Archives for March 2012

Radio Wales Music Day: Is Welsh music the best in the world?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 15:09 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

The Radio Wales phone-in this morning brought together promoter John Rostron, musician Cheryl Beer and film-maker Dan Harris to debate the issue with presenter Jason Monhammad.

Listen to the full debate here:

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I want a smoke machine, a wind machine and a pair of ruby slippers...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 15:04 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

When I was young I loved music theatre. Mother bought me a monthly publication called The Magic Of The Musicals and I would eagerly await its arrival. I would put the CD on, read the synopsis of the plot, carefully slip the sleeve notes out of the CD cover and listen again whilst following the lyrics.

Then I would listen again whilst singing along. My poor parents - there I would be, headphones on, belting out some number from Cats - and everyone knows singing with headphones on often has interesting consequences for one's intonation, so it probably sounded like the said Cats were being strangled!

When I saw a call for auditions for a children's choir to appear in a production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at Belfast's Lyric Theatre, I pestered my mother until I was allowed to audition. There followed for her an entire summer season of driving up and down the motorway, waiting at rehearsal halls and outside the theatre. I was having a ball, loving being on stage and bouncing around like a lunatic. I even still remember the vocal warmups we learnt as the vocal coach attempted to persuade some annunciation into our broad Northern Ireland accents.

I think in the classical world we sometimes have a tendency to look down on the world of musical theatre, as though our genre were the only legitimate form of music making. In other words, I think we can be a bit snobby at times. To do this is to ignore, or discount the very real connection that songs from the shows make with their audience; I'm pretty sure a greater proportion of the general population could sing with great love and affection a few strains of Climb Every Mountain from The Sound Of Music, than could recognise Haydn's 'Joke' Quartet.

Songs from the shows take us back to a more innocent time and allow us to suspend reality for a little while. The recent resurgence of the musical (take Hairspray, Legally Blonde and, of course, Wicked, for example) would suggest that this is still a relevant medium for our times.

On Friday and Saturday, we are joined by welsh singer Sophie Evans in a concert of tunes from the shows and, to the great excitement of a number of colleagues, Disney tunes. Many of you will remember Sophie as the runner up in the TV reality show Somewhere Over The Rainbow, and indeed, she has recently taken over the role of Dorothy full time in London's West End.

This is a great fun concert for the whole family, though Sophie should watch her back. I want to sing! My section have been indulging my fantasy this week and it has now grown to monstrous proportions that involve me being lifted on wires from my seat in the viola section as I sing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, before being gently and elegantly lowered into a pair of ruby slippers!

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales performs music by Bernstein, Coates, Strauss and songs from The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz and many more tonight, Friday 30 March at 7pm, at Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon and tomorrow, Saturday 31 March, 7pm at St David's Hall, Cardiff. Tickets are available from the venues - Theatr Brycheiniog 01874 611622/St David's Hall 02920 878444.The concert will be recorded for future broadcast on BBC Radio Wales.

Radio Wales Music Day: Cuba Cuba live

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:44 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Cuba Cuba perform their song 50 A Night live on the Jamie and Louise show, kicking off Radio Wales Music Day 2012 on 30 March.

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Joy Formidable tour diary - day four

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:32 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Today has been - against my best intentions - probably a de facto touring band experience... i.e. calling into a city (Philadelphia) but not having the energy, or time (despite having little better to do than sit down and watch Full Metal Jousting on TV [seriously!], to go and check the city itself out.

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

To be fair, due to situations outlined in the last blog, I only had an hour - two, at a push - sleep. Fuzzy, fuzzy, fuzzy. For the majority of the day I have felt like I was trying to traverse the deck of a ship in a wild storm. And I wasn't even hungover.

Well, not much.

The Joy Formidable are up against a deadline with their second album. All of the parts are recorded, but as is the case with the modern recording process, there is much to be comped, trimmed, edited and binned before they can begin the all important mixing process.

And much of this happens on the tour bus. Serious aside, this band work hard. They're doing nine - maybe 10 - dates in a row. That with the all-encompassing focus on the album has left them running on fumes. As with all great bands, they save the fuel that is left for the show. So, planned interviews have to be postponed. I understand. The last thing I'd want in their situation is me asking probing, red-faced questions. We'll save that joy and delight for tomorrow. I love tomorrow. It's my favourite day for getting stuff done.

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

So, to the show: the soundcheck is a little more protracted - nothing is for certain, or predictable, in the technology behind rock 'n' roll. Still, the techs and engineers work until things are as right as they can be, even if this means postponing things like band promo and meet 'n' greets. By the time everything has been tweaked, even in the empty, church-like confines of the Union Transfer, the band sound incredible. I keep saying that, keep using words of that magnitude, but it's true.

Ah, the meet 'n' greet. Did I mention the meet 'n' greet yesterday? This is a phenomenon I've not experienced before. Understandably... not many would line up to get a photo taken and press flesh with me! But it's become an increasingly important part of the US touring band's responsibilities. I think - in general - that UK bands are a little too cynical or self-regarding to schmooze in this way. That The Joy Formidable manage to leave the 40, or so, fans who've turned up to meet them with smiles on their faces is no mean feat considering they all want to pass out on their feet./p>

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

I ask a couple of the attendees why they're here:

"They're a great band. There's something different about them. I can't explain it."

Do you know where they're from?

"Wales, right?"

Yes, right. Right, right, right!

Everyone on the tour bus, bar tour manager Andy and me, goes to catch a few Zs before the show starts. It's no wonder they're knackered. I've started hallucinating, and I've only been living this life for a couple of days.

I wonder how the lack of energy will affect the show. This band don't just stand there looking disinterested, exerting all of the effort of a moth at midday. They give it their all.

The band who erupt on stage - spurting hot plumes of sound into the Philadelphia night - are unrecognisable from the B-movie zombies who've shambled around wordlessly for most of the day. They sound even better than they did in New York. Perhaps it's because they're having to fight themselves a little. They beat themselves to fantastic effect.

The set is perfectly structured, consumately plotted like one of Chekov's short stories. It has a real beginning, middle and end. I've never seen fewer people drift off partway through the set to go to the bar. It's fair to say that Philadelphia is riveted.

From A Heavy Abacus through to an epic, destructive, Whirring, that ends with Rhydian violating a massive gong releasing all the pent up frustrations and tirednesses of the day in a few hammering blows, it's another phenomenal show.

I'm not using that word lightly.

Every aspect is designed to blow minds and give the audience an ultimate experience: the sound is thunderous but clear and pristine; the light-show is the best I've ever seen in a venue this size; the set - complete with lighthouse, nets and lobster traps (I think!) - mysteriously nautical. None of these things come cheaply, but they improve the wow factor exponentially.

But at the heart of this show's success is the band and their songs. Strip away all of the theatre and I'd still be mindblown. I understand the lineage of much of what I hear, but tracing The Joy Formidable is a much more difficult task. They breathe new colours into a pensionable palette. A few of their songs nudge you off kilter with strange time signatures - and unpredictable changes - but none of that is arty farty. The Joy Formidable's leftfield still neighbours great, great tunes. We've mentioned those great, great tunes already, haven't we?

We haven't really mentioned Ritzy, though. The well worn cliche is that a great performer has the audience eating out of their hand; well, Ritzy could have them eating off a cowshed floor. She is imperious and impish as a performer. One of the reasons the Americans love the Joy Formidable is because they're not too up themselves to put on a show, to invite the audience along for the ride. Songs die and then leap back into life like heroes. It'd take a cynical heart to not be swept up in such drama.

Ritzy wheels around the stage - part psychotic marionette, part Siren, part sweary Welsh woman from Mold. She is remarkable. I do hope that word is italicised. Just as I hope Ritzy, and this great band, get idolised the way they deserve to be.

All fuzziness has been blown out of my system. I even manage a good night's sleep on the tourbus. Wife and daughter aside, I wish I wasn't going home in a couple of days time. This has been incredible.

On to Boston....

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Radio Wales Music Day: Greta Isaac live

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James McLaren James McLaren | 14:01 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Greta Isaac performs her song Don't Go live on the Jamie and Louise show, kicking off Radio Wales Music Day 2012 on 30 March.

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Radio Wales Music Day: Greta Isaac in conversation

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:52 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Singer-songwriter Greta Isaac joined Jamie and Louise this morning for BBC Radio Wales Music Day. Just 16 years old, she talks about learning guitar in a year and balancing music and school.

Listen to Greta chat with the Radio Wales presenters:

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Radio Wales Music Day: Georgia Ruth live

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James McLaren James McLaren | 13:01 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Georgia Ruth performs her song Mapping live on the Jamie and Louise show, kicking off Radio Wales Music Day 2012 on 30 March.

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Radio Wales Music Day: The Dirty Youth talk Korn

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:41 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

The Dirty Youth joined Jamie and Louise this morning for BBC Radio Wales Music Day, talking all about their time touring with American superstars Korn.

Listen to Danni Monroe and Matt Bond's chat with the Radio Wales presenters:

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Radio Wales Music Day: The Boy Royals live

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:07 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

The Boy Royals (formerly Town) perform their song Voice Of The Future live on the Jamie and Louise show, kicking off Radio Wales Music Day 2012 on 30 March.

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Radio Wales Music Day: Joshua Caole in conversation

James McLaren James McLaren | 10:56 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Singer-songwriter Joshua Caole joined Jamie and Louise this morning for BBC Radio Wales Music Day.

Listen to his chat with the Radio Wales presenters here:

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Radio Wales Music Day: Georgia Ruth in conversation

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James McLaren James McLaren | 10:13 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Georgia Ruth joined Jamie and Louise this morning for BBC Radio Wales Music Day.

Listen to her chat with the Radio Wales presenters:

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Radio Wales Music Day: The Boy Royals in conversation

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:16 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Alex and Hamish of The Boy Royals joined Jamie and Louise this morning for BBC Radio Wales Music Day.

Listen to their chat with the Radio Wales presenters, covering name-changing, support from radio legends and local heroes:

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Radio Wales Music Day: Tight times for musicians?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:03 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

As part of BBC Radio Wales Music Day, musicians and composers explain how they have been coping with tight economic times and a cut in royalty payments:

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Among the speakers are musician Gai Toms and Lisa Matthews from the Welsh Music Foundation.

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It's Radio Wales Music Day!

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James McLaren James McLaren | 07:23 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Today we embark on the third annual Radio Wales Music Day.

Georgia Ruth

Georgia Ruth

From 9am right through to the late evening, Radio Wales are talking to some of Wales' movers and shakers, playing live sessions from some of the country's great new acts, and spinning some Welsh classics.

Listen live to BBC Radio Wales

From different venues across Wales, the shows will be getting to the nub of current issues and celebrating Wales' talent, and as ever, we want you to be part of it.

You can comment on today's blogs, or engage via Twitter. Make sure you follow us at @bbcwalesmusic and BBC Radio Wales at @bbcradiowales. Use the hashtag #rwmd too!

Keep checking back on the BBC Wales Music Blog as we add highlights of the day.

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Joy Formidable tour diary - day three

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 07:00 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Today was my last day in New York, so I tumbled into it sadly. Today would also be my first day sleeping on the tour bus, so I crawled into it with a certain amount of terror. I'm a man who likes his personal space. And a bathroom. A tour bus has neither.

My hosts, The Joy Formidable, are finishing off their second album from the confines of the tour bus. They're due to start mixing it in a couple of weeks time - but there's a lot of housework that needs to be done on the reams that they've recorded before they start that task: favourite takes to be identified and 'topped and tailed', superfluous bits and pieces dumped so that they don't confuse the issue, that kind of thing.

The Joy Formidable on stage

The Joy Formidable on stage

What this means is that the band are incredibly busy during the day. So, an afternoon we'd scheduled to begin our session of interviews with each other gets postponed. That's no problem, I get to wander New York, picking up some cheap Levis and a gargantuan pizza.

Tonight's gig is at Terminal 5. It's an excellent mid-size venue; probably holds in the region of a couple of thousand people. Huw Stephens came here the day he got engaged, I learn later that day.

The Joy Formidable crowd

The Joy Formidable crowd

My engagement is with a camcorder. My official task for the band is to film them for their tour DVD. I haven't filmed anything, ever. They seem to think that this will give my footage an original angle. If original is a euphemism for 'unusable' and 'out of focus', I'd tend to agree with them.

So, I spend a couple of hours fighting with a Panasonic manual and a camera that seems to be the size of my little finger. It's somewhat intimidating. Everyone else on this tour is so, so professional I feel compelled to raise my game. But there is only so high game can realistically be raised.

Ritzy of The Joy Formidable

Ritzy of The Joy Formidable

The band do a meet and greet with part of their audience. Apparently you pay a little extra on the price of your ticket for this. The fans - and the band, who are good natured and affable - really enjoy this. It forges a stronger connection between them and the people who pay to come and see them: no bad thing, at all.

I wish someone had arranged a meet and greet with this flipping camcorder before the day I'm destined to use it for the first time. I'm quite high maintenance, you may have noticed.

Sound gets checked; meals get eaten (but not by me, still wrestling the Panasonic!); then the doors open and people - lots of people - begin to file in.

I'm aware that The Joy Formidable aren't the first Welsh band to tour the States - that a good few have come before them and entertained audiences in the thousands, but the size and fervour of Joy Formidable's audience is impressive. They've played 120+ shows in 60+ cities in the States in the last two years. That's some serious legwork, and it's paying off. A band who can pull near two thousand people in their own right in New York, who rarely get in the local papers at home...

Their set is an avalanche of awesome. I'm allowed to use that word, in that context, while I'm in the States. Consider it my first Joss Stone-ism, bless her. I'm drawn up in the undertow of sound, it's a thrilling set: massive tunes, but with a real leftfield sensibility, strange washes of shoegaze ambience infiltrate the songs and make them sound stranger, more intriguing than if they were bare bones.

Some of the details are lost to me because I'm fighting the camcorder. And the venue's security. You have to pay a sizeable fee if you want to license footage shot in this venue for official use. Hilarious, in retrospect, if they'd seen any of the shaky handed, fuzzy as hell footage I shot. But I got some good photos, I think.

The band play a few new songs - including something very different, very excellent, and very acoustic in the encore. It's a fascinating glimpse of what they've been up to on the back of the bus.

Ah, the bus... my first night on the bus didn't go so well. I ended up in the 'junk bunk' minus a 'comforter'. There was mental-ness going on in the front that may scar me for eternity... actually, it was all good natured valve releasing, and much-deserved, when you consider how hard these people work. Ritzy and Rhydian retire to the back of the bus - despite it being Rhydian's birthday - to get themselves ready for another day of hard, album preparation. That's dedication for you. It's what you need, so they say. And Joy Formidable have it, in abundance.

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I might have conquered Prokofiev!

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 16:00 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sunday dawned another beautiful day. The concert venue (Venue Cymru Theatre) was within walking distance of our cottage, so we could take full advantage of the glorious morning (Gwen even went for a second run along the sea front).

I was secretly dreading this concert. The venue has a very, very dry acoustic and to make the Prokofiev and Haydn in particular sound in any way beautiful, you have to work ever so hard.

Rehearsal was really only for topping and tailing, and after enjoying my prawn and edamame bean salad, I got ready quite early to have a good, long warm up.

I thought Vilde's Tchaikovsky was especially good in this concert. The audience obviously agreed, breaking into spontaneous applause after her blistering first movement (sod all convention, I felt like clapping after the first movement).

I really quite enjoyed the Prokofiev, but I wish there had been one more concert in which to play it. I think there are some pieces that are always like that - it becomes more comfortable, and consequently, more enjoyable every time you play it.

I enjoyed the pairing of the Prokofiev with Haydn's London Symphony, even if it did mean that the second half of the concert felt like an absolute marathon. However, I think it really demonstrated just how well constructed the Prokofiev's Classical Symphony is and I am a bit of a closet Haydn fan.

Alas, the final bars of Haydn did not signal the end of this Spring North Wales tour for the majority of the Orchestra. After a dinner break (in which Andy, Mark and their team had to pack up the Theatre and move everything to the Arena for the next rehearsal), we were into a technical rehearsal for two education concerts in Llandudno on Monday with conductor, Grant Llewellyn and animateur/facilitator/genius, Andy Pidcock.

On Monday, we played to over 1500 schoolchildren from both special education units and main stream education schools. The sight of associate leader, Nick Whiting, dressed as Nicolette the Hungarian Gypsy fiddler is an image that may be ingrained in my memory for a long while yet to come!

With that, we were off on the long journey home. The next few months hold some very exciting projects and repertoire for the Orchestra. The beginning of April will see the return of Associate Guest Conductor, the irrepressible François Xavier Roth for a programme that will bring the wind and strings individually into the limelight, as well as featuring young British pianist, Benjamin Grosvenor. Then, after a highly anticipated week of annual leave, we will be joined by Lisa Milne for Mahler's Fourth Symphony (I am already very excited). However, first, later this week, we have our Family Favourites concert to look forward to, featuring which promises to be an all singing, all dancing affair. And that's just in the Second Violins.

Sonisphere cancelled

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:05 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

Hertfordshire rock festival Sonisphere has been cancelled, organisers have confirmed this morning.

Skindred

Skindred

The Knebworth event was meant to have taken place on 6-8 July, featuring Welsh bands The Blackout and Skindred alongside the likes of Kiss, Faith No More and Queen.

It was the Queen website which yesterday fuelled rumours of the featival's demise, with a message posted: "It is with very heavy hearts and much regret that we announce the cancellation of Sonisphere Knebworth 2012".

As 'Sonisphere' began trending worldwide on Twitter, the message was swiftly withdrawn but today Sonisphere's own website carried this statement:

It is with very heavy hearts and much regret that we announce the cancellation of Sonisphere Knebworth 2012.

Putting the festival together in what is proving to be a very challenging year was more difficult than we anticipated and we have spent the last few months fighting hard to keep Sonisphere in the calendar. Unfortunately circumstances have dictated that we would be unable to run the festival to a standard that both the artists and that Sonisphere's audience would rightly expect.

We want to express our deepest regrets to the artists and to thank all the staff, suppliers and contractors who worked so hard with us to try and pull off what has proven to be an impossible task and we know how much they share in our disappointment. We also want to send a huge thanks to the Sonisphere fans who stuck by us and we are so sorry that we can't fulfil what we set out to do.

Ticket holders will automatically receive a full refund direct from their ticket agents.

Team Sonisphere.

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Gourmet dining? Takeaway and eating in the car more like!

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 09:00 UK time, Thursday, 29 March 2012

On Friday, we were off to the Pritchard-Jones Hall, Bangor for the turn of our Tchaikovsky/Bruch/Dvořák programme.

Rehearsal was a bit stop/start, as these things sometimes have a tendency to be. For starters, there was a small issue with the heating, meaning that the hall was sweltering. I believe in looking on the bright side of life however, and perhaps it was good training for the climate on the prchestra's forthcoming China tour! Additionally, the hall had the most reverberant acoustic of the tour and it was necessary to spend quite some time rebalancing the sound of the orchestra.

There is always such a good and responsive audience in Bangor. Sometimes, even if you're not happy about the angle at which you are facing your stand, or the height of your chair, or the amount of space you have to bow in, a good audience can help you forget these little niggles.

I'm not entirely sure what I think of Tchaikovsky's Hamlet overture. It has some horribly tricky passage work which always occurs when the brass are all blaring forth (perhaps that is a mercy!), so it sometimes feels like you are working incredibly hard but with not a terrible amount of return. I do like the end of it though - it's quite reminiscent of the end of the Pathetique Symphony.

Vilde's Bruch concerto was beautiful; it is lovely to hear a young soloist who isn't just a technical wizzkid, but plays with such soul. I genuinely would love someone to get in touch and let me know what her encore was! The Dvořák was a suitably rip-roaring affair and post-concert Tweets would suggest the audience really did love it!

Next day in Wrexham's William Aston Hall, rehearsal was relatively short as we were repeating the previous night's programme and so, it was only necessary to fit the music to the much drier acoustic. There was a little bit of a lighting issue that halted proceedings briefly - a third of the orchestra were being blinded by some overhead lights, the horns were in relative darkness and a few members were being toasted by lights quite close to their heads. This was all dealt with quickly by stage manager, Andy, with his usual humour and efficiency.

Rehearsal done, we headed back to the car park to enjoy that most glamourous of domestic tour activities - a packed dinner in the car. Claire had secured a parking space right by the exit, so we were confident of a swift get away post concert ( so would be in time to pick up a Chinese take away en route). Who said this life was all pretty dresses and post concert receptions!

The concert ran smoothly. I still find Hamlet a little bit uncomfortable; it's not that it is difficult, it's just a little awkward in places. Vilde's Bruch was warmly received by the audience and with that it was time for a quick breath of fresh air and on to the Dvořák!

Joy Formidable tour diary - day two

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:37 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Day two started off with a breakfast that would kill an elephant at Carnegie Deli. That particular destination was recommended by Bern from MusicBox studios in Cardiff. He wasn't wrong, but my arteries and waistband would like to have a word with him.

Today is the day that I get to meet The Joy Formidable. Of course, I've met them many times before - but this feels different. I'm working for them this time round. So I make sure I arrive early so as not to disappoint them.

The Joy Formidable

The Joy Formidable

Unbeknownst to me, I arrive three hours early - having traipsed half way across the city. I don't do cabs, see: 1) They're expensive and 2) If I only have two days in New York, I'm going to see as much of it as is humanly possible.

I walk from my hotel off Times Square most of the way down 8th Avenue. This is the New York I was expecting. Busy, vibrant, a little seedy in places (Gotham), grand (Madison Square Garden) and alive with a multitude of aromas I can't identify. It's a thrilling, exhausting and surreal traipse, but one of the best traipses I ever did have.

I stand outside a slab of a building at the end of my journey and wait. And wait. And wait a bit more. The security aren't keen to let me in:

"I'm here with The Joy Formidable. They're doing a session for YouTube."

"Do you have a contact name?"

"Er, no."

"Then we can't let you in sir."

I feel like a very old, very disappointing (from the band's point of view) groupie.

So I stand outside in the sun. It's freezing but I manage to get sunburn.

Long story cut short, the band eventually arrive. Seeing Ritzy, Rhydian and Matt over here is almost more than my brain can cope with. Fortunately, they're seasoned travellers and their calmness and professionalism - and friendliness - carry me through.

They may only be a three-piece, but their tour retinue is sizeable. Seems like a massive family has descended on New York: an array of techs, tour managers, engineers... their dedication and expertise is clear the moment the band start to soundcheck. It sounds pristine and powerful: like being hit in the ears by one of the 'proper' limousines that sails down Broadway. (No hen nights in there, for sure.)

They're due to do a live session for YouTube in front of millions at 5pm EST. The soundcheck is finicky, but it's understandable. And the band's attention to detail - making sure everything is right for them - is impressive and laudable. They're not throwing this together, not by any means.

Soundcheck finished, there is some hanging round. And introduction (for me) to the type of humour I can expect on the tour bus from Matt (drummer) and his creative ways with a whiteboard and marker. Let's put it this way, it's unlikely that Google will adopt his design as their logo. More's the pity!

The band don't seem nervous at all, considering what they're about to do. They fall into a routine of limbering vocal chords and playing fingers up. Pizza is ignored in case they end up vomiting on stage. So, I eat the pizza.

The Joy Formidable on stage

The Joy Formidable on stage

And they're on stage. They begin with a sinuous and massive sounding The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade and it sounds phenomenal. A sizeable and appreciative audience of Google employees and staff from the band's US record label nod their heads, whoop and holler: "We love you Ritzy!"

And, they do! Not bad for a lass from Rhydymwyn. I feel so, so proud. I can't explain it.

I shan't describe every element of the set. We'll have plenty of time for such post-mortems over the next few nights. Suffice to say, the band are great and occasionally sweary.

It strikes me how much this band are rated over here. I think it's a lot to do with their openness and desire to give people a "bloody good time". Ritzy doesn't use the word "bloody". She does like the odd, strategically-placed f-word!

They come back for a Q&A from the stage. I learn that Ritzy was an au pair in Washington. Not a very good one, by all accounts: "well, do I look bloody maternal?"... again, she doesn't use the word "bloody".

They go gather themselves in the green room - it's a Google conference room and it has the longest table in it you have ever seen. Matt rides round it on a Google scooter. We're taken out for sushi in a fancy restaurant. I'm wearing walking boots and three day old jeans. It's the most amazing meal I've ever eaten.

I get to bed with the band's songs echoing around my head and make a mental note that their success is as simple as that. No need to over intellectualise it. They write good tunes an increasing amount of Americans want to listen to. Worlds and oysters are queuing up at their feet.

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So an Englishwoman, a Scotswoman, a Welshwoman and an Irishwoman...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 10:46 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

This last week, the orchestra have been on tour in North Wales. Our role as Wales' national orchestra means that we are committed to bringing music to mid and north Wales, not just Cardiff and its surrounding areas.

With principal guest conductor, Jac van Steen, and soloist, Vilde Frang, we took two programmes on tour. Our programmes were two very different plays. The Tchaikovsky/Bruch/Dvořák programme, was quite heavy on the arms - a lot of red blooded, forte playing mixed with intense piano.

The Schumann/Tchaikovsky/Prokofiev/Haydn programme, on the other hand, required a much more stylised manner of playing. Both have their challenges, there's a bit of passage work in each that could trip you up if you weren't entirely on the ball!

As is now our tradition, my friends and I had booked a little cottage in Llandudno and so were driving rather than taking the orchestra coach. On Thursday morning, looking like the line up of a bad Englishwoman (Claire), Scotswoman (Amy), Welshwoman (Gwen), Irishwoman (Me) joke, we got the car packed and headed off.

All was going swimmingly until we were about 10 minutes from the venue and hit a terrible traffic jam. We started to panic that the best laid plans regarding being in time for a wee cuppa before rehearsal were descending into being catastrophically late for rehearsal.

After what felt like an age we were on our way again. The only other excitement was when the sat-nav took us a slightly funny route and we confronted the biggest incline to be seen outside of Alton Towers. Even Claire's tank of a car balked slightly at being forced up the hill as Amy, Gwen and I unhelpfully squealed in fear that we were going to roll backwards.

After a car or coach journey, I always feel the need to have an extra long warm up. I hate that feeling when your fingers feel swollen and unresponsive, and your body feels cramped from having sat in a confined space for a prolonged period of time. As we were playing Prokofiev's Classical Symphony in the first programme, it felt doubly important to me to be well warmed up.

Rehearsal started promptly and it was good to get a good play. I had been slightly concerned about this programme. The Prokofiev is brilliant, but a bit scary, and I had never played the Tchaikovsky concerto before - it has a few entries that could really catch you out. Thankfully, the Schumann was straight forward and I think I could almost play the Haydn in my sleep now!

There was an enthusiastic audience for the concert and I felt that things went well (especially the Schumann). I felt that I could now relax more in the Prokofiev too. Tired, we began our long drive to Llandudno to check into our lovely little home for the next few days!

Getting ready for Radio Wales Music Day 2012

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:21 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

BBC Radio Wales are gearing up for the third annual Wales Music Day this Friday (30 March).

All day we here at BBC Wales Music will be keeping you abreast of the highlights and will be putting up some of the interviews to listen again.

Radio Wales editor Steve Austins said: "BBC Radio Wales Music Day has rapidly established itself as a highlight in the musical calendar in Wales, and there's a real buzz surrounding this year's Music Day. We want to showcase Welsh music, across all genres, through the events we're organising and broadcasting."

Line-up for the day:

9am: Jamie and Louise
From the Barnabas Arts House in Newport, Jamie and Louise kick off Wales Music Day with The Boy Royals (formerly Town), playing and in conversation.

Georgia Ruth

Georgia Ruth

Joining them will be Greta Isaac, Joshua Caole, Cuba Cuba and Georgia Ruth.

2pm: Roy Noble
From Theatr Brycheiniog in Brecon, Roy has a very special performance from BBC National Orchestra of Wales and Rhondda's Sophie Evans.

Jodie Marie

Jodie Marie

Also performing for Roy will be Jodie Marie, while Frank Hennessy will be in conversation.

Cut Ribbons

Cut Ribbons

8pm: Amy Wadge
Coming from The Parrot in Carmarthen, Amy is joined by Cut Ribbons, Trwbador and The Last Republic.

10pm: Chris Needs
Wrapping up the day, Chris is in Maesteg Town Hall with Only Men Aloud and Lucie Jones.

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Global awards recognise their first ever Welsh artist

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James McLaren James McLaren | 07:53 UK time, Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Penarth artist Martyn Joseph has been nominated in the global Independent Music Awards (IMAs), becoming the first Welsh person in the 11 years of the competition to be recognised.

Edit (12noon, Thursday 29 March): We are happy to correct this story. In 2009 the IMAs awarded the prize of Best World Album to Various Artists - Blodeugerdd Song Of The Flowers: An Anthology Of Welsh Music And Song produced by Ceri Rhys Matthews.

Martyn Joseph

Martyn Joseph

Martyn's song There's Always Maybe, from his current Under Lemonade Skies album, is up for the Best Song in the folk/singer songwriter category. The awards are chosen by a panel of 77 industry personalities and musicians, including Keith Richards, Tom Waits, Suzanne Vega, Tori Amos, Michael Franti and Ozzy Osbourne.

The judges' choices will be announced next month.

There is also a public vote in the awards, which closes in July.

A spokesperson for the IMAs said: "Celebrating the democracy of creativity and meritocracy of talent, The Independent Music Awards honour exceptional independent artists traditionally ignored by mass media and 'big box' retailers.

Winners of The 11th IMAs will receive active promotions, distribution and performance opportunities that will place them in front of nearly 1billion music fans, they say.

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Joy Formidable tour diary - day one

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 15:47 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A couple of months ago, I got into work on a Saturday evening to find the following e-mail in my inbox:

Hey Adam
I manage The Joy Formidable. The band will be touring the East Coast of the US at the end of March and would like you to join them to do some work for a tour DVD.

This is the intinerary:
March
26 Arrive in New York City
27 (day off) spend time with band
28 (T5) NYC show / interview
29 (Philly) show / interview
30 (Boston) Welsh day
31 Leave

Would this be agreeable to you?

Agreeable! AGREEABLE! It's easily the most 'agreeable' correspondence that has ever landed through my letterbox / in my inbox.

So, here I am. Sat in a hotel just off Times Square, two hours from going over to meet the band for a YouTube session - more excited than I have been since my daughter was born. That's some exponential level above 'agreeable', is that!

The only hiccup was that Radio Wales Music Day was scheduled to happen whilst I was away: an annual event that I'm proud to have (verbally, at least) been the instigator of, and an event that has become so, so important at sharing Welsh music to a broader audience.

Fortunately, our editor and senior producers saw the worth in my being over in the United States with one of Wales' finest bands. I don't say that loosely. The Joy Formidable are right up there in my estimation with Super Furry Animals and Future Of The Left.

My musical love doesn't get any deeper than that. The fact that the Joy Formidable are from my hometown of Mold just makes the whole thing that much sweeter. Mold, a humble market town in Flintshire, exporting a band whose hard work and inspirational music has brought them to the brink of full-on, international success, would have been unimaginable when I started out in a band there in the early 90s.

So, over the course of my visit - and to coincide with Radio Wales Music Day - I'm going to bring you backstage, front-of-stage and tour bus access to a Welsh band making a real name for themselves and their music on a much wider stage. I'll do my best to keep a daily diary of events on the road with the band here on the BBC Wales Music blogs. And we'll have interviews and live tracks on BBC Radio Wales as part of Radio Wales Music Day itself.

My show on Saturday 31 March will come live from Boston. And not the one in Lincolnshire.

It should be something of an inspiration and an education. It will be for me. That is, if the band haven't kicked me off the tourbus after one night of vegetarian(ish) flatulence and occasional, baritone snoring.

New York

New York

Here's a picture out of my hotel room window just to prove that I'm here and not typing this in from the studios in Wrexham.

Watch - and listen - to this space...

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Hello north Wales!

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 16:48 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

It is Thursday morning and aside from my toothbrush, which I will need shortly, and my travel tea mug, which I will fill just before I leave, I am packed and ready to go. Today the BBC National Orchestra of Wales rolls north for its Spring North Wales Tour 2012!

Andy and Mark, our stage and transport managers will already be on the road. Before the orchestra has left, they will have begun the drive to Aberystwth Arts Centre. By the time we arrive for rehearsal, they will have unloaded all the equipment from the Orchestra truck, including a good many instruments, set the stage up, negotiated the stage changes and be ready to ensure everything runs smoothly on stage. When the concert is finished, Andy and Mark will do everything in reverse, ready to drive to the next venue.

Under the baton of our Principal Guest Conductor, Jac van Steen, we are taking two programmes on tour this week.

Prokofiev's Classical Symphony is exactly what you would imagine it is - a tribute to the Classical era symphony by Prokofiev. We will perform it alongside Haydn's 'London' Symphony so you can hear for yourself what a remarkable job Prokofiev did!

Prokofiev's music is fresh, exuberant, elegant and sparkly, and typically contains enough tunes that stick in your head to keep you awake for several nights in a row. It is, however, one of those pieces you could wear your metronome out practicing - it is easy to play under tempo, but not so easy up to speed. You have to keep both the bow and the left hand very organised or the fast passage work becomes muddy, and the slow passages sound flabby. There is one particularly nasty section in the last movement that on occasion can creep up in viola auditions (if the panel is feeling particularly mean). I remember weeping over these four lines in college because I kept panicking and getting my fingers in a muddle!

We are also touring Dvořák 7 (I like the Scherzo), and overtures by Tchaikovsky (Hamlet - not very cheerful) and Schumann (Genoveva - quite perky).

For me one of the highlights of the week so far has been the return of violinist Vilde Frang to our studio. We first worked with Vilde when she performed the Sibelius Concerto with us and Principal Conductor Designate, Thømas Sondergård. Thømas and Vilde know each other well (he was the conductor for her award winning debut recording for EMI with the WDR Symphonieorchester Köln) and it was a highly memorable performance.

This week, Vilde will play the Tchaikovsky and Bruch concertos with us. She is such a beautifully natural musician and with a string of awards under her belt, including the prestigious Credit Suisse Young Artists' Award, this is a fabulous opportunity to see her perform these much loved concerti.

I shall report back during the tour and maybe even try to get a few photos of the lovely north Wales scenery. Fingers crossed for good weather!

Love letter to Cob Records, Bangor - part one

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 16:09 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

For the majority of folk, vinyl records are as outmoded as a ZX Spectrum or Penny Farthing. If records are in the house at all, they're in boxes in the attic, fossils of music waiting to be rediscovered when our alien overlords return and - having watched an episode of The Only Way Is Essex - decide to wipe us all out.

Hurry up alien overlords!

The digital revolution initially meant that the hundreds of millions of LPs and singles that had been sold prior to 1985 had suddenly become obsolete. CDs were a fraction of the size, and men in cardigans would stand in awe listening to the new CD format remarking: "I can hear Knopfler's fingers moving up and down the frets!" in awe.

A major step forwards, then, for all concerned.

The mp3 then did away with any need for the impracticality of a physical product. All of a sudden, you could store a record shop-ful of music in something the size of a fag packet. And, as we consumerists all know, more is always more. We've turned music into cornflakes. Yay, for us!

Alien overlords... come in alien overlords...

But records clung on - like men with beards and bottles of absinthe at dissolute house parties.

It was much easier for DJs and vinylologists standing atop a pile of records to look smug and superior than on a pile of mp3s. Gawky boys would argue about the merits of which format sounded best, as pointless a discussion as one pondering the best flavour of Monster Munch. It's always vinyl. It's always Pickled Onion. It just is.

And records clung on in other ways too. Real, music lovers (and not - definitely not - "real music" lovers) knew that the most interesting sounds weren't to be found piled high, five for £30 in HMV, or on the splash page of the iTunes (or equivalent) store. A tide of obsolete and unloved vinyl flooded out of homes conned into replacing them with CDs or an iPod.

That tide washed up in carboot sales across the land, charity shops, and - most pertinent for this love letter to a cultural institution facing a firing squad in the morning, secondhand record shops.

I had to begin my treatise on the demise of Cob records in Bangor with a convoluted soliloquy on the main reason I love the place: it's their vast racks of used vinyl.

Cob Records is one of north Wales' last collections of affordable secondhand records. Nothing is over-priced (a problem almost everywhere else - where Johnny Come Lately vinyl fashionistas like me are exploited with the ease of a card shark ripping off a toddler). It has been a reef of inspiration to generations of north Walean musicians and music-lovers, too skint or too savvy to fall for the music industry's endless slew of reissues and remasters.

This should not be underestimated. If music people can't get the music to inspire them, they shrivel up, can't bloom as fulsomely as they would if well-watered. In fact, by accident, I may - finally - have stumbled across the perfect metaphor for Cob: it is a well of music, and for those of us with an interest in these matters, the knowledge of a post Cob drought is a sobering one indeed.

Yes, you can buy records on Amazon, eBay or their digital equivalents, but it's impossible to replicate the browsability you get in a second hand record shop, where you finger stumble into something great - something you fall in love with - by absolute happenchance.

Cob has given me Emitt Rhodes, Steve Miller, Georgie Fame, Van Der Graaf Generator, Y Fflaps, 9Bach and Tystion - all records I adore. All for under £15.

iTunes recommendations pale sadly and stupidly in comparison.

Then add into the equation the brilliant and knowledgeable staff - especially Alan Holmes, acclaimed godfather of the Welsh underground - and you have a unique cultural service that we're about to lose forever.

"Well, if it was that valuable a service it'd be a viable business and wouldn't be closing down, Adam."

Good point. Well, it's a good point if you measure everything in life in terms of profit and loss. That's what bankers do, isn't it? And haven't they helped build a better and brighter world for us all?

Stuffy pen pushers decided a long time ago that galleries and theatres and operas were worthy of subsidy and funding, but rock 'n' roll - even now in its dotage - hardly qualifies for a similar amount of support. And record shops - as commercial enterprises - would find it triply hard to qualify for funding.

But that doesn't alter the fact that we're about to lose an incredibly valuable resource.

The alien overlords can have the last word. They're over here next to the rack marked 'Vinyl Just In':

"Hey, Xrtq, hold back that demolition order... I've just found a copy of Sixto Rodriguez's Cold Fact. Let me have a flick through the rest before we hit the red button..."

James Dean Bradfield takes the mic on Radio Wales

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James McLaren James McLaren | 08:13 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

James Dean Bradfield sits in for Bethan Elfyn tomorrow at 7pm, taking the mic on the first of two shows on Radio Wales.

James Dean Bradfield

James Dean Bradfield

The show's producer, Darren Broome, agreed to write a few paragraphs for us about getting the Manic Street Preachers frontman in:

My history with Manic Street Preachers goes back to very nearly the beginning. I started here as a reporter on Rave, along with Alan Thompson and Rob Brydon, back in 1990. Rave was a late night 'youth show' on then BBC Radio 5.

One of the very first interviews I did was with Richey Edwards in the Marina Nite-spot in Swansea - just about when the band were releasing their Motown Junk single in January 1992. I've been lucky and seemed to pop up and interview them as their profile increased and I've ended up sort of befriending them along the way.

Every couple of years on from that I'd end up interviewing the band - Nicky and his brother Patrick a couple of times in 1996 and 1999, then I made a Radio 2 doc - A Design For Life - about the band in 2002 which included long interviews with James, Nicky and Sean.

I've also worked on a couple of music related projects outside of work as a musician and got to know James quite well. We're pretty much the same age and both grew up in the Valleys - I'm from Aberdare, he's Blackwood of course, so we've got a lot of the same or indeed shared cultural and social reference points.

It was an absolute honour and joy to spend time with James in the studio listening to the music that we both grew up adoring and being influenced by. It was great fun to hear so many rock and roll stories!

James took the role of presenter with total dedication. His love of classic rock comes over so strongly in both programmes, as does the fact he's really knowledgeable with the state of the current music scene. He's a natural presenter, passionate and engaging, and a real treat for anyone who's a fan of music.

If you hear the shows you'll get a wonderful insight into the mind of a brilliant songwriter: listening to James' choices of tracks, you can just about start to imagine how he puts together a track, the sounds that trigger his thought processes.

It's a diverse, eclectic and really rocking playlist for both shows. James picked west Wales band Trwbador, playing a track in each of this two shows, and also chose a session from Abergavenny art punks Saturday's Kids. To have James stamp his approval on any new Welsh band is something that is bands can only dream of, but for quite a few new Welsh acts the dream has come true.

James said to me: "To be able to make a programme where you can play Rush and Orange Juice in the same show is such a privilege." Many of the tracks were chosen to pinpoint a particular time in James' early life in and around Blackwood, Newport and Cardiff.

Also keeping it very homegrown, James chose an album each week in the feature 'Albums to Hear before you pop your clogs'. In the first programme he picked Empires And Dance by Simple Minds which was recorded at Rockfield studios in Monmouth.

In the second programme (31 March) he chose The Velvet Underground's White Light/White Heat, a record that has a special memory for him as he remembers listing to the track, The Gift - and hearing a Welsh voice narrate the track, whom he later discovered was John Cale. James describes that as his 'Jim'll Fix It moment' - from that moment on he realised that anything was possible.

Penguin picks up Gruff Rhys-soundtracked Whale Trail app

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:28 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2012

The popular iOS and Android game Whale Trail, uniquely launched in conjunction with a song by Gruff Rhys, has made the jump from mobile app to publishing thanks to Penguin Books.

Penguin's Puffin imprint has secured the global rights to Whale Trail to publish as an e-book, digital picture book and in traditional format.

Launched last year and developed by ustwo, Whale Trail is a psychedelia-inflected game featuring Willow the Whale - and its music is a song by Rhys, who had previously worked with ustwo's Neil McFarland on Super Furry Animals' Rings Around The World and Phantom Power DVDs.

Penguin's Eric Huang said: "I discovered Whale Trail from Gruff Rhys' music video. When I downloaded the app, I was hooked. I wanted to know more about Willow and his world and thought, we should publish a book."

Whale Trail is soundtracked by an instrumental version of Rhys' song, while the full version was released as a bonus track on the reissue of his last album, the award-winning Hotel Shampoo.

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How many rugby fans does it take to get to Number One?

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:00 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

With Wales winning the Six Nations Grand Slam last weekend, musical ears and eyes are turning to Sunday's chart rundown, to see if Cwm Rhondda/Bread Of Heaven can break into the hit parade.

Paul Child recorded the Millennium Stadium crowd singing the 1907 John Hughes hymn at half-time. It was rush-released yesterday, credited to Wales.

Watch a video as Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau rang round the stadium:

With a capacity of 74,000, the stadium held enough people to take the song into the top five if everyone bought a copy.

Half the audience purchasing the charity single would bring it to the top 10. However, twice the capacity of the stadium would be needed to almost guarantee a chart-topper.

Lauren Kreisler of the Official Charts Company said: "We wouldn't speculate as to how the song will do, but it's an interesting story. You'll have to wait till 4pm on Wednesday when we publish our midweek charts to find out how it's doing."

Paul Child told the Western Mail: "It's an idea which came about because we wanted to get as many fans involved with the single as possible and Bread Of Heaven is famously sung on the terraces and throughout the stands so what better song to choose as the Grand Slam single.

"But ultimately it's a celebration of this year's tournament. It's a way for fans to thank the team, letting them know how grateful we all are and how proud we are to get behind them."

Cwm Rhondda/Bread Of Heaven is available in physical form at Tesco stores in Wales and on download sites. All proceeds from the single will be donated to the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust.

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Adam Walton playlist and show info: Saturday 17 March 2012

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 08:47 UK time, Monday, 19 March 2012

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 shan't blather on, really I shan't.

I have a cold that'd stun a Tyrannosaurus Rex. My nose is redder than a drunk strawberry's. My head is full of drunk, green sloths. I don't make the best of patients, in all honesty.

But - BUT - I have music. Music that'd clears passages better than owt derived from menthol remedies.

There are first-time plays for Lux Lisbon, Isaac Wadsworth, The Strangers, The Knocks and Paint Happy.

To join this illustrious band (of bands), throw new releases/demos and correspondence at themysterytour@gmail.com.

I like high quality mp3s and download links. And if you think that's me being choosy and pedantic, you just wait.

Elsewhere on the show, Huw Williams plays some Lo0p, who seem to be fuzzy about the difference between Os and 0s.

Lara Catrin translates something beautiful from Race Horses.

And Ben Hayes gets a bit haughty about the amount of dust on our stylus, while it skates woollily across something brilliant by Dave Mason.

I'm off now. I have to get Dyno-Rod out to clear my sinuses.

Have an excellent, music-filled week y'all, Adam Walton.

JOY FORMIDABLE, THE - 'Cradle'
Mold

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Sheena Is A T - Shirt Salesman [ Radio Edit ]'
Cardiff

CATE LE BON - 'Puts Me To Work'
Penboyr

RICO SUAVE - 'Nostalgia'
Newport

FALCON LAKE - 'All I Want'
Newport / Cardiff

COUSINS - 'Baby Baby Baby [ Give Me More ]'
Pembrokeshire / Aberystwyth

SUICIDE - 'Ghost Rider'
New York

SOUNDHOG - 'John Barleycorn Must Ramble On [ Traffic Vs. Led Zeppelin ]'
Ruthin

LITTLE ARROW - 'Our Taste Is Violence'
Cardiff

HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution'
Swansea

LO0P - 'Nerves Of Steel'
Swansea

TOY HORSES - 'Play What You Want'
Cardiff

HOUDINI DAX - 'O. L. L.'
Cardiff

CODEX LEICESTER - 'Strong Like Bull [ E P Version ]'
Mold / Leicester

UNDERSOUND - 'Meet Me In My Shadow'
Caerphilly

CRASH DISCO - 'Alice'
Bangor

SCRIBER - 'Holland House'
Cardiff

LUX LISBON - 'Bullingdon Club'
Unknown.

ISAAC WADSWORTH - 'Flowers And Chocolates'
Ffestiniog

O FEMI - 'Amazing Grace [ So Amazing ]'
Camarthen

ED!T - 'Come For You'
Tenby

BROKEN VINYL CLUB, THE - 'Diamonds In Her Eyes'
Cardiff

SWEET SPOTS, THE - 'Love So Bad'
Cardiff

SAM AIREY - 'The Unlocking'
Anglesey

BLACK EAGLE CHILD - 'Phrases Of The Moon'
Milwaukee/ Bridgend (label)

PLYCI - 'Nogg'
Rhyl

BRECCIA - 'Binocular'
?

DOC DANEEKA AND ABIGAIL WYLES - 'Toby Jug'
Cardiff

JULIE MURPHY - 'Essex Song'
Pembrokeshire

Y NIWL - 'Dauddegtri'
Gwynedd

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor / Cardiff

RACE HORSES - 'Glo Ac Oren'
Aberystwyth

STRANGERS, THE - 'Emilia Rose'
Bala

KNOCKS, THE - 'Road Run [ You Do You Do You Don't You Don't ]'
Cardiff

PAINT HAPPY - 'Not Saving A World That Ends'
Merthyr Tydfil

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Ruthin

DAVE MASON - 'Only You And I Know'
Worcester

HEHFU - 'Slow'
Caerphilly

TOYPOP! - 'Yellow Brick Road [album Version]'
Newport

Julie Murphy, Theatr Clwyd, Mold - Thursday 15 March 2012

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:23 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2012

I don't know anything about folk music, not really. I know I'm not much inspired by the folk stereotype: someone lost in the past with a finger in their ear. But using stereotypes to judge music is asinine: you could consign all country and western into a bin marked Billy Ray Cyrus, and all dubstep into a skip with Skrillex's name daubed on the side in a very stupid haircut.

Julie Murphy is a folk musician, but that four-letter word - dragging hundreds of years of culture and social history behind it - doesn't cover half of Julie's scope. Given four times the space I have here, I'd be hard pushed to scratch at the surface of the rest. Every one of the songs she sings has a story to it, with roots in her life, and a whole network of roots stretching back into pasts almost forgotten. Importantly, all of those roots link to the song flowering in that moment, on that stage, in front of we, the fortunate audience.

So we become part of that song's story, too.

It's quite a naturalistic feat. Organically inclusive - and all the more powerful for it.

I come to Theatr Clwyd with my own dragnet of memories. I kissed my first love in the corridor next to this room. I played my second ever gig on that stage. We hosted a brilliant Radio Wales Music Day concert here last March. This venue has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I'm on Proustian overload. If someone started baking a cake with a half-remembered scent, my long-term memory would explode in a cloud of luminous spores.

I'm here with my daughter Ava. She's nine. I'm not trying to impose music on her, but I do dearly want her to witness the magic of live, human performance, those distinct from dance routines, pyrotechnics and Auto Tune. I couldn't have brought her to see anyone better.

My mum and dad have come along, too. Ava and I got in on the guest list, I let my mum and dad pay; to assuage my freeloader guilt, probably.

My first experience of 'folk' music would have been my dad's early Bob Dylan albums. When I started listening to them in the late 70s/early 80s, they didn't sound like historical artefacts. They sounded scary, formidable, alive and prescient. Dylan's please-yourself voice had a mischievous truth to it. I pretended I didn't like it. I complained every time A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall or It's Alright Ma soundtracked Sunday tea (it was never ready in time for lunch). But I soaked it all up with silica gel ears.

This isn't much like my usual kind of gig. No one's outside smoking like their life depended on it. The bus passes in inside pockets aren't taking the audience to campuses. The moment Julie walks to the piano a pristine silence cloaks the room. There isn't a single jerk at the bar half spilling a pint of Guinness, while being boorish down a mobile phone. No one - not a single solitary person - watches the ensuing concert on an iPhone screen. Can you imagine that?

Julie begins by telling us about Essex Song. She's from Essex originally. Old maps showed her where the fields were, where the farriers and blacksmiths lived; the new maps are anonymous suburban sprawl. Things had been built on and forgotten. Folk music's philosophy is a lot about not forgetting stuff. Julie's art is in taking these things out from behind glass and breathing now and heart into them. The loss of geographical history in Essex Song is a metaphor for that ache of being that permeates every heart. It's sort of what makes us human.

Although I don't have proof, I don't think cows get maudlin looking at old maps.

It's a beautiful opening. Julie's much lauded voice is lauded for good reason. We hear so many people sing in accents and mannerisms like viruses, it's an awe-inspiring shock to hear someone sing so naturally, with so much truth. Julie Murphy could sing you the News Of The World and you'd believe every word. Murdoch missed a trick, there. Julie wouldn't have been for the buying, though. You could bet your firstborn on that.

My firstborn is faring well. She is entranced. Partly this is because Julie is accompanied by Ceri Jones. Ceri is a harpist and trombonist of Canadian and Ukrainian heritage. Ava has been learning the euphonium in school. Her best friend Mimi is learning the trombone.

"...But she doesn't sound like that."

I bet she doesn't.

Ceri's brass and harp are subtle and wonderful embellishments. They help alleviate some of the gravitas of the songs. An unaccompanied piano - regardless of who's playing it, Les Dawson excepted - playing minor chords can get lost in its own profundity. Not here, though.

Julie tells us how these songs grew out of a piano hitherto abandoned in a corner of her house. How the notes that became songs filled the gap left by her flown children. How hanging out in the kitchen with music making friends baked her a new album without her having to pay much attention to ingredients and instructions.

The next lyric repeats the line: "You are flown from me, but I'm always with you" - an unadorned, heartfelt and moving truth that exemplifies Julie's economic poetry. Quite what she'd make of my blather, I don't want to know...

We hear Two Sisters, a traditional song about one sister murdering another, but, Julie proclaims gleefully, "it has a happy ending..."

As far as I can tell, that happy ending involves the body of the dead sister being fashioned into a fiddle that then gets taken to the murderous sister's wedding, where it (the fiddle) tells the assembled guests what really happened, a plot that makes EastEnders look like In The Night Garden.

Julie finishes the first of her two sets with The Fountain (from her excellent new album A Quiet House). It's a wonderful song - a starkly beautiful Welsh cousin of Joni Mitchell's Carey, all rooted in fraying - but increasingly precious - memories of Padua. Imagine Laurel Canyon under occluded skies and you have it.

Better still, invest in a copy of the album. You'll be hard pressed to find anything more moving, plaintive or intuitive, from any era or genre.

Ava is way past her bedtime, so - with great reluctance - we drift home during the interval, our hearts filled with Julie's music and a hundred new stories.

Julie Murphy launches the new album with a webcast from www.juliemurphymusic.com on Monday 16 April at 8.30pm.

A harpist, a harpsichordist and a pianist walk into a bar...

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 13:22 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2012

There is always something a little bit quirky, a little bit left of centre in Frank Martin's music. It is seldom avant garde enough harmonically to offend the ear, but there will always be a little curiosity, whether it be in the technique used by the solo instrument, or, more commonly, the collection of instruments used.

I mean, seriously, who would consider having a harp, a piano and a harpsichord as their three solo instruments? Martin seemed to have a soft spot for the harpsichord as it features in quite a lot of his output. Not bad going for an instrument that is generally confined to period instrument ensembles and the sound of which the famously acid-tongued conductor Sir Thomas Beecham likened to two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunder storm.

The combination of the three solo instruments is certainly an original sound - I quite like it. The work itself is quite a fun play, but it is quite tricky for ensemble; the orchestra is split in two, meaning we are very spread out, exacerbated by the large physical size of the solo instruments and it is quite difficult to hear each other!

Sadly, the Martin is the only work I am needed for in this Friday's concert. I'm a bit gutted not to be in the Stravinsky Concerto in D as I haven't played it since the heady days of Irish Youth Orchestra. There is a brief, but brilliant, viola solo in the first movement that to me sounds like some sort of crazy jazz goblin. I think you can still hear echoes of his earlier string work, Apollon Musagète (1928), another true masterpiece of the string orchestra repertory, in this Concerto from the 1940s.

I'm actually quite looking forward to listening to the rest of the concert on Friday evening. I've always struggled a bit with Lutosławski's music. I think Gwen (1st Violin) put it well yesterday when she said that you get a sense of achievement from getting from the beginning to the end and knowing you're in the right place, but I've just never really 'clicked' with his music. Friday will be a good opportunity for me to sit down and listen to his Double Concerto for Harp and Oboe (with soloists Catrin Finch, harp, and Lucas Macias Navarro, oboe) - perhaps I will enjoy the music more as a listener than as a player.

Of course, the most important note from the studio this week is that I have found a bow! It's all very exciting, a bit like having a new toy, but better. I am now officially poor, but very pleased. It is a Dodd bow from the 1800s and is very elegant and classy. Next on my list of things to buy is a new viola case as my regular case is falling apart and my old-style case weighs a ton. My new bow deserves to travel in style you know!

The Orchestra performs music by Martin, Lutosławski, Stravinsky and Honegger tonight at 7pm, at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff Bay. Tickets are available by calling 0800 052 1812. The concert will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

'It should sound like a fire in an aviary'

Post categories:

Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 11:26 UK time, Wednesday, 14 March 2012

With a direction like this (for the flutes incidentally - violas aren't best known for their birdlike qualities), it could mean only one thing - the Doctor Who team were back in Hoddinott Hall!

On Monday evening, along with Doctor Who orchestrator, Ben Foster, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales performed two live shows of the 2011 Christmas Special for a studio audience.

This was a show unlike any I had been involved in before. For our Doctor Who Prom in 2010, the music was very closely linked with the visuals shown on the big screens dotted around the Royal Albert Hall, but this was our first complete episode live.

As I've mentioned before, the efficiency of the Doctor Who team is exceptional, meaning that every minute of a rehearsal is used well. Our pads (the big lump of music that appears on your stand every day) were annotated within an inch of their lives; every change of click was clearly noted, cues clearly marked - these things make the difference between work going smoothly or being the most boring affair with proceedings stopping continually for questions and corrections.

Our afternoon rehearsal mainly focused on running the episode with the click track. The close correlation between Murray Gold's score and the action you see on screen means everything has to be lined up to the very millisecond. It was important for the click to be loud enough for us to hear over onscreen action and audience noise without actually deafening us - a surprisingly delicate balance!

The studio looked rather atmospheric, lit only by the glow of the screens and stand lights, and it was a tribute to the place that Doctor Who holds in people's imaginations to see the broad demographic of people who attended the shows.

At 6pm we were off and running with the first showing. As a Doctor Who fan myself, it was probably good I couldn't see the screens very well, because much concentration was needed - any little slips in entries could have spelt utter disaster!

Disaster almost came in the break between shows when news reached us that the entire Welsh Rugby Team were eating dinner in Côte Brasserie just opposite the Wales Millennium Centre. Much persuasion was needed for some female members (and some male members) of the orchestra not to attempt to make it to the restaurant and back in time for the second show! Alas, another missed opportunity for me to tell Leigh Halfpenny how much I admire his kicking prowess...

A number of colleagues had friends attending the second show who had never really attended orchestral concerts before and they were blown away by the sound of the orchestra. The audience reaction was very gratifying; the orchestra has worked on Doctor Who for many years now and enjoys a very good relationship with its musical team. Long may it continue!

I hope we get to do another project like this, but next time I think there should be prizes for dressing up as your favourite Doctor Who character.

Wales rugby fans Heaven sent for charity single

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 11:23 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

This Saturday 75,000 Welsh rugby fans will be recorded for a charity single to be released the very next day.

During half time in the Wales v France Six Nations decider Welsh artist Paul Child will lead the crowd in a rendition of Cwm Rhondda (Bread Of Heaven), which will be recorded, mastered and manufactured overnight for distribution across Wales in Tesco stores on Sunday, and online for download.

Paul Child

The single, released by Music Wales Studios of Bridgend in conjunction with the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), will feature 'Wales' as the credited artist: the first time an entire country has been the performer of a work.

Child told The Western Mail: "The aim is to get Bread Of Heaven into the top 20 in charts and played on Radio One. Ultimately it's a celebration of this year's tournament. It's a way for fans to thank the team, letting them know how grateful we all are and how proud we are to get behind them."

Profits from the single will be donated by the WRU to the Welsh Rugby Charitable Trust.

Craig Maxwell of the WRU said: "To make Wales' 2012 Championship extra special, we're calling on the support of all our fans to get hold of their copy of the official WRU single and get the traditional sound of Welsh rugby at the Millennium Stadium into the music charts for the first time."

Grand Slam for The Blims?

Post categories:

James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

This weekend Wales will attempt to secure their third Six Nations Grand Slam in the past eight years. This year, though, they've got some musical support in the form of The Blims' Side Steps And Side Burns.

The song, currently in the top five of iTunes' rock chart, is a sunny, acoustic-tinged paean to the joys of supporting Wales and the team's rugby heritage. Watch the video here:

Martin of the band says: "Music to me should stir emotional reactions. Hearing crowds singing Bread Of Heaven has undoubtably been a subconcious influence. I love a song to tell a story, with early Sterophonics songs making me reach for the guitar.

"I loved Catatonia and I'm a huge Manics fan but i find it hard to write songs about subjects. We just got lucky with Side Steps And Side Burns. We feel the best songs come easily and flow well. I'm just happy our song has struck a chord. I think it's because it's what everyone truly feels... and if you mean what you sing it always shines through."

The Blims appear on Roy Noble's show on Radio Wales this Friday (16 March) from 2om.

It got us thinking about sport-related singles that have blessed or cursed our lives in the past. For me, it was football which blighted my teenage years with such tracks as Pass And Move (It's The Liverpool Groove) and Glory Glory Man United.

The tradition originated in the 1970s, when each year teams contesting the later stages of the (then important) FA Cup would release tuneless songs featuring team singalongs involving pronouncing Wembley as Wem-ber-ley.

I suppose when the best football-related commercial single was New Order's World In Motion from the 1990 World Cup the bar's not set very high.

For Wales the likelihood of achieving great football success is lower than the big English teams, so Welsh footy singles are few and far between. In 2008 Cardiff City FC's FA Cup run gave them the excuse to release Bluebirds Flying High by James Fox with an appearance from the team (of course):

Swansea City, although Wales' foremost football team at the moment according to the league structure, has never been successful enough to warrant an official single, but please correct us if we're wrong.

Instead, there was a Swansea-related 1998 Christmas single called Nice Swan Cyril, with the titular Cyril being the club's mascot. A swan. Called Cyril.

Rugby lends itself less well to singles destined for the bargain bin three months later, but its canon of classic songs more than makes up for it.

It would be remiss not to mention Max Boyce at this point:

Of course, there's nothing like a song about a murder to get into the mood for a sporting fixture.

Here's Wales' official 2009 Six Nations song, Let The Dragon Roar, by Paul Child:

Then there's Stereophonics' As Long As We Beat The English.

But Wales has a trump card. If a 75,000-strong rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau doesn't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, there's something wrong:

What are your best and worst Welsh sporting songs? 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 great new find

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 15:38 UK time, Monday, 12 March 2012

Saturday evening's concert in Swansea held a great new find for me. I like it when that happens, when a piece of music you've never heard before, by a composer whose name rings only the faintest of bells, really grabs your imagination.

Miklós Rósza's Three Hungarian Sketches was the first work on our programme (under the baton of conductor Roberto Minczuk). I don't know what it was, but it made me want to smile, to tap my feet, to really get carried away with it. It wasn't a work of great symbolic meaning, or a work that attempted to plumb the depths of the human experience, or anything like that. It was simply, in my opinion, a good piece of music.

The work begins with a brisk capriccio movement, followed by a pastorale and a final frenzy of a danza. If Hungarian music were to be scored for the big screen, this is how it would sound. The viola section features quite prominently throughout; every good work should have at least one big viola moment and this had several.

I don't think you need to be able to give an exact analytical answer as to why a work impresses itself upon you. It doesn't have to be some academically sophisticated work; I find myself every bit as engaged by beautiful folk music as I do by something like Berg's Violin Concerto (incidentally, one of my favourites, just in case you wanted to know). Perhaps that is the great power of music - the power to without reason be able to create a connection on some wordless level with the listener/performer. I think that is the difference between music that will stand the test of time and that which falls by the wayside.

My father loves old films. The big biblical epics of the 1950s and 1960s like King Of Kings and Ben-Hur are right up his street. He can't read music, but loves it and has always commented on how great the scores in these old epics are. It turns out that Miklós Rósza was the composer of these scores, among many, many others.

Rósza's music seems to be having a bit of a renaissance at the moment, with a new generation rediscovering not just his film scores, but also his other works. British violist Lawrence Power recorded Rósza's Viola Concerto in 2010 for the Hyperion label and his string quartets and trio have been creeping up on recital programmes with growing frequency over the last few years too. I for one will definitely be investigating further.

This week the BBC National Orchestra of Wales will perform music from Doctor Who in two very special concerts. On Friday, our Sacher Series collaboration with Cardiff University continues. The programme for Friday's concert is really exciting. Music by Martin, Lutosławski, Stravinsky and Honegger may be a little outside of your comfort zones, but come along - you never know which work could surprise you.

For tickets to Friday's Sacher Perspectives concert, at BBC Hoddinott Hall, Cardiff, call the orchestra's Audience Line on 0800 052 1812.

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Saturday 10 March 2012

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 12:48 UK time, Monday, 12 March 2012

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.

This show - a no-holds-barred celebration of Welsh music in all its multifold shapes and forms - is a democratic affair. Maybe 'benevolent dictatorship' would be more accurate. What I'm trying to say is this: there are no headliners or scene stealers, each and every one of the 40-ish pieces of music exists in its own temporal zone of wonder. Man.

In other words, we don't necessarily have an exclusive session or probing in depth interview with a 'star' to trumpet here, so I'll pretend that that is down to a philosophical stance rather than a lack of pull or forward planning.

What you'll hear - should you click that iPlayer link - is three hours of ace, mostly Welsh music. There are wonderful new tracks from Future Of The Left, Doc Daneeka & Abigail Wyles and The School (I'm throwing a street party to celebrate their return later this afternoon, should you wish to come over... bring pop - obviously - and cupcakes) - and we have debut plays for Cousins, Magpie Instinct, Tender Prey, Televisor, Shrunken Heads, Dementio 13, Seconds From Ruin, Simon Love's Cock & Balls, Brother Cubs and Rachel Rimmer.

And that's what fires me, the search for fascinating new Welsh artists, people whose creative visions I have never encountered hitherto. Man. It's the credo of the show for 2012: to not rest on its substantial laurels, relying on the ace that we already know about, but to seek new ace to interweave amongst the old ace.

To that end, if you have any ace/new releases/demos/recommendations/observations/new similes, please address them to themysterytour@gmail.com.

I prefer to receive demo submissions directly, as a high quality mp3 or download link, please.

Elsewhere in this week's show, Alan Holmes reminds us of the gnarly smarts of APV, and Ben Hayes shares a track off a Patto album that'd cost you £200 in't' shops.

TWO HUNDRED POUNDS! (no pence).

Have an excellent, groove-filled, good vibe attuned week.

Man.

JULIE MURPHY - 'Piano Abstract'
Pembrokeshire

JULIE MURPHY - 'The Fountain'
Pembrokeshire

METHOD, THE - 'Art Gallery'
Cardiff

60FT DOLLS - 'Yellow Candles'
Newport

SKINDRED - 'Cut Dem'
Newport

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Camp Cappuccino ( Radio Edit )'
Cardiff

GOLDEN FABLE - 'Motorcycle Emptiness'
Ewloe

CUT RIBBONS - 'Walking On Wires'
Llanelli

GEORGIA RUTH - 'Bones ( Mastered Ep Version )'
Aberystwyth / Cardiff

SHY AND THE FIGHT - 'Breaks'
Chester / Llangollen

SCHOOL, THE - 'Never Thought I'd See The Day'
Cardiff

ALAN HOLMES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor

A. P. V. - 'Could You Care'
Anglesey

COUSINS - 'Walk With The Dark'
Pembrokeshire / Aberystwyth

SAM AIREY - 'To All The Pieces Of The Puzzle'
Anglesey

QUICKSAILS - 'Empty And Full'
Chicago, Welsh Label

FALCON LAKE - 'Shores'
Newport / Cardiff

REVOLUTIONARY SPIRIT, THE - 'Last Memories'
Wrexham

MAGPIE INSTINCT - 'Goalposts'
Cardiff

MR HUW - 'Y Ferch Dryloyw'
Caernarfon

FALLS - 'Naughty Strawberry'
Deeside

TENDER PREY - 'Bug Blood'
Cardiff

SUE DENIM - 'Brewster Mccloud'
Bangor

METABEATS - 'Eyeseeyou ( Featuring Dubbledge )'
Cardiff

DOC DANEEKA AND ABIGAIL WYLES - 'Toby Jug'
Cardiff

CASTOR - 'Through Light'
Prestatyn

TELEVISOR - 'Stand Up'
Holyhead

SHRUNKEN HEADS - 'Through The Roof'
Chepstow

DEMENTIO 13 - 'Crash Street'
Cardiff

KNICKERS - 'Darling'
London / Cardiff Distribution

LITTLE ARROW - 'Our Taste Is Violence'
Cardiff

SECONDS FROM RUIN - 'Distant Light'
Valleys

SIMON LOVE'S COCK & BALLS - 'It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time'
Cardiff / London

BROTHER CUBS - 'Best Times'
Llantwit Major

BEAR BEATS BAND, THE - 'Sunrise'
Ruthin

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Ruthin

PATTO - 'The Man'
London

RACHEL RIMMER - 'The Waves'
Swansea

COUSINS - 'Look Good For The City'
Pembrokeshire / Aberystwyth

Adam Walton playlist and show info: Saturday 3 March 2012

Post categories:

Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:45 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

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.

This week's show is veritably busting at the seams with fascinating new (mostly) Welsh sounds.

For example, there is new Future Of The Left! A track from their forthcoming third album The Plot Against Common Sense, due in all good record shops on 28 May.

There is new The School! A freely downloadable track (hear the show for full details - I'm not going to give *everything* away, here) that will appear as the B-Side on their upcoming, new single for Elefant Records (which we'll play this coming Saturday night).

There are first time plays for The Dirty Dishes, That Kid Bishop, Naomi Shalom, the Wobbly Hearts, Out of the Woods and Benfro.

Please send new releases/demos/gig info and any other correspondence to themysterytour@gmail.com. High quality mp3s/download links much preferred, thank you.

Elsewhere, Huw Pooh plays us something Sabbath-esque from 1972. The band are Eugene Carman, and we know nothing whatsoever about them. If you can fill in the gaps, please mail me at the address above.

Lara Catrin translates something proper pop and ace from Mold's Diffiniad.

Ben Hayes gets all analogue-y eared over the Human League's debut release.

If you also suffer from occasional Dewy Ear, this programme offers a full support programme every Saturday night from 10pm. See you next week. Try not to ooze on the carpet. It's new.

MAN WITHOUT COUNTRY - 'Puppets'
Cardiff

CRASH DISCO - 'Alice'
Bangor

CUT RIBBONS - 'Paper Shields'
Llanelli

SOLUTIONS - 'Whatever Keeps You Alive'
Cardiff

FUTURE OF THE LEFT - 'Cosmo's Ladder'
Cardiff

MOWBIRD - 'Aufladen! Aufladen!'
Wrexham

HUW WILLIAMS - 'Spoken Contribution'
Swansea

EUGENE CARMAN - 'Mountain Rock'
?

DIRTY DISHES, THE - 'Deer In Headlights'
Boston, U. S.

UNDERSOUND - 'Meet Me In My Shadow'
Caerphilly

THAT KID BISHOP - 'Smiles And Crys'
Cardiff

NAOMI SHALOM - 'Incidentally Thinking Of You'
Flint

WOBBLY HEARTS, THE - 'Anityme'
Rhyl/Abergele/Liverpool

OUT OF THE WOODS - 'Calling Out Your Name'
Swansea

TOY HORSES - 'Play What You Want'
Cardiff

FORREST - 'Five To Nine'
Neath

ED!T - 'Front Line's Watching'
Tenby

DARKHOUSE FAMILY, THE - 'Take On The World Feat. Om'mas Keith'
Cardiff/Barry

HAIL THE PLANES - 'Brother [ Zwolf's Waveform Never Lies Mix ]'
Unknown.

SAM AIREY - 'The Unlocking'
Anglesey

BROKEN VINYL CLUB, THE - 'Diamonds In Her Eyes'
Cardiff

REVOKER - 'Psychoville'
Rhymney Valley

JONATHAN RICHMAN - 'I Was Dancing In The Lesbian Bar'
Natick, U. S.

SCHOOL, THE - 'When He Kisses Me'
Cardiff

KNICKERS - 'My Baby's Just A Baby ( E. P. Version )'
London/Cardiff Distribution

FILTHY SIX, THE - 'Knockout'
Pentrych/London

METABEATS - 'Eyeseeyou ( Featuring Dubbledge )'
Cardiff

SUE DENIM - 'I'm Not An Island'
Bangor

LIZ WRECK - 'Affe'
Cardiff/Perth ( Australia )

BENFRO - 'Fruits'
Pembrokeshire

BIGSTICK - 'Data'
Cardiff

PEN PASTWN - 'Never Say Goodbye'
Cardiff

LITTLE ARROW - 'Our Taste Is Violence'
Cardiff

TOTEM TERRORS - 'Beaux Esprits'
Cardiff

LARA CATRIN - 'Spoken Contribution'
Bangor/Cardiff

DIFFINIAD - 'Sharon A Fi'
Mold

BLATNOVA - 'Big Bad Poem'
Pembrokeshire

CONCRETEDOG - 'Interviewing The Acid Typewriter'
Bethesda

SAM AIREY - 'To All The Pieces Of The Puzzle'
Anglesey

GOLDEN FABLE - 'Motorcycle Emptiness'
Ewloe

BEN HAYES - 'Spoken Contribution'
Ruthin

HUMAN LEAGUE - 'Being Boiled'
Sheffield

GEORGIA RUTH - 'Anna'
Aberystwyth/Cardiff

John Cale at 70

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:10 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Core member of The Velvet Underground; producer of dozens of other artists; Welsh music legend. John Cale is 70 this Friday (9 March) and we're celebrating with interviews and clips from the BBC archive.

John Cale

Interview (2005)

John Cale

Interview (2010)

John Cale

Desert Island Discs

John Cale

Cale on songwriting

John Cale

Cale and Catatonia

John Cale and Squeeze

Cale and Squeeze

John Cale

Heroin, Wales And Me

The Culture Show

Born on 9 March 1942 in Garnant, Carmarthenshire, John Cale was the son of a miner. His talent with the viola saw him achieve in conventional musical academia before travelling to New York in the early 1960s.

He thrived in the verdant arts scene in New York, and caught the experimental wave of both music and performing arts. It was his partnership with Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison in The Velvet Underground that saw his greatest early recognition.

Following the break-up of the Velvets, Cale wrestled with drink and drugs for many years, but he was able to produce some classic albums for the likes of Patti Smith, The Stooges and Squeeze.

He has also released classic solo albums including Paris 1919, Helen Of Troy and Fear. In 2000 he worked with the cream of Welsh talent for Marc Evans' film Beautiful Mistake. Among his collaborators on the project were Catatonia.

Cale shows no sign of easing up in the 21st century; he maintains he's not yet achieved his ambitions. The world's coolest septuagenarian? It's an easy case to make.

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.

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John Cale at 70: The Culture Show

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

As we celebrate the 70th birthday of John Cale, here's a piece of video from the BBC archive.

Miranda Sawyer interviewed Cale for The Culture Show in 2009. The in-depth discussion took in his life in America, his relationship with his Velvet Underground bandmates and his ambitions.

Watch the clip here:

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John Cale at 70: Heroin, Wales and Me

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

There's always been a dark side to the career of John Cale, whose 70th birthday we celebrate this Friday (9 March).

Going to America, founding The Velvet Underground and being part of the Factory, Cale and his bandmates were around drugs all the time. He indulged, as he freely admits.

In this video from the BBC archive, Cale talks about his own life and drugs, and about the situation his home country finds itself in:

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John Cale at 70: interview (2010)

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

In February 2010 BBC 6 Music talked to John Cale about performing his classic 1972 album Paris 1919. Here are excerpts from that interview, in which he discusses both the record, his former bandmates and the notion of the 'album'.

This was the last record you wrote before you left LA to return to the UK.

Yes, it was in 1972, the height of the Cold War, and that's where the title came from. But it really is an album of nostalgia about everything I liked about Europe.

So when you came back to the UK after that, is it true the only music you brought back with you was a box of Beach Boys records?

Yes, actually. I had a basement flat for a while in Earls Court and I just put the Beach Boys on. From being in LA and having access to the Beach Boys all the time, I came back here and I'd just zone out in my dim little flat.

Some of your older work, such as with The Velvet Underground, has been revisited a lot. Do you pay attention to those reissues and books?

I don't. Whatever The Velvet Underground did they've done, and it's in the past. I respect that people admire what we did, that's gratifying, but I'm in such a different place with what I think songwriting is these days.

There have been numerous high profile reunions of popular bands recently. Have you been asked to do that with the Velvet Underground?

Yes. It's not something that I can see happening on the basis of the past. Anyone who wants to reform the Velvet Underground for a series of concerts, to make some money, I understand that, but you can't do that. We don't have Sterling [Morrison] any more. If I said that was something I was intrigued by, people would think I was cynical.

Are you in touch with your former bandmates?

Yes. We do business. I haven't spoken to Lou in a long time, but we're in touch because of business. There's no communal effort to enjoy each other's company any more.

What's next for you?

When I'm finished with this series of concerts in July I'll go back into the studio and finish these songs. I have 28 songs at the moment, but I've got to finish them. I haven't figured out how to release them, that's a bit of a conundrum.

Do you still believe in the album as a concept?

I'm not sure that I do. Todd Rundgren gave a concert in New York the other day and immediately after you could get a memory stick of what you'd just experienced. I thought that was a very shrewd idea and wondered if there are any variations of that I could do.

Read the full version of this interview on BBC News.

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John Cale at 70: Cale and Squeeze

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

In 1977 John Cale, who celebrates his 70th birthday on Friday 9 March, produced the first EP by a London new wave/pop group called Squeeze. Packet Of Three was well received and they went on to record their first album the next year with Cale.

John Cale with Squeeze

John Cale with Squeeze. Photo: Jill Furmanovsky/Rockarchive.com

I talked to the band's main songwriting duo, Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, about their time with the Welsh maestro.

What were the circumstances of bringing John on board to produce Packet Of Three?

Chris Difford: "Our manager Miles Copeland represented John in the UK together with his brother Ian, his live agent. Miles came up with the idea... I was scared!"

Glenn Tilbrook: "Miles had got John to do a job lot of production for him, including The Police [featuring Miles Copeland's brother Stewart on drums], Squeeze and The Cortinas. When we went in to do Packet Of Three John was fantastic to work with. Truly, to an 18-year-old he was a bizarre, imposing but humorous figure."

What did John bring to the recording?

GT: "He made the band tougher than we were and we liked that. When it came to doing the LP he was the natural choice."

CD: John was dangerous! He took us from being young boys nervous about recording to young lads even more nervous about recording. His ability to try things was just what we needed and often we found ourselves experimenting with arrangements, like kids in a science class. At the time I scratched my head in fear, but looking back I'm so pleased he made us do things that were way out of our depth."

GT: "I remember he threw out all the songs we had and insisted we wrote new ones! He gave us titles and things to write about. He suggested that the LP title be Gay Guys and told Chris to write a song about a muscle man. The album we made was more a reflection of John than us to be fair.

"But the memory I have from that time was that John was an absolute genius when he got his teeth into something. He would come up with ideas and be very inspired and inspiring.

"He did have us, one day, all day, playing Amazing Grace over and over again. Why? He very rarely gave reasons for anything. I think he saw what Squeeze were - a musicianly pop band - and thought we were capable of something different."

How did you find him personally?

CD: "John was warm and funny, often dry-wited and distant. Inspiring and totally engaging. Fear is a man's best friend, it seems."

GT: "I remember he was obsessed with the news. He'd always read the newspaper, front to back. every day. And he struck me as being slightly paranoid; a conspiracy theorist. Subsequently he was proved right!

"He certainly had a great, but very dry, sense of humour."

Listening back the first album, what can you pick out that is discernably 'John'?

CD: "Most of the album reminds me of John. It was a wonderful time; I just wish I could remember more. I'm sure he would say the same thing. He is the dark horse I learned later to become myself."

GT: "For me, at the beginning of the song The Call, there's a bell ringing. The engineer John Wood, who'd worked with John for years, was shouting out 'Bring out yer dead!' at John's request. That's John Cale in a nutshell."

Were there any funny or unusual things which happened during the recording? GT: "There's only one story that really sticks out. One of the times he first saw us, he came to a rehearsal. He fell asleep when we were playing; he may have had a bit to drink. We drew on his face while he was a asleep. We drew an, erm, 'lady place'. We were young!

"Anyway, we woke him up and actually arranged to travel in a cab with him to his hotel. We watched while he went to the hotel reception, still with drawing on his face."

CD: "There were many things that made me laugh, and unusual things were everyday events. I'm afraid I can't reveal any of it as it would infringe on the memory and the possible friendship we might have in the future. I love his music and have all of the solo work. I think I knew his humour before I met him, before I left school; it was terrifying."

John Cale at 70: Cale and Catatonia

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

In 1999 the cream of Welsh musical talent gathered in Cardiff to work with John Cale on a performance film called Beautiful Mistake, directed by Marc Evans.

One of the acts working with Cale was Catatonia. We caught up with Catatonia guitarist Owen Powell to talk about his experiences of working with Cale, who celebrates his 70th birthday on 9 March.

"We were asked by film director Marc Evans to work with John Cale on two songs for the film Beautiful Mistake in 1999. We recorded Whispering Room, one of our songs written specifically for the project, and his song Close Watch from his album Helen Of Troy. We rehearsed in The Point, formerly known as St Stephens Church, and then moved down the road to record on set at The Coal Exchange.

"From the very start John was very polite and friendly. He doesn't say a great deal but he seemed to like our song and the version of Close Watch that we had routined before meeting him. He was very easy going and seemed to enjoy watching us laugh, swear and argue our way through the process. It struck me that he doesn't like to mess with people's method of working. That's their business. When the red light goes on to record, everybody does their bit.

"We recorded Whispering Room live and at the end of the first take we went to the mobile truck to listen to the playback. As I put my guitar down he turned to me and said quietly, 'It fell asleep a bit in the middle'. He didn't come to listen to the track, preferring to read his book on set. Sure enough as we listened to the track it did indeed 'fall asleep a bit in the middle'. Take two was the one. I knew it was the one because he said 'That's the one'.

"'You coming to have a listen John?'

"'Don't need to, that's the one'. I suspect that his wonderful instinct comes from years of experience.

"We recorded Close Watch in one take. Cerys sang the verses and he joined in for the choruses. He smiled. We were happy with it. It's very easy to make a great song sound great.

"He was a real gent. When I ran through the chords to Whispering Room with him, there was one chord that I didn't know the name of. He seemed baffled that I'd written a song and didn't know what one of the chords was. I held up my guitar while playing the chord to show him. He just gave me a curious look and we carried on."

John Cale at 70: interview (2005)

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

In 2005 BBC Wales Music contributor Louis Pattison talked to John Cale about Iggy Pop, tonality and that chicken. Here we republish that in-depth interview.

John Cale playing at Glastonbury

John Cale playing at Glastonbury

You've been touring the new album, BlackAcetate. How's it been?

We didn't get further than Berlin this time, but in January, February, we'll get down to Spain and Greece. The audiences there are very close to being where they understand what to expect. That it's a rock 'n' roll band, and we're playing rock 'n' roll.

Herb Graham Jr was your main collaborator on the album - is he out with you?

No. He was the main engineer, and helped me with the grooves. He helped me really focus on getting myself in a different place to HoboSapiens. Hobo has grooves that were pretty rigid; I played all the grooves on this one, but we didn't go that one step further and quantise it. It's loose, it's kind of warmer.

Herb has worked with R&B artists like Macy Gray. Did you have that in mind when you hired him?

That's one reason. He's a really big fusion jazz drummer, he does George Benson tours, so he's very sharp. He really turned out to be valuable when I started making my own grooves up, because he kept me away from doing stuff that had already been done.

A song like Brotherman is funky in a way you've not been known for.

I made that track and I had no idea what to do with it. I was rapping in the studio - well, not rapping, just making up jokes. And everyone started laughing so I kept going. There were other tracks that were much more hardcore funk than that, but I've still got to go back and finish them.

We worked September through to November, and then came back in January. We were knocking out three tracks a day, and getting closer to where I wanted to be, which turned out to be Hush. I think I deliberately just dropped the bass - in general I focused on using the drums more as a driving point behind writing the songs.

Do you identify with the phrase 'it's not where you're from but where you're at'?

Yeah. Yeah! (Laughs). I've not heard that before, but it's great. I like what the future holds. I don't like thinking about the past.

One song that stood out was Perfect. On the surface, it's quite sweet, but the line "You're perfect for me, right now", lends it a slightly different edge - that all love is fleeting.

Yes. You'd better take it while you get it. I wouldn't even use the word love. Maybe 'Get along with'? It's not necessarily a love song. I never use the word, it's loaded. What love means to me is need. I think everybody has that need.

That's a very anti-romantic way of looking at things.

Do you return to Wales often?

I played in Cardiff on this tour, and it was really kind of wonderful. I had 16 members of my extended family there, I kind of wangled a reunion. I hadn't seen them in a long time, and to be honest I don't feel very comfortable in Wales - I feel kind of an oddity. But they were so busy networking with each other I didn't have to do the MC bit at all. It was like a playground!

You once recorded a live album at New York punk venue CBGBs, which is teetering on the edge of closure. Do you have good memories of the place?

I don't know what the story is lately. It seems to be that NYU owns most of the property down there. So between NYU and the mayor's office, maybe they think it's a landmark worth saving. It's probably going to end up a Gap store at any minute. But I do really think that CBGBs has a place in the city's history. I have warm, sweaty memories of the place. Really greasy, beer-sodden nights.

Your 1999 biography What's Welsh For Zen? was a critical and commercial success. Do you have any plans for a follow-up?

No, I'm writing a movie, about Mozart going to New York in the 60s. I've been reading so many novels, when I read some of Rushdie's stuff, it's just so daunting - there's all this energy and crackle. I don't want it to come out half-baked, I want a tempo and a pace for it. The movie is starting to shoot next summer - I've got all the dialogue mapped out, I've just got to sit down and do it.

Are you still learning music, in a classically-trained sense?

Not so much new instruments as new sensibilities. When you're working with an MPC sampler and you have to listen to Dr Dre and Pharrell Williams - Pharrell can turn around and make a beautiful R&B song - they're so expert at all these different styles. I want to get lean and mean, keep it minimalist. I want to get to Drop It Like It's Hot. Did you hear EMI just bought the next 10 records by Pharrell? At $300,000 dollars per record.

The Neptunes have a very minimalist style - it's as much about what isn't there, as what is.

But it's more than that. People are sitting around in A&R meeting going 'Is that a spraycan?', and Pharrell's using it as a rhythm device! I really love his ideas. I've been waiting for things like that to crawl across to the mainstream, but it's not there.

I must admit, The first time I heard Can I Have It Like That, the break in it bothered me. But what I did love was the noise in the verse. There's this solid whining going on - like an engine noise. I used that on Hush on the new album - this buzz going on, this generator noise. But I took it off for the mix, because in the end it was buggering up the placement of the vocal.

You could almost draw this use of sound back to the tonal experiments you investigated with the Velvet Underground.

Absolutely. Tonality is the name of the game with those drones that Pharrell uses, because it's out of tune. The noise that's in the background, it's not in any key - it's that weird frequency that you get from engines. There's something thrilling about it.

Are you a nostalgic person? You seem willing to talk about the Velvets, if not enthused.

No, I don't care about it anymore. It's passé. That was a long time ago, and there's so many exciting things going on now that sound so much better.

Can you hear the influence of the Velvets in modern music?

Not at all, any more. In some of The Strokes I can hear it, but really that's more of the mental attitude of the musicians. I don't feel a lot of that rabid mentality any more. Repetition is generally what people are talking about.

You produced the début album by The Stooges, which has recently been remastered. Did you hear it?

Oh God, I have no idea why they bothered. There's really nothing distinguishing there that makes it worth a reissue. It's scraping the bottom of the barrel. I don't get it. But they have their reasons... they probably show me a bunch of figures and it makes sense. But as a musician, it means nothing to me.

Have you seen The Stooges live recently?

No, not for a long time. I saw Iggy at the Elvis Presley anniversary they had in Memphis. He hasn't changed a bit. It's nice to see a guy who just gets on with the music. And he's as leathery as ever.

Even in your 60s, you're showing no sign of slowing down.

I'm still looking for something. I'm getting closer, I think, but if someone moves the goalposts before the next album, I may have to follow them! I'm content with making records, but I don't want to be doing the same thing all the time.

Finally, there's a popular story about you cutting the head off a chicken onstage with a meat cleaver...

It was a really nice meat cleaver. I bought it in Berlin. So beautifully balanced. It didn't take very much. There was no sawing, you just lowered your arm and the weight of the cleaver carried it.

There's been no explanation why you had a chicken and a meat cleaver onstage together in the first place. Presumably it was premeditated?

Yeah. My band left over it. It turned out they were vegetarians. We got the chicken from a farm outside of Oxford. I told my tour manager to put it in a box and just come out with it. Of course, he had to grandstand it. He came out holding the bird, right up high, and that was it. We were screwed.

The bird was on the floor of the van all the way to London. The band had all this time to ruminate over what was going to happen. They were like 'What are you going to do with the bird?' Nothing. 'Are you going to hurt it?' Of course not.

Around that time everyone was gobbing on musicians. Tom Verlaine came over to play the Marquee, and he couldn't believe that people would drink beer and spit it at you as a form of adulation. So I took it a step further.

I threw both the head and body out into the crowd. Everyone was kicking it away from them like it was contaminated. After the show, the band came up to me and said, You lied to us. You said you weren't going to hurt it. I said I didn't hurt it. It didn't feel a thing.

John Cale at 70: songwriting

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

John Cale turns 70 on Friday 9 March. As part of our celebrations we're raiding the BBC archives for some great material from his career.

Here's clip of Cale talking in 2003 about songwriting for BBC Four Sessions

.

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John Cale at 70: Desert Island Discs

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James McLaren James McLaren | 09:00 UK time, Wednesday, 7 March 2012

As we celebrate the 70th birthday of John Cale, here's a piece of superb radio from the BBC archive.

Listen here to Cale's appearance on Desert Island Discs from 22 February 2004.

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His choices included songs from Bob Dylan, his former band The Velvet Underground, Brian Wilson, The Beatles, Elbow, Leonard Cohen, John Tavener and Peter Gabriel.

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Music Nation

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 13:12 UK time, Friday, 2 March 2012

If you have listened to Radio 3 at any point over the last week, you will undoubtedly have heard many of the presenters mention Music Nation. Indeed, Twitter has this week seen the hashtag #musicnation grow steadily as a trending topic. But, what is this enigmatic Music Nation? Is it a revolution in the offing? Is it some arty-farty nonsense by a group of hipsters?

Music Nation, and most relevantly for us, Music Nation Cymru, is a celebration of the nation's musical life and part of the London 2012 Festival. In Wales, more than 1,000 performers will be involved, professional and amateur alike, and not just in Cardiff.

The BBC National Orchestra of Wales' contribution to the event will culminate in a Sunday afternoon performance at St David's Hall at 3pm (be there or be square, as it were).

There are a number of exciting aspects to the concert. Firstly, we will be showcasing the amazing work of Andy Pidcock. Some of your children may have already been at one of our roadshows with Andy. As part of our education programme, we have over the last year and a half played to thousands of primary school children right across Wales, from both mainstream education and special schools. It has been an honour for the Orchestra and a humbling experience, and it is fitting that Andy's music should feature in our Music Nation celebration.

In addition to this, we will be performing extracts from a work by a young Welshman, Lloyd Coleman, entitled Breaking The Wall. Lloyd has been making quite a splash in the compositional world winning awards for three consecutive years in the BBC Proms Young Composers' Competition amongst others. And he's still a student.

Commissioned by the BBC as part of Music Nation, we will also be premiering Songs Of The Earth by Karl Jenkins.

The most exciting, and to me, the most gratifying element of the concert however, is the sheer breadth of young people involved. The orchestra already has extensive links with the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and will build upon those links on Sunday as students from the College perform alongside our own musicians. In addition to this, we will be joined by students from Tŷ Gwyn Special School and also over 250 young singers from Welsh county choirs.

Twitter enthusiasts: search for #musicnation and be excited by the huge breadth and variety of events celebrating the musical culture that we all fight so hard to protect and nurture.

Music is, or should be, inclusive. You don't need a degree in music, drama, literature or fine arts to get something out of the myriad performances that happen every week in the UK. Music Nation is a celebration of that fact. Find an event near you, get involved, be entertained and be inspired. The United Kingdom has a fabulous tradition of the arts and Wales in particular plays a very strong role in that. We should be proud of it, and I believe it is something worth celebrating.

To find out what Music Nation events are happening in your area, visit www.bbc.co.uk/musicnation. To book tickets for the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales concert on Sunday 4 March at 3pm, call 02920 878444.

Golden Fable, Pulco, Harry Keyworth - Telfords, Chester

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Adam Walton Adam Walton | 14:02 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2012

Harry Keyworth has got hands like slabs of stone. By day he's a builder in West Wales; by night he's a gobsmackingly dextrous acoustic guitarist and singer songwriter.

This, he tells us from the stage, is only his fourth gig.

Harry Keyworth

Harry Keyworth

Witnessing his assurance and between song banter, you'd easily believe it was his 400th. He uses a loop station to broaden the traditional sole performer's palette, building a whole rhythm section out of thumps and bangs to various parts of the guitar's body. The loop station (a box of digital trickery, somewhat like a very obedient and autistic tape recorder) also allows Harry the neat trick of being able to harmonise with his own voice. It sounds fantastic.

Gilding the rush of guitars and rhythms is a naturally soulful voice that growls as well as it keens. It's clear within the first 30 seconds that Harry has all the tools needed to hew out some incredible songs and recordings as he progresses. That's not to say that he doesn't have fine songs already, he does. But they do have a tendency to be overshadowed by his dazzling technique.

Harry brings to mind two artists I have witnessed over the years in this venue. The legendary John Martyn, who used to live in a narrowboat moored next to Telford's; and Tommy Emmanuel, whose acoustic pyrotechnics have bedazzled musos the world over. I'd like to hear more of John's soul and wilfulness, less of Tommy's flaring for the sake of flaring (Andy McKee might be a better comparison). But however Harry develops, whichever choices he makes, it's evident we are witnessing the dawning of a significant talent.

And what a strange moment when he segues into Soul II Soul's Back To Life and tries to lead the crowd into a singalong. Most unexpected. And mostly excellent.

Pulco

Pulco

Ashley Cooke, aka Pulco, has been here before. He's probably been to most venues before. He toured the length and breadth of the UK with his previous band Derrero. When I introduce him onto the stage, he can't remember how many times he's played here before either.

Neither can he remember all of his lyrics. The stage looks like a tornado has ripped through a foolscap warehouse. Maybe, as he admits from the stage himself, he'd have more chance of remembering the songs if he rehearsed them! But this lack of ego and considered guile is exactly what makes Pulco so endearing and special. Music get action painted in Ash's heart whether he likes it or not. He just opens his mouth and lets it stream out in more colours than most of us can dream in.

It's hugely disconcerting when the voice I introduce him with cedes into a vocal piece I recorded for his most recent album (Small Thoughts). The set then quietly delights us all. What wonderful spells Ashley casts with his slipstream voice, acoustic guitar, an iPod with a few backing tracks on it, and Y Niwl's Sîon Glyn on stylophone (on one song, anyway).

I know Ash liked a bit of Pavement when Derrero were in their heyday, and his songs have a similar sense of the gracefully unexpected as Pavement's quieter and more beautiful moments. But Ash's songs - stripped to their glittering bones like this - remind me most of Jimmy Webb. Place Lid On Me has that minor chord ebb, then ebb again, of Wichita Lineman. That final moment was worth the entry price alone.

Golen Fable

Golen Fable

Golden Fable are an intricate weave of contradictions and rare wonders. The contradictions? Big bassed loops and twinkling guitars; shy kitten stage presences in Liberace lamé outfits; clouds of dreamy reverb pricked by ice-topped sonic peaks. This is the first time that Tim and Rebecca have toured as Golden Fable.

Previously, in Tim And Sam's Tim And The Sam Band With Tim and Sam, they didn't have to worry about vocals - well, for the most part. There's a underlining nervousness to their set that is understandable when you consider what an evolutionary leap forwards they have taken.

Despite a couple of problems with squalls of feedback trying to storm in and ruin proceedings, Golden Fable triumph. And they do it in the most natural way possible. Towards the end of their set, Tim and Rebecca free themselves from the PA and walk into the middle of the audience, performing a song acoustically, without any amplification whatsoever.

The entire room silences to hear Rebecca's angelic voice. We're as reverent as you'd be listening to a solo chorister kissing the eaves in Westminster Abbey. It's an astonishing moment of shy bravado that encapsulates most of what is wonderful about Golden Fable.

They return to the stage to perform their unique take on the Manic Street Preachers' Motorcycle Emptiness and leave us in the shimmering wake of The Chill Pt. 2. It's a damn fine way to end the night.

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British Council broadcasts Welsh bands to an audience of four million

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James McLaren James McLaren | 11:25 UK time, Thursday, 1 March 2012

Three Welsh bands are getting a St David's Day treat as the British Council, in partnership with Cardiff's Sŵn festival, will broadcast a live event with three up-and-coming Welsh bands.

Truckers Of Husk, Kutosis and Gallops will have material broadcast on the British Council's international radio show, The Selector, this Saturday (3 March).

The Selector is aired across 33 countries with audiences in excess of four million, say the British Council

Hywel of Truckers Of Husk

Hywel of Truckers Of Husk

"The Selector gives people around the world the chance to experience UK music and for up-and-coming bands to connect with new audiences," said a Council spokesperson.

"The show is broadcast in 33 a range of countries around the world, from China to Mexico, Indonesia to Malawi (including NME Radio in the UK), as well as on British Airways' in-flight radio."

Hywel Evans of Truckers Of Husk said: "We as the Truckers of Husk play no shows, write prog rock for menchildren, release records slower than it takes than a diamond to form and have faces for radio, so this an ideal opportunity to kill four million birds with one stone."

John Rostron of Sŵn said: "Saturday's show brings together three incredible bands from Wales. As an event, it's a cracking line up of three bands we've championed through Sŵn Festival.

"The fact that the show will be recorded for broadcast, with all the crowd chants, applause and noise too, and be broadcast across the world on Selector Radio is a real treat for these emerging acts. It's an amazing opportunity to showcase to the world just how good music is from Wales."

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