

JOY FORMIDABLE, THE - 'Austere ( Original Version )'

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor / Cardiff

YR ODS - 'Nadolig Pwy A Wyr'

CATE LE BON - 'Sad Sad Feet'

PHYSICISTS, THE - 'The Hypervalue Song'

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'

GOONS, THE - 'I'm Walking Backwards For Christmas'

HELEN LOVE - 'Debbie Loves Joey'

NIA MORGAN - 'Poppies [ Featuring John Lawrence ]'


Ukraine: early starts, language barriers and indescribable food

Post categories:

Jayce Lewis Jayce Lewis | 11:17 UK time, Monday, 19 December 2011

Well it's 5am and the boys have just turned up, so off to Luton Airport we go. We had some issues last night with the promoter having only booked four items of holding luggage and not even asking us how much gear we are bringing with us - crazy!

Poster for Jayce Lewis' concert in Kiev

Poster for Jayce Lewis' concert in Kiev

We arrive at the airport and discover you have to pay £2 for a trolley, and even to drop stuff off at arrivals is £1 - this is eating into our beer money, I miss Heathrow BIG TIME! We arrive at Kiev wearing the thickest jumpers, woolly hats and gloves, only to discover it's warmer here than in the UK.

We are greeted at the airport by Yougin the promoter and festival owners who swiftly get us in to the cars and to the hotel. The traffic in Kiev is unlike anything I have seen - dare I say I think it's equally as bad as in India. There is no traffic law, everyone is barging in and driving on the wrong side of the road to get past, yet when there is a zebra crossing all the cars stop and pull off slowly. This place is insane!

When we get to the hotel, a very nice place but seems to be in the middle of nowhere, Yougin tells us that we are on the one and only national music channel breakfast show... at 6am. I have to perform Icon without the band along to a playback CD of the track, which none of us are happy about. We eventually agree to do playback but with live keyboards and live vocals.

We walk around trying to find a restaurant or fast food joint and find nothing accept a very posh looking building at the end of the road, which turns out to be a pub. We walk in and there is a table with girls (all smoking) and nothing else except some rather big guns on the wall and funny looking wallpaper. A waiter runs up to us asking stuff in Ukrainian.

I ask if he speaks English, but he doesn't even know what I'm saying. This is going to be a long night! Eventually he gets one of the girls to come over and translate for us. She doesn't really speak much English but more than him. The menus is indescribable and eventually we settle for chips (fried potato) and something called hunters sausage... along with a load of beer.

We get our call at 5am. We get ready then try to fit our two keyboards and five people in the smallest car I have ever been in. The television building is a very impressive place surrounded by gates and cameras - this feels more like home! Inside I am confronted by the most attractive girls I have ever seen, all running around and not smiling. I get put into a dressing room and they slap on some matting make up. I am truly dreading this performance.

Jayce Lewis perfoming on Ukrainian television

Performing on Ukrainian television

The studio looks and sounds like something out of Eurovision. However, the people are really excited to have us there and look after us by giving us the strongest coffee ever. They do a big presentation and lead in to my performance. I feel so uncomfortable at first, but the people in the studio are all enjoying it and really getting into what they hear.

So I loosen up and feel like I'm back on stage again. When we finish we do the interview, with a translator called Sasha. I am only now really waking up and find the interview so funny, the presenters are great and I have a great time. Afterwards we head back to the hotel where we get some rest and get ready for the show tonight.

Jayce Lewis being interviewed on Ukrainian television

The post-performance interview

A lovely lady by the name of Daria comes to get us at around 5pm. She pretty much takes over everything for us as there has been a lot of confusion and big errors made by the promoter which really did upset us all. We head into the to the venue, Sullivan Rooms, which is in a gorgeous building with a big stage and an awesome sound system.

At the soundcheck the language barrier is a constant issue, but we get through it with me eventually mixing it out front and saving all the settings. It sounds big, clear and powerful. The show starts at 11pm and we take to the stage at 12.

Although the sound on stage is a struggle we have a great show. The crowd is awesome and people move in ways I have not seen humans move before. Afterwards everyone pretty much piles into our dressing room wanting photos. There is a guy constantly buying us vodka and I don't remember much from that point onwards.

The next day - our last - we get shown around the city. What a beautiful place Kiev is, the buildings are amazing and the culture is very reserved but welcoming. We spot a McDonald's, inside which even the women serving look like they should be on the catwalk. We eat the saltiest fries known to man but have instant recognition of this food - we are happy! Martin the bass player goes on the hunt for vodka and buys loads of bottles, which later leads to issues at the airport because of weight issues.

Ukraine - an awesome place, lovely people, insane food - and in need of a traffic system on the roads.

Tinsel tops and elf hats

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 14:02 UK time, Friday, 16 December 2011

I love Christmas. I even put my Christmas tree up before December this year (in my defence, my parents were visiting and it was a nice family thing to do). Last year, I missed the orchestra's Christmas concerts because I was on jury service, so I've been very much looking forward to being involved in them this year.

We've had a number of festive themed Christmas concerts already. Last Friday we performed Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ with our principal conductor, Thierry Fischer, a work which I have to say, I think is actually very affecting. Then on Wednesday of this week, we performed a perennial seasonal ballet suite, Swan Lake (though I have to admit, I don't find Swan Lake's plot to be very festive).

Now, however we are into the really fun stuff. Well, fun, if like me you love Christmassy things! It is time for the orchestra's annual, all singing, all sleigh bell jingling Family Christmas Extravaganzas!

Accompanied by the BBC National Chorus of Wales and various schools' choirs, this is a celebration of all your favourite Christmas pieces, with a healthy bit of audience participation thrown in.

After a busy winter season, it is lovely to see the orchestra let its hair down a bit. We take the Christmas concerts very seriously though. There is coordinated swaying in the strings (well Ania and I are swaying in a vaguely coordinated manner on Viola Desk 3), some light choreography in the brass and I can't really see what the wind are doing but I'm sure they are doing something.

From the horn section's Bah-Humbug hats, to the wind section's elf hats and the assortment of reindeer antlers, angel boppers, fairy lights, flashing earrings and santa hats sprinkled through the strings, this is truly the orchestra at its most festive. Special mention must go to Joe in the second violins for his unique ability to adorn himself in tinsel!

I have a few favourite pieces in the programme. I really like the opening number, the Joy To The World Fanfare. It is big and brassy (our bass trombonist, Darren Smith and new principal tuba, Dan Trodden, make a lethal bass brass combination) and is the sort of piece that makes me think of the opening scene of a Dickens Christmas story. Obviously not the Dickensian workhouse scenario - think more the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Bugler's Holiday is the annual moment of real glory for our trumpeters (forget Mahler 3 or any of the crazy natural trumpet stuff they do on a day to day basis!) - definitely one of the best of the Leroy Anderson pieces. Walking In The Air is my other favourite piece, although I didn't like watching The Snowman as a child because the melted snowman made me feel very sad - it always put me off my turkey.

A good festive sing-song is the perfect antidote to the mad dash before Christmas. I hope you can join us!

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales continues its season of Christmas concerts tonight (Friday 16 December) at Brangwyn Hall, Swansea at 7.30pm, and Saturday 17 at Sir Thomas Picton School, Haverfordwest, at 3pm and 7pm. Our evening concert at Haverfordwest has sold out, but other events have limited availability on the door. Please call 0800 052 1812 for more information.

Welsh acts in end of year critics' lists

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 11:16 UK time, Thursday, 15 December 2011

It's that time of year when music magazines publish their lists of the best releases of the year, and Welsh acts are popping up, albeit not in especially high positions.



In Uncut magazine, Jonny appear at number 36 in their top 50, with their self-titled album. Uncut say: "Euros Childs, once of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, and Teenage Fanclub's Norman Blake pooled their considerable songwriting resources for their best work in an age. Some of Jonny's songs sounded like lost children's TV themes; others had the easygoing poignancy that both artists have long been masters of."

Gruff Rhys

In Q's top 50, Gruff Rhys appears with his Hotel Shampoo collection. They say: "Super Furry Animals man Gruff Rhys restricted himself to a three-week recording schedule to avoid his simple melodies being suffocated by studio experiments."

Kids In Glass Houses

It's been a slightly healthier year for rock music than indie, it seems. In Kerrang!'s exhaustive top 101 albums of the year, first up at 93 are Bastions with Hospital Corners. The magazine says: "They simply made an album every bit as dark, grim and oppressive as it is relentless, in your face and visceral."

At number 78 are Kids In Glass Houses with In Gold Blood. The Kerrang! verdict: "While its ingenuity risked leaving a few long-term fans scratching their heads, it was dazzling in its unpredictability. With the thrust and raw power of a great rock record, songs like The Florist saw the Welshmen abandon convention and finally spread their wings."

The Blackout

The Blackout

At number 66, The Blackout appear with Hope. "Hope... fizzes ambition born both of desperation and determination to fulfil all that potential. It does too: an inspired collaboration with Hyro Da Hero on Higher And Higher and a seemingly endless supply of slowburn rock anthems make this their best album yet," say the magazine.

Funeral For A Friend

Funeral For A Friend

Top spot for Kerrang! among the Welshies goes to Funeral For A Friend, at number 52 with Welcome Home Armageddon. The verdict: "Reinvigorated by personnel changes, they returned to a level of heaviness they hadn't displayed in years and, boy, did it suit them."

Although these are but three publications, it's not been a vintage year for Welsh music, it has to be said. That's no reflection on the quality of the works appearing in these lists, but simply that in previous years the sheer volume of releases meant that Wales batted above its average.

A combination of lack of major releases and bands that - not to put too fine a point on it - are on the downward slope of their careers, mean that it's difficult to see who's going to compete with the likes of Florence And The Machine, PJ Harvey, Coldplay or Mastodon.

Here's hoping that in 2012 the raft of inventive newer Welsh acts break through and magazines can view Wales once more with a little bit of the green eye.

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Welsh music festivals secure 2012 funding

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 10:30 UK time, Thursday, 15 December 2011

Merthyr Rock is among a group of Welsh music festivals which have secured funding from the Arts Council of Wales (ACW) for 2012.

The Blackout at Merthyr Rock

The Blackout at Merthyr Rock

The music festival is thought to be secure after its parent organisation, Hay Festival, was awarded £100,000 by the cultural funding body. Other Welsh music festivals that have been awarded financial contributions include:

ACW's Nick Capaldi said: "Wales' festivals attract thousands of visitors each year from across the globe. This funding allows us to support some of the very best of Wales' engaging, celebratory and inspiring festivals. International in outlook, they are also an important part of cultural life for local communities."

Hay Festival director Peter Florence said the organisation was "committed to Merthyr Rock for a second year. The first festival was one of the most inspiring and exciting adventures we've ever had."

Director, Merthyr Rock, Rhodri Jones said: "We can't wait to get started on planning the second year of Merthyr Rock. The reaction we got from fans, bands and all involved was overwhelming in 2011 and we think there's the potential to grow this festival into something truly brilliant for Wales."

How did it go for you?

Post categories:

Bethan Elfyn Bethan Elfyn | 13:47 UK time, Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Back in January 2011, a long long time ago, I wrote a blog post about all the bands I was excited by who had big plans afoot for the year. Before I write about a whole batch of new bands, I caught up with four of the bands from last year to see how they got on, to see if was indeed it was a good year for them.

Tom Winfield, Vvolves



What have you been up to in 2011?

"In 2011 we recorded and released our second EP When I'm Down. We've gigged all over the place: London, Manchester, Cardifff. It's been great! As well as releasing our own EP, we also got asked to be part of a Small Town America Records compilation album, that has since been released on 12" vinyl."

Can you tell me a couple of highlights from the year?

"The highlight of the year was definitely our release show at the Buffalo Bar in Cardiff in October. Although the gig didn't go terribly well, it was such a relief to get the record out. Four months' work paid off with most of the 50 handmade CDs sold on the night!"

What's next in terms of early 2012?

"I think we're recording two new singles at Christmas that will hopefully be released in January or February. Then summer 2012 will be EP number three time! We just want to continue playing."

Carwyn Ellis, Colorama



What have you been up to in 2011?

"Well, we did a bunch of touring, a bit of writing, a lot of recording, and released our first predominantly welsh language CD, Llyfr Lliwio/Colouring Book."

How was the experience?

"Very good all round! We recorded on the Isle Of Wight during the heatwave at Easter - that was particularly delightful. I did a couple of solo gigs at Home Game festival up in Fife in Scotland which was particularly fun, both as a performer and as a punter - lots of new music to digest. We played at Glastonbury too which was made fun by the company I kept, especially a night with The Bees after watching them play."

Do you have any concrete plans yet for early 2012?

"Lots on the way - we'll be re-releasing our early albums on vinyl, including our first album Cookie Zoo which has only hitherto been available in Japan. The next brand new album is also recorded (with Edwyn Collins producing) and will probably be out in the spring.

"It's rather different to our previous releases and we're particularly excited with the results. We'll be starting back on the road in late February too so come out and see us!"

Daniel Barnett, Samoans



What have you been up to in 2011?

"In March 2011, we released our debut single Somersault on 7" vinyl as a split with our good friends Strange News From Another Star, then another single Brothers/Blisters was released on limited edition cassette in June. We toured the UK twice, recorded a BBC Radio 1 live session and played Sŵn festival for the second time."

Can you tell me a couple of highlights from the year?

"This year has been great for us in terms of progress. We've worked hard to get our name out there a lot more by touring and playing as much as possible. One of our highlights has to be recording the BBC session for Jen Long's show. We were ecstatic when we were asked and to hear our new material on the radio made us believe what we are doing is right.

"Other highlights have included touring with awesome bands such as Nottingham's Without Maps and of course, Kutosis. But we'd probably all agree that playing Sŵn Festivalthe highlight of the year. So many people came to see us and the energy from the crowd was incredible. It was unlike any other show we've ever played."

What's next for Samoans?

"We have been steadily writing our forthcoming EP and are ready to enter the studio in the new year to record. We hope to release in the spring and then tour as much as possible throughout the year."

Angharad, Trwbador



What have you been up to in 2011?

"We released our début EP on 27 December 2010 so 2011 has been a really big year for us. We released our second EP, Sun In The Winter, in August and played a few festivals including Laugharne, Green Man and Sŵn. We played our first London gig at The Social for one of Huw Stephens' nights. We spent most of the year developing our ideas for an album and trying to find a comfortable live set up ready for 2012."

Can you tell me a couple of highlights from the year?

"2011 has been really cool. We've done a few radio sessions and had a lot of fun. Playing on S4Cs Bandit was a big highlight for us. Green Man was as well. These were two of the main goals we had as a group when starting out so it's great that we managed it."

Do you have any concrete plans yet for 2012?

"We will release a Welsh language single very early on, probably February. That will be followed by two English language singles and then our first album will hopefully be out by the summer. Fingers crossed, we'll still be getting asked to play gigs this time next year."


Hywel Evans, Truckers Of Husk

Hywel of Truckers Of Husk

Hywel of Truckers Of Husk

What have you been up to in 2011?

"Hello! In 2011 we eventually released the album we've all been working on for the past two or so years. So we're all super excited to have that finished."

Can you tell me a couple of highlights from the year?

"The gig at Sŵn festival was definitely a highlight. Although Ben said he will never play on stage with his top off again, we definitely will try to persuade him. Sŵn as a whole was a memorable weekend. Great bands from start to finish. Also the album launch at Clwb Ifor Bach was an awesome night. Like Kevin Costner said, 'If you build it, they will come'."

What's happening for you in the new year?

"We've started recording what might be an 7" or maybe even an EP to release around February/March, then as many gigs as we can manage (probably about three!)."

There have certainly been the bands people have been talking about this year, and I've really enjoyed their music, their releases, their gigs, and look forward to seeing a lot more of all of the above in 2012.

Tom, Man Without Country

What have you been up to in 2011?

"Quite a lot! We finished producing and recording the album in our home studio and worked with Ken Thomas (Sigur Rós, Moby, Cocteau Twins, etc.) on mixing the release. We played a showcase in LA, lots of UK shows and small festivals, supported Moby in London, did a small European tour with M83, and recorded a Maida Vale session for Huw Stephens.

"We did a few remixes for artists such as M83, Active Child, Moby and a few others which are due to be released in 2012. In August we released an EP titled King Complex, as a taste of what's to come from our album."

What were your highlights from the year?

"It's been a really great and productive year for us. The main highlights would have to be meeting Moby in his Hollywood castle and supporting M83 in Heaven, London."

What's next in early 2012?

"Our next single is released in February and the début album is set to be released in the spring. And lots of touring!"

Leon Stanford, Tiger Please

What have you been up to in 2011?

We spent most of the first part of the year on tour with bands like The Crave and Welsh heroes Funeral For A Friend, playing to some of the biggest crowds we've ever played to.We also had the chance to play the Cardiff City stadium on the opening home game of the season and also play our first ever headline tour around the UK.

We've also continued to write and demo new tracks for our début album, as well as recording two singles with Grammy Award-winning producer Gil Norton (Foo Fighters/Counting Crows/Pixies) and his engineer Dan Austin (Doves, Cherry Ghost etc) at the iconic Monow Valley Studios.

We finished the year off with another sold-out hometown show in Cardiff where we were joined by our string section and the beautiful voice of the young Greta Isaac, who has recently started recording demos with us to help achieve the sound for the album.

Can you give us a couple of highlights from the year?

Recording with Gil Norton and Dan Austin at Monnow Valley on album tracks was possibly one of the best experiences we've ever had.The recording took us into the early hours every night but we barely wanted to sleep anyway as the whole thing was like a dream. Gil has worked on albums that inspired me to want to be in a band, such as Counting Crows' Recovering The Satellites.

Writing our first album has been a hard, scary, emotional, but most of all brilliant experience. We've managed to write tracks that we're so proud of.The experience has been the highlight of my life let alone the year.

When we decided to write an album almost two years ago about other people who would send their life stories in to us, I never realised how much we were taking on. It's been very emotional, but that amazing feeling you get when you play the song to the person who it's about , for the first time at live show, makes it all worth it.

At our sold out show in Clwb Ifor Bach at the end of this year, we played a brand new song to a guy called Paul, who sent in a story about what it is to be a dad, and to see his face when we played it to him for the first time made the whole experience worthwhile. He later told me that he had told his eight-year-old son that we were writing a song about him and his dad, and his son was over the moon.

My main highlight of this year is meeting the brilliant and brave people that have let me into their life and let us tell their story in a song.They've truly inspired the band with their stories and made us very honoured and grateful about how beautiful the life we live is.

What's next in terms of early 2012? Have you made any plans yet?

We'll be recording the album as soon as possible, and then getting back on to the road and touring as much as we can until everyone has a copy of it!

Live music: photographers' rights in danger?

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 14:54 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A photographer turns up at a venue somewhere in Britain in order to take shots of the new hot act, The Indubitable Idiots. She's got a photo pass from The Idiots' press company, but on arriving at the venue is presented with a piece of paper she must sign before being allowed in.

It's in impenetrable legalese, but a quick read confirms that once the concert is over, she must hand raw and edited photos of the band to the management, that the copyright in the photos is no longer hers and that the band now own all that work. She can never use those photos ever again to make money.

Oh, and by the way, she also takes on her back all legal responsibility for future misuse of those photos.

This type of agreement, presented to legally-untrained photographers to sign at the last minute, might seem far-fetched, but it's a phenomenon that has come to the fore in America and Britain over the past few years. It's something that photographers are railing against, and which has seen the management of some of the world's biggest artists actually back down in the face of complaints.

Read the rest of this entry

Feeder announce new single and album

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 11:22 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Feeder have announced details of a new single and studio album due in January.



Borders will be released on 29 January through Big Teeth Music, and available on download, CD single, seven inch vinyl and - in a nod to a lost notion of cool - cassette. It precedes their ninth studio album, Generation Freakshow.

Feeder, now stripped down to Newport's Grant Nicholas and London's Taka Hirose, have had had 25 hit singles and have sold five million albums.

A press release issued today says: "Borders marks an amalgamation of the best bits of Feeder's various aural incarnations over the years which sees the band at a vital, energised and passionate new peak."

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Only four concerts and two recording days to go!

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:51 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

It is a cold, sharp morning in Cardiff Bay and I am contemplating how many layers I can wear to work without looking like a yeti. It was quite difficult to leave the warmth of the duvet this morning, but I'm finally getting ready to head for the studio, and it is with great excitement that I can report that there are only four concerts and two days of recording to go until Christmas!

Due to a cancelled rehearsal last week I have already managed to finish my Christmas shopping, so this week I have little to do except get in to the Christmas spirit. This week, I plan on eating mince pies. A lot of them.

Today we will be rehearsing for our Wednesday afternoon broadcast live on Radio 3 with conductor Grant Llewellyn. Our soloist for this concert, performing Mozart's Piano Concerto in D Minor, will be Lara Melda.

We first worked with Lara in May 2010, when she was very deservingly crowned BBC Young Musician of the Year. In the final, Lara performed Saint-Saëns' Piano Concerto No 2 and many of us were blown away, not just by her technical prowess, but also by the maturity of her performance.

Sometimes in young musician competitions, you come across many young wunderkinds whose technical facility is genuinely jaw dropping, but not yet matched by a mature musicality. However, when at the piano, Lara seems many years older than what she is, while at the same time coming across as an exceptionally sweet teenage girl away from the piano.

A few of my friends who work in other ensembles have performed with her over the last year, and have only had good things to say about her, both as a musician and as a person. It will be lovely to hear her play on Wednesday - she is most definitely a talent to watch.

Also on the programme will be excerpts from Tchaikovsky's perennial ballet score, Swan Lake. Now, while I am slightly uncertain as to the festive connection with this music (if I remember correctly, do the ill-fated lovers not both lose their lives at the end?), it is very lovely music and it is always nice to play a good tune. Tchaikovsky was rather good at tune writing.

Aside from that, we are preparing for Christmas concerts in St David's Hall, Brangwyn Hall and Haverfordwest. These are lighter programs, full of great sing-a-long pieces like Howard Blake's Walking In The Air. I missed playing in these concerts last year as I was on jury service, but am looking forward to really getting into the festive spirit this year, possibly with my viola bedecked in tinsel and fairy lights!

For more information about the Orchestra's Christmas concerts, visit, or call 0800 052 1812.

Southampton, 12 December

Post categories:

Jayce Lewis Jayce Lewis | 08:40 UK time, Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Jayce Lewis is keeping a tour diary as he joins Gary Numan on tour in the UK, Russia and Ukraine.

Well, here I am on my day off in Southampton. I played what I think is the best UK show so far at the Southampton Guildhall last night. It's a huge venue with a sound system to match, and it made me grin from ear to ear - although I made the mistake of having a KFC just before going on stage and feeling two stone heavier than normal.

Jayce Lewis and Gary Numan

Jayce Lewis and Gary Numan

My sound engineer and I have been working closely together to keep the level out front manageable as even I am getting blasted on stage. My ears are ringing and my eyes and feet itch with the vibrations of the bass on stage, which I like but need to control.

My mother came to the show last night, and has never seen me perform as a soloist ever! She watched me sing Cars to Gary in sound check which was really funny. I then introduced her to him. She came out with the typical, "I was a fan and saw you years ago" - to which the engineers turned the house music up and it thankfully ended that conversation!

We had an issue in Manchester the night before with one of our sequencers: it decided right in the middle of the set to just STOP and never work again. It's crazy that it happened as it's been everywhere with us, thousands of miles away, and it's never ever let us down. It was a real shock to hear it stop like that, we all look at each other and thought uh-oh!

After the show in Guildhall, I met loads of people by my merch that are following my music. It's really nice to have that connection, they are all so enthusiastic and friendly. And in the corner of my eye was my mum watching, taking it all in. It must be odd for her to see.

p>She came over and tried to talk to me, which then lead to some of the people realisng she was my mother and wanting photos of her. Nice one mum!

Tomorrow we have the last show, which is in Hatfield Forum. I'm really am gutted that it's the final one with Gary this year, he's been a total legend. After that I'm home to get ready for our Ukraine trip - stay tuned.

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 11 December 2011

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 16:06 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

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

Our special guest this week is Bangor's fuzzy-haired weaver of song, Huw M. Huw's new album, Gathering Dusk, is as delightful and refreshing as a mountain stream. It sparkles with melody, shimmers with wondrous arrangements and glows with humanity. Yep, it's got most of those light-related verbs pretty much covered. Imagine a beautiful heart made out of folkish sound and you're partway there. Buy the album, or listen to the tracks Huw and I talk about, and you'll get to go the whole hog.

Our own hog, of the Sound variety, comes in to tell us about DIY evangelists, Desperate Bicycles.

Huw Williams brings in the awe-inspiring, Shirley-Bassey-influencing larynx of Dorothy Squires. A woman whose recordings are almost as big as her personal life was fascinating, and - ultimately - more than a little sad.

Pete Lawrie treats us to an exclusive play of his new Until the Ribbons Break project... a musical endeavour that aims to celebrate the random joy and sonic pleasure of the compilation tape.

And I have fascinating music from all over Wales.

Please send new releases/demos and gig info to

Have an excellent week. If you hear anything great, please let me know about it. You're my spies, and excellent spies to boot.

DRMCNT - 'Kingdil'
Llansteffan / Japan


LOVELY EGGS, THE - 'New Allergies'

SUPER FURRY ANIMALS - 'The International Language Of Screaming'

GRUFF RHYS - 'Post Apocalypse Christmas'

CARAMELOU - 'Those Night's ( Remembered )'

ISLET - 'This Fortune'

HUW M - 'The Perfect Silence'

PEN PASTWN - 'Shake My Heart'

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

HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution'

Pontyberem, Camarthenshire

HENRY'S FUNERAL SHOE - 'Gimme Back My Morphine'
Ystrad Mynach

New York City

PETE LAWRIE - 'All That We Keep ( Remix )'




I AM AUSTIN - 'D. T. T. R. H.'
Connah's Quay

MEKONS, THE - 'Afar & Forlorn'

SOLUTIONS - 'Drug Money'

SATURDAY'S KIDS - 'Grey On White ( E P Version )'

PAPER AEROPLANES - 'Winter Never Comes ( Foxymoron's Warm And Fuzzy Remix )'
Milford Haven

HUW M - 'Dyma Lythyr'

Y TEBOT PIWS - 'Godro'r Fuwch'

Y NIWL - 'Chwech'

PIXIES, THE - 'Cecilia Ann'
Boston, U. S.

YOUNGTEAM - 'Your Love'

YR ODS - 'Troi A Throsi'

EUROS CHILDS - 'Something On My Mind'

Edinburgh / Glasgow

KEYS, THE - 'I Tried To Find It In Books'
Resolven / Cardiff

GALLOPS - 'G Is For Jaile'

MANUFAKTURE - 'Space Debris'

MARTYN JOSEPH - 'Always Will Be'
Penarth / Cardiff

HUW M - 'Ysgafelloedd Gwag'

CERI FROST - 'Strawberries In May'

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'


MAGNA CARTER - 'I'm Talking To You'

CAYO EVANS - 'The Belle Of The Ball'

8 December, Manchester: on the bus

Post categories:

Jayce Lewis Jayce Lewis | 15:30 UK time, Monday, 12 December 2011

Here's part one of Jayce Lewis's tour diary as he joins Gary Numan in the UK, Russia and Ukraine.

Well, here we are on to on tour with Mr Numan and co! The tour bus picked us up at 9am yesterday and, as always, it was a right nightmare to get a double decker to fit down my street, but it keeps the neighbours entertained; they all want to have a peep inside to see what its like.

We're using a different tour bus from the first tour I did with Gary in September, but it's equally as great, so this is now my home for a bit. I've just cordoned off my area for chill out, as the band like to get partying straight after the show and I just sit and chill, pretty much. Not rock and roll I know!

I just saw Gary and his lovely wife Gemma. They are such a great couple and are so well suited. It's good to see so many of the same faces that I saw the first time out with Numan. He's got such loyal fans and so welcoming too. It already feels like I've made a few fans and friends here.

Jayce Lewis on stage in Manchester

On stage in Manchester

The sound check yesterday at Leamington Spa was a disaster: everything that went wrong did go wrong, and in the end we didn't really end up having a sound check but show went well in the end. I felt a bit sorry for the crowd as it was LOUD on stage, so I can't imagine what it was like out there, It was received well, though, and we sold a great amount of merch again.

We are now in Manchester HMV Ritz - the show is sold out and is being filmed so it's going to be a good one. I think we will have more time for check today, and at the moment we're running through all the gear together, just to make sure the kit is all working properly.

Right, off to do some press and then hit the stage!

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Welsh Sinfonia bring classical music to the people

Post categories:

Polly March Polly March | 15:06 UK time, Friday, 9 December 2011

Cardiff-based chamber orchestra The Welsh Sinfonia will be running a series of public events starting in December, aimed at making classical music seem less stuffy.

The idea of the Work And Play project is to bring people and music into "unexpected contact" and override preconceptions about classical music being in the realms of the inaccessible, with steep ticket prices, a perceived snobbery about the scene in general and a limited amount of live performances available locally.

The project will see the orchestra take its music into the Calsonic Kansei factory in Llanelli and the St Elli Shopping Centre on Wednesday 14 December.

The free half-hour lunchtime concert will be performed in the middle of the factory for the workers to enjoy, with a programme including carols and some Beatles music as well as a range of classics.

Later in the afternoon, the Sinfonia will stage an informal pop-up concert at the shopping centre to regale shoppers as they go about their business.

The Welsh Sinfonia in rehearsal

The Welsh Sinfonia in rehearsal

At both events, the public will be handed vouchers offering 50% off the price of a ticket for the orchestra's evening concert that day, at Ammanford Miners Theatre at 7.30pm.

The orchestra is normally 35-strong but for the project they will be bringing 12 string players - violins, violas, cellos and a double bass - and a harpsichord for the evening.

At that show, the players will perform in a more formal setting, yet without a conductor. The evening will be directed by the leader of the orchestra, Robin Stowell, and compèred in Welsh and English by Roger Price.

The programme will include music performed earlier in the day, with well-known pieces by Bach, Vivaldi and Mozart, Karl Jenkins, Morfudd Owen and Bartók thrown in.

The Welsh Sinfonia in rehearsal

The Welsh Sinfonia in rehearsal

A similar event is also planned for 29 February 2012 around Caerphilly, with performances at GE Aviation in Nantgarw, Castle Court Shopping Centre in Caerphilly, and Blackwood Miners Institute.

The orchestra is hoping the idea will catch on and it can stage more events of this type in the future. Spokeswoman Anne Curtis said: "We're pretty sure that no-one else has done anything like this in Wales.

"The rationale behind the idea is that many people feel that, between the cost of tickets, the effort needed to get to events, unfamiliarity with classical orchestral music, the relative unavailability of live orchestral performances locally, and often the general 'stuffiness' of the whole classical music scene – classical music is 'not for us'.

"Work and Play aims to prove them wrong. We're hoping that, by the time we've finished, we shall have forged new relationships with a whole new audience, and introduced a lot of people to a new source of enjoyment - and that we can come back in the future and build on what we've started."

The project has funding from the Arts Council of Wales but is still hoping to access some funding from elsewhere in order to keep the costs to audiences as low as possible.

All the players are paid full professional rates, but two of the day's events are free, and the other is heavily discounted.

Wales, music and cultural relations

Sir Vernon Ellis Sir Vernon Ellis | 14:28 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sir Vernon Ellis, chair of the British Council, shares his thoughts with us as he visits Wales this December

I was delighted to visit Wales this week. As chair of the British Council's Board of Trustees I am responsible, along with my fellow board members, for the organisation's performance, strategy and policy. Arts stand alongside education and society and English as cornerstones of the British Council's mission to build trust and understanding between peoples of the world.

During my visit to Wales I had an opportunity to meet with the chairs and CEOs from a number of arts organisations and companies in Wales. This deepened my understanding of partners' priorities and how British Council Wales responds to these in order to meet their aims through cultural relations.

In music we work with the best creative talent to develop innovative, high-quality events and collaborations. We do this to strengthen the international profile of UK music and creativity, to communicate the diversity of UK society, and to establish long-term partnerships overseas.

Wales is contributing its unique voice to the British Council's exciting international music programme and that came across to me clearly in conversations with Music Theatre Wales and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, amongst others, last night in Cardiff.

Examples of the international reach and impact of Welsh music include: acclaimed Welsh folk artist Gareth Bonello is participating in a highly ambitious residency project in China organised by the PRS for Music Foundation and British Council. Gareth is collaborating with musicians from China to experiment with traditional Chinese instruments and interweave Welsh and Chinese folk styles. This exciting six-week residency in Chengdu, Sichuan province will result in an album of new material, exploring new musical territory and reaching new audiences.

In September the indigenous Australian performance group The Black Arm Band and members of Welsh band 9Bach came together for a unique project supported by the British Council, that explores place, identity, culture and the preservation of language. The two musical ensembles both perform and record in their respective country's historical languages; the Welsh language and the many tongues of the Australian Aboriginal people. The results of this collaboration will be staged in a performance during the River of Music as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The website for Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales states that 'Music is in the soul of the Welsh nation'. Led by the Welsh Music Foundation, Wales Arts International and the Arts Council of Wales this partnership is supported by the Welsh Government and British Council.

Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales is at the heart of our music partnership work in Wales. This partnership aims to accelerate the export-ready music sector, promote the music sector of Wales internationally and to bring the world stage to Wales. Cerdd Cymru : Music Wales is doing just that by winning the opportunity to bring WOMEX, the leading world music expo to Cardiff in 2013.

This truly prestigious international showcase will bring over 450 artists, 650 exhibiting companies and more than 400 national and international journalists to Cardiff in 2013. The event will show off the fabulous facilities Cardiff has to offer, including the Wales Millennium Centre, and will create substantial opportunities for UK musicians to access new opportunities in developing markets.

Finally I am delighted to announce that British Council's The Selector radio showcase will collaborate for the second time with the organisers of Cardiff's Swn Festival, to bring the latest music from Wales to the world. The Selector, a weekly two-hour British Council radio programme, plays new British music for a global following with an audience estimated to be in excess of two million listeners. Selector Live in Cardiff will take place in March 2012.

Sir Vernon Ellis is chair of the British Council. He has been chairman of English National Opera since June 2006 and is also involved on the boards of several other musical organisations. In addition, he supports many arts companies, artists and charities through his foundation.

Sir Tom Jones judges The Voice UK

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 13:56 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

Sir Tom Jones, 71, has been announced as one of the four judges on BBC One's The Voice UK, broadcast in spring next year.

Jessie J, Danny O'Donoghue, Will.I.Am and Sir Tom Jones

Jessie J, Danny O'Donoghue, Will.I.Am and Sir Tom Jones

Sir Tom said: "I'm excited about The Voice, and thrilled to be participating as a coach. This is a strong show; it's all about talent - but it's also exciting, competitive and compelling television.

"I've been blessed over the years to share the stage with some of the worlds finest artists, and I look forward to being part of the team that discovers a great, new, genuine talent."

He joins The Script frontman Danny O'Donoghue, singer Jessie J and Black Eyed Peas'

BBC One Controller Danny Cohen said: "I'm delighted to be announcing Tom Jones... Tom is a music legend and will bring huge experience and creativity to the line-up. Danny is a rising star who will bring freshness and surprise to the team. Overall, our line-up of Tom Jones, Jessie J, and Danny O'Donoghue gives us mega-star quality, great musical range and musicians we know our audience love."

The show, which started life as a hit in the Netherlands, then crossed to America with huge success, will be presented by Holly Willoughby and Reggie Yates.

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Serving up Christmas treats with Berlioz

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 10:29 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

The Christmas tree is up in Hoddinott Hall! Many sections of the orchestra are arranging Christmas outings, and the festive cheer is bringing much needed relief to the end of what has been a particularly busy winter season.

It's all got a bit Christmassy musically too. Friday evening will see the commencement of our Christmas music celebrations, with a performance of Berlioz's L'Enfance du Christ with our principal conductor Thierry Fischer at St David's Hall.

Scored for a relatively small orchestra, chorus and soloists, this is a very different Berlioz than the one we encountered last season in Romeo and Juliet. Where Romeo and Juliet was quite over the top and grandiose, L'Enfance du Christ, by comparison, is an intimate work. I find it very beautiful, especially the famous Shepherd's Farewell chorus. Our chorus are doing a wonderful job - they are going to sound fabulous on Friday evening.

Incidentally, our mezzo-soprano soloist is Anna Stephany who competed in the 2009 Cardiff Singer of the World competition. Aficionados of Cardiff Singer may find it interesting to hear how her voice has developed since then - I think she is very well suited to the role of Mary in this work.

When we performed Romeo and Juliet last April, there were a couple of passages that I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time trying to negotiate. Technically, L'Enfance du Christ does not throw up quite so many stressful moments. However, that is not to say it is a work without difficulties.

Pages 7-10 of the viola score are very tricky (I have had my metronome out again), and the viola section is featured quite prominently as a voice of anguish (no jokes, thank you very much) in the latter half of the work. While that particular number is not technically difficult, it is very exposed and in the upper part of the viola's tessitura - you don't want to be the person who is a little bit out of tune as it would ruin the whole effect.

The real challenge of this work, in my opinion, is to bring the right colour to each movement. The work is, in essence, a story telling and the music has to serve the needs of the story.

My random geeky fact for today is that L'Enfance du Christ contains one of Berlioz's only works of chamber music, a trio for two flutes and harp. I haven't heard it in rehearsals yet, but a bit of flute and harp is always a nice combination! Apparently, Berlioz didn't approve of the showy, florid writing for solo flute many of his contemporaries were indulging in, hence the inclusion of two flutes and the more lyrical, rather than flashy lines in this trio.

I'm like a child when it comes to Christmas - I look forward to getting on the plane home, seeing my family, eating too much and going to carol services. I think Friday night's concert will be a lovely way to declare Christmas 2011 officially started!

The orchestra will perform Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ at St David's Hall, Cardiff, tomorrow (Friday 9 December) starting at 7.30pm. For tickets and information, call 0800 052 1812.

Lost Welsh classics: The Table - Do The Standing Still

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 09:53 UK time, Thursday, 8 December 2011

The other day I was introduced to a 1977 song by Welsh band The Table, called Do The Standing Still. Not quite punk, not quite new wave and not quite anything else, it had a brilliant effervescent charm and energy that had all the hallmarks of late-70s punk but with added musicality. Add the fact that the lyrics were nothing but a list of comic book titles and straplines, and I was hooked.

Russ, Tony, Micky and Len of The Table (1977)

Russell Young, Tony Barnes, Micky O'Connor and Len Lewis of The Table (1977)

Wanting to find out more, I located one of the core duo, Tony Barnes, who now runs an animation company in the Channel Islands.

Hi Tony. There's some information about The Table out there on the web, but could you tell us a little about how The Table got together?

"Basically The Table was me and my school-mate Russ Young. We hooked up in good old Cathays High School Cardiff and started writing songs and recording them, largely at home on domestic tape recorders. We'd send them off to various record companies in London and get the subsequent rejection letters.

"Influences around then were The Beatles, Beach Boys and classic power-pop (Who, Move, Kinks etcetera), Iggy Pop, Velvet Underground and various 'out there' stuff like Van Der Graaf Generator, Soft Machine, Gong, Bonzo Dog Band, Krautrock, Wild Man Fischer, Beefheart, Roxy Music.

"I was more into the standard cheesy poppy chart stuff, Motown and Dr Feelgood, whereas Russ was into the more avant garde and way out - he bought Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music for instance. And most likely listened to it. Still does, probably."

One of those record companies was Richard Branson's Virgin Records. What became of that deal? And is it true you owned no instruments?

"Standing Still was on a bunch of songs we recorded around 1975 and we got a nibble from Virgin soon thereafter at the start of the 'punk' thing. That was when folks were tiring of the overblown Yes/ELP prog-rock schtick and craved more basic material to listen to. So we got signed up to a one-single deal with Virgin.

"We had done the odd gig, like the Windsor Free Festival, but between getting a deal and the single coming out, punk had mutated from the quaint (Jonathan Richman's Roadrunner) to the extreme (Clash, Ramones, Pistols, Sham 69). So we found ourselves in the middle of that stylistic fashion pose. Not Punks, not hippies, just too arty-probably-for-our-own-good writers primarily. And certainly not disco either.

"We picked up a drummer, Len Lewis, and guitarist Micky O'Connor to get more of a 'band' sound that Virgin required, and when the single came out to good reception got offers for a few gigs and tours. Trouble was the sheer cost of paying for the PA equipment and crew and all that.

"We were offered tours but Virgin wouldn't back us which we felt aggrieved by as it would've promoted our material on their label so we were kind of stuck in a Catch-22. There wasn't exactly pressure from Virgin to tour but they had signed the Sex Pistols and XTC so probably lost what little interest they had. I don't know.

"That's where the legend of us having no gear must have come about. Basically we had our instruments and attendant amps, but nothing else, so when we played we were in the hands of whoever was running the PA and who of curse wouldn't know our songs. That said, we made a good fist of it despite essentially not being showbiz types. There were memorably good gigs with XTC and us swapping top spot and using their PA. Others, not so good, with The Police heckling us! Getting management was a problem too, and as we didn't connect with anyone we deemed legitimate that became a hassle too."

Do The Standing Still became NME's Single of the Week on its release - didn't that help?

"Despite Single of the Week, and John Peel playing it, we hardly got any exposure - not least Radio Wales not playing us as it 'wasn't their sort of thing'. Anyway, we soldiered on. Virgin wanted another single from us but we didn't like the thought of taking on all that with no backing so impolitely declined. We had another single out on Chiswick called Sex Cellsbut again no promotion meant limbo was beckoning."

So what happened after Sex Cells?

"We soldiered on a while, with some personnel changes, and I got sidelined to be a 'Brian Wilson' type figure supplying songs and The Table gradually petered out due to being ignored, lack of interest or perceived commercial viability, just plain being crap or whatever. We were essentially ourselves, unique but sadly totally ignored.

"Russ and I have continued our separate ways and occasionally have dialogue. I'm putting out a few tracks under The Table name which maybe I can tempt him to do the vocals on sometime."

Did you make anything out Do The Standing Still?

"No, we made no cash, but have some kind of legendary status I guess!"

Watch the video for Do The Standing Still:

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

A programme full of tunes!

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 13:00 UK time, Tuesday, 6 December 2011

On Monday evening, we were once again live on Radio 3. The concert saw us reunited with conductor Martyn Brabbins - he who undertook the gargantuan, superhuman task of corralling us, our colleagues in the BBC Concert Orchestra, several brass bands and pretty much every singer in the United Kingdom, not to mention a few soloists, through the Gothic Symphony during this summer's Proms season.

This was, in my opinion, a really nice programme, full of music you could just play! When you play as much contemporary music as we do, it's sometimes nice to play a programme full of tunes.

We started off with Brahms' Variations on a Theme of Haydn, or as I like to call it, Variations on a Theme That Might Have Been Written By Haydn, But Then Again Might Not. This work has a very good viola part and it has been a while since I played it, so it was nice to familiarise myself with the variations again. I'm quite fond of this work. Also, I was given two of the variations for sight reading during the audition for my job here!

Also on the programme was Alexander Zemlinsky's early Symphony in D minor. A few of my friends have already had me boring them all week about how great I think Zemlinsky's music is; I will not make you, dear blog reader, suffer in the same manner. Suffice to say, I am a closet Zemlinsky fan and, thanks to a recommendation by our orchestra librarian Chris, I have now discovered the string quartets too, so things can only get geekier.

Our soloist, in Mozart's Violin Concerto No 3, was BBC New Generation Artist Alexandra Soumm. The BBC New Generation Artist scheme aims to nurture and develop solo and chamber musicians at the start of their careers. When you consider the calibre of alumni who have graduated from the scheme - Lisa Batiashvili, Ilya Gringolts, Janine Jansen, Lawrence Power and Christine Rice, to name but a few - you can see that this is no classical music scheme for an X Factor generation.

In the New Year (can you believe January is just around the corner?!), we will be working with a number of New Generation Artists. I thoroughly recommend you keep an eye out and catch these young soloists if you can. The first of these concerts will be with clarinettist Shabaka Hutchings on 11 January 2012 in an afternoon concert from Hoddinott Hall which is also a part of the Cardiff Sacher Series, a collaboration with Cardiff University exploring works by the Swiss Impresario, Paul Sacher.

It is a beautiful morning here in Cardiff Bay. We are just about to head into the studio to start rehearsing our Christmas celebration music. First up is L'Enfance du Christ by Hector Berlioz, a musical re-telling of the nativity tale. We will be performing it on Friday evening at St David's Hall under the baton of our principal conductor, Thierry Fischer. Hope to see you there!

The Orchestra perform Berlioz's L'enfance du Christ this Friday at St David's Hall, Cardiff. For tickets and information, call 0800 052 1812.

Mary Hopkin's Christmas Songs EP

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 11:20 UK time, Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Welsh music legend Mary Hopkin has released her Christmas Songs EP via digital outlets.

Christmas Songs EP

The three-song release brings together the traditional songs Mary Had A Baby and Cherry Tree Carol with Mary's own composition, Snowed Under.

The first two songs were originally released in 1972 through Regal Zonophone, while Snowed Under was first issued in 2006 as a digital download. All three have been remixed and remastered for this download-only EP.

Mary Hopkin official website:

Recommendations for 2012

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:46 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

This is a shortlist of the artists and releases I'm most looking forward to in 2012. It's a very personal list. My only consideration is the music I already know I'm most excited about getting my ears around in the next 12 months.

Ifan Dafydd

Ifan Dafydd

In Treehouse, Gwynedd's Ifan Dafydd provided me with one of my absolute favourite pieces of music this year, a brilliantly musical extension of the kind of cut 'n' paste vocal, heavy subsonic embroidery his former flatmate James Blake has been lauded for.

That original demo I heard back in January has been reworked for a full release in February 2012. It's more strident than the demo, but the fascinating chromatic hues - almost Innervisions-esque - still glisten wonderfully in the background. Top, subtle work.

Shy And The Fight

Shy And The Fight

Llangollen's Shy And The Fight release their debut EP (also in February). Big-hearted, intimate and beautiful songs that'll intrigue the ears of the cooler than thou fashionistas, whilst also bewitching normal folk. If the man in the street can whistle your tunes; the girl on the school bus has a crush on your doe-eyed singer, and the blogger in Shoreditch hears a new synthesis of folk and electronica in your more experimental moments (see the brilliant Breaks), then you're going to make lots of friends. And friends is what it's all about.

Cut Ribbons

Cut Ribbons

Llanelli's Cut Ribbons create anthemic guitar pop with more edge and life than the vast majority. The male/female dual vocals give them a mountain stream freshness. And their apparently copious ability to write big choruses that you want to hug close to your heart won't harm them, either.

They've got great rock songs but with a post punk credibility. Don't be surprised if they end up in the States doing a Joy Formidable. America will love their big guitars and unashamed heart on sleeve.

Georgia Ruth

Georgia Ruth. Photo: Mission Photographic

Aberystwyth's Georgia Ruth will release her début EP on Gwymon in January. It's taken time; but our patience will be amply rewarded, because if there isn't a place in this world for a beautiful romantic, whose spell-like songs glow in the lineage of Dylan, Baez, King and Mitchell, what kind of world have we created for ourselves? She makes the old sound new and the new sound timeless. You can't dance to Georgia, or soundtrack a revolution with her début EP, but you can fall in and out of love to it, and many will.


Bastions. Photo: Chris Marti Stockings

Holyhead's Bastions are one of the UK's busiest and most highly regarded bands at the moment. But they will have passed under your radar (over it may be more appropriate) if you're not subscribed to the kind of blogs or magazines that laud the best in post hardcore. If that terminology turns you off, but you have a love for leftfield rock that burns with an evangelical, experimental zeal, then you will adore Bastions.

Their début album, Hospital Corners, came out last month - but will pick up momentum in 2012. It'll be one of the most listened-to Welsh albums of the year, but it's possible you may never hear any of it. Which is more a comment on the conservatism of the UK media than on the band or the album.

West Wales' drmcnt, wielding a name as uncompromising as his sound, smashes James Blake's coffee table up, and then some. A brilliantly messed-up musical mind shredding the manual and showing up the automatic. His début EP drops in February. Literally drops. It'll make the ground shudder. I'm not trying to use street language at my advanced age.

Finally, there is a host of excellent Welsh DIY bands who should enjoy deserved attention in 2012. People are going to become disaffected by pop music's sheen and manipulations in 2012. Music seekers will move increasingly to the periphery to hear things that are more exciting and less sanitised. Wales' finest young DIY bands Saturdays Kids/Sex Hands/Joanna Gruesome and Mowbird could all remind people why filthy guitars can be great, thrilling and unpredictable this year.

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

BBC Sound of 2012's lack of Welsh voices

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 08:45 UK time, Monday, 5 December 2011

The BBC Sound of 2012 shortlist of 12 nominees has been announced, and as usual there are no Welsh nominees (Marina And The Diamonds being the last in 2010).

It's a thought I have every year when this list, celebrating some of the up-and-coming artists making waves in the industry, is published. Is there anything that makes Welsh acts unappealing to the "180 influential UK tastemakers who were asked to name their favourite new acts"?



The list:

  • A$AP Rocky
  • Azealia Banks
  • Dot Rotten
  • Dry The River
  • Flux Pavilion
  • Frank Ocean
  • Friends
  • Jamie N Commons
  • Lianne La Havas
  • Michael Kiwanuka
  • Niki & The Dove
  • Ren Harvieu
  • Skrillex
  • Spector
  • Stooshe

I am not diminishing those choices (even though I have, by own admission of having only heard of two of the nominees, earned the slight disapproval of one of Wales' tastemaker generals John Rostron, of Sŵn Festival and the Welsh Music Prize). I am, however, wondering if there any factors that characterise music in Wales that mean that our new acts either aren't good enough, or don't make themselves known to those "influential tastemakers".

Certainly once upon a time the Rivers Severn and Dee were psychological as well as physical boundaries between Wales and the music industry. Massive strides have been made in the last 15 or so years to counter that. A&R departments became aware that Wales was but a couple of hours from their London lairs by train. The explosion of successful Welsh bands in the late-1990s and the early 21st century - largely born of fan power, not hype - assisted, as did the tireless work of individuals and organisations.

Small steps they may have been, but incrementally they achieved a definite shift in attitudes. But if I was to characterise the acts who were in those waves of success, they were guitar bands; rock acts, plugging into the worldwide surge in popularity of rock and metal of the time.

This type of music has never been 'cool'. And by extension, Wales has rarely been 'cool'. Wales is (a little like the West Midlands which I also know well) a hotbed of rock fandom. This is a country in which LA Guns could fill big venues in the depths of the valleys a few years back, when they'd struggle to elicit a raise eyebrow in London. This is the country which embraced The Darkness in a non-ironic way. This is the country of The Alarm.

In broad brush strokes, there are not a lot of factors about Wales which appeals to "influential tastemakers", but that's because influential tastemakers worth their salt aren't necessarily looking for nailed-on sales, they're looking for the indefinable ingredient that crassness labels 'the X factor'. For some, that's sales, but for others it's ingenuity, attitude, passion, politics or simple oddness. And Wales has lots to offer in all those areas.

They're not necessarily brand new, but I'll throw a few Welsh names out there 'for your consideration' as the film studios touting for Oscars votes say: Kitty Cowell, Akira The Don, Gallops, Los Campesinos!, Islet, Y Niwl, Bastions and Exit International.

All interesting in their own ways, and all off the top of my head. John Rostron suggests CRST, H Hawkline, Jodie Marie and Ifan Dafydd, while Adam Walton suggests Shy And The Fight, Cut Ribbons, Georgia Ruth and drmcnt among others (no doubt he'll be blogging some more 2012 tips in the coming weeks).

I don't think anyone has an answer as to how more Welsh acts could get into these kind of lists (and tap into the marketing juice this delivers), or even if there is a problem. John's take on it is simple: "I'd imagine some Welsh bands were in the mix - I'm sure Islet would have been in several. It's a tough list to get into - only seven spots from the UK this time around, and all of those from England."

What would be your suggestions for Welsh acts for the shortlist? Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Kelly Jones' musical tribute to Gary Speed

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 10:27 UK time, Friday, 2 December 2011

Stereophonics' Kelly Jones has recorded a special acoustic version of a Welsh football terrace classic for tonight's Sport Wales (10pm, BBC Two Wales), in tribute to the late Wales international manager Gary Speed.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions

Can't Take My Eyes Off You, originally a top five hit for Andy Williams in 1968, became the adopted anthem of the Welsh supporters during Speed's international career, following a popular BBC Wales promotion which featured the track.

The Stereophonics frontman was approached by BBC Sport Wales producers Huw Davies and Sion Jones to record the track. "I had worked with Kelly before and I knew that he is a proud Welshman and follower of the national side, as well as a Leeds United fan, the team in which Gary Speed began his career. I just thought it would be a fitting tribute for Kelly to sing this for us," says Davies.

Jones, a supporter of one of Speed's former clubs, Leeds United, said: "I was with my two daughters at the Millennium Stadium after the Wales v England international [in March].

"We were waiting at the lift and Gary ended his phone conversation and shook my hand. We had a chat about the game and shared the lift to the ground floor.

"He was a very nice man. Good-looking fella. I was consumed the whole day when I heard the news [of his death]. I couldn't get my head around it.

"Then the BBC approached me to record the song. It's a 10-minute job but I hope it's fitting for the tribute on the show."

Jason Mohammad will present the special tribute to Gary Speed in BBC Sport Wales from Elland Road, the home of Leeds United, He will be joined by former Leeds United player and Wales team-mate Matt Jones. The programme will include tributes from Alan Shearer, Robbie Savage, Gary McAllister, Barry Horne amongst others.

With Wales mercurial winger Shane Williams due to play his final international tomorrow, the programme will also look back at his glittering rugby career and look forward to the Wales v Australia game at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

BBC Sport Wales, Friday, December 2, BBC Two Wales, 10pm

Feel free to comment! If you want to have your say, on this or any other BBC blog, you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have a BBC iD account, you can register here - it'll allow you to contribute to a range of BBC sites and services using a single login.

Need some assistance? Read about BBC iD, or get some help with registering.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Sunday 27 November 2011

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 13:03 UK time, Thursday, 1 December 2011

This week's show is now available via the iPlayer. Apologies for the embarrassing lateness of this information. The early part of the week was swallowed up by a lot of last minute research I had to do for a Science Café recording at Bangor University. Then, the millisecond that was over my body treated me to a particularly incapacitating case of Man Flu.

It's not the first time my body has let me down, frankly. Not by a long chalk.

This week's show features a live set from Dan Amor recorded in the gloriously cosy environs of the Gwesty Gwydir in Betws-Y-Coed. Dan's new album Neigwl is out this week, and this set celebrates the woozy, harmony-soaked, mellow excellence of the album. Like Crosby, Stills and Nash if they'd come from Penmachno. Or Americana re-imagined Snowdonia-stylee.

Snowdonicana. As a piece of genre-defining nomenclature, It's not going to catch on, is it?

We pick up Rachel Lloyd and Matt Nicholl's excellent set from last week, that was crudely marred by a skipping CD-R. It features one of the best cover versions it has ever been my pleasure to play on the radio. It's not often, after all, that I get to play an interpretation of something great from the king of R&B (if you're thinking R Kelly at this point, please get to the back of the class, open the door, leave and never come back) Ray Charles. Great stuff.

Lisa Jen from 9bach comes aboard to tell us about their recent trip to Australia and their work with a collective of Aboriginal musicians called The Black Arm Band. And we get to hear a moving live recording of one of their collaborative pieces.

Huw Williams treats us to some great Welsh indie pop that has hitherto been rather under celebrated within our national borders.

Ben Hayes gets misty-eared for the Grumbleweeds. In tweed. It's a lovely moment, but one that may induce shrinkage or 'wet dog smell'.

Elsewhere we're fairly dripping musical excellence, most of it from Wales, including début plays for: Hell Money, Giant Monster Army, Stars and Flights, Jamie Bevan A'r Gwenddillion and Danny Gruff and the Peacemakers.

Please send demos/new releases/whatever you like to as a high quality mp3 or download link.

Many thanks/diolch o galon,.

Aberystwyth / Cardiff

JOAN BAEZ - 'Silver Dagger'
New York

IFAN DAFYDD - 'Daddy ( Ifan Dafydd Remix Of Emeli Sande Single )'

LLWYBR LLAETHOG - 'Bodlondeb Ty Cnau ( Featuring David R. Edwards )'
Blaenau Ffestiniog / Cardiff

WIBIDI - 'Lockdown'


HELL MONEY - 'Day 93'

60FT DOLLS - 'Happy Shopper'

LOS CAMPESINOS - 'Songs About Your Girlfriend'

Wrexham / L.a.

YR ODS - 'Dadansoddi'

EDWARD H. DAFIS - 'Gwrandewch'

CUT RIBBONS - 'White Horses'

LOVELY EGGS, THE - 'New Allergies'

Llanfair P.g.

HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution'

FRIENDS - 'Far And Away'

DAN AMOR - 'Something To You, Something To Me ( Live From Gwesty Gwydyr, Betws - Y - Coed, 23rd Nov 2011 )'

DAN AMOR - 'Run You Like A River ( Live From Gwesty Gwydyr, Betws - Y - Coed, 23rd Nov 2011 )'

DAN AMOR - 'Anhaeddiannol ( Live From Gwesty Gwydyr, Betws - Y - Coed, 23rd Nov 2011 )'

DAN AMOR - 'Lakeside ( Live From Gwesty Gwydyr, Betws - Y - Coed, 23rd Nov 2011 )'


HELDINKY - 'Your Place'

9BACH - 'Spoken Contribution'

9BACH - 'Bwthyn Fy Nain'

JOSEPH & DAVID - 'I'm Here'
Cardiff / Leeds

PAPER AEROPLANES - 'Winter Never Comes'
Milford Haven

METABEATS - 'Toaster Jazz'


STARS AND FLIGHTS - 'Angel Squared'


BASTIONS - 'I Tried To Stitch The Sea To The Shore'

RACHEL LLOYD AND MATT NICHOLLS - 'Into The Air ( Live At Focus Wales 2011 )'

RACHEL LLOYD AND MATT NICHOLLS - 'Get In Trouble ( Live At Focus Wales 2011 )'

Merthyr Tydfil

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'

GRUMBLEWEEDS, THE - 'Never Before'


Jolivet who?

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 11:28 UK time, Thursday, 1 December 2011

After a manic few weeks, I feel that the beginning of this week brought a little respite for me. Something that almost never happens, happened. Yes, we played a programme that comprised of music I had already played!

For the last in our Symphony series we performed one of Shostakovich's shortest symphonies, the ninth, and also one of Sibelius' shortest, number seven. Having played them both before, I just had to take a little time on Sunday evening to tighten up a few corners in each work (giving me lots of time to catch up with the latest episode of The Killing).

It's been lovely seeing the Symphony series so well attended - there's been a good buzz about it. It's also been very nice to have a programme that concentrates on just one work (or in the finale's two-for-the-price-of-one extravaganza, two symphonies).

The second half of this week will see us present a composer portrait on French composer Andre Jolivet. The soloists will be Marc Coppey (cello) and our own Jarek Augustyniak (bassoon). As I've mentioned before, it is lovely to hear our own principals take the role of soloist.

Now, I'm pretty sure Jolivet was mentioned during one of my Music of the Twentieth Century lectures at uni, but I may have been daydreaming a little and can remember nothing about him (apologies to Dr Morris). Therefore, I have done a little research.

It turns out Jolivet was one of the cool kids of French music in the 1930s and was in a club with Messiaen called, rather unoriginally, La Jeune France. I've always been partial to a bit of Messiaen (though consider the omission of a viola from the Quartet for the End of Time a major oversight which he must have regretted), so I'm pretty upbeat about getting to know Jolivet's music.

I've been trawling Spotify, iTunes and all the usual places to find recordings of the works that we are performing. I find when you are slightly short on time it's very helpful to be able to listen to the work you're performing as well as learning the notes - it can give you a much better sense of the bigger picture rather than simply getting bogged down with little bits.

My search was surprisingly unfruitful, so while I'm getting to know the viola part in my own practice, I still feel a little clueless as to how it fits in context with the rest of the orchestra.

Composer portrait days give the audience and the orchestra an opportunity to delve a little deeper into the work of a composer. The concert will start with Debussy's Nocturnes (very nice piece). Debussy was a huge influence on Jolivet, so it'll be interesting to hear if his influence is evident in the Jolivet we perform. I'm still undecided as to what I think of his music, but I'm sure all will be revealed when we start rehearsing...

The orchestra will be performing an evening of music by Jolivet at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay, tomorrow (Friday 2 December) at 7pm. Tickets are available by calling the Orchestra's Audience Line on 0800 052 1812.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.