Spectacular musicians and dancers from all over Wales and Europe will be heading for the breathtaking Welsh surroundings of the historic Tredegar House in The City Of Newport, for the 27th Tredegar House Folk Festival, which opens on the evening of Friday, May 6, 2016, and runs until Sunday, May 8 for a packed weekend of song and celebration.
Among the colourful and exotic dancers will be Alingås Folkdansgille, from Gothenburg on the South Swedish coast, and Veselka, first and second-generation Ukrainians who have made the city of Coventry their home and who perform Ukrainian dance. Wales and Welsh music will be flying the flag, with Morris dancing from Cardiff and Cwmbrân, Welsh clogging and dancing from Swansea, Cardiff, Bassaleg, and Blaenavon, plus Appalachian stepping from Newport. Extra teams from Wales, Cornwall and England are still being booked – Kemysk, the all-female team from Cornwall, are one of the highlights, and local belly dancers Jawahir and Topaz Tribal will be among the welcome attractions.
Dance displays are absolutely free – but if you want to experience the wonderful world of folk and roots music as well, you can buy a weekend all-in ticket for £30.
Wales and Cornwall will share the Saturday concert. Sizzling five-piece ‘Cool Cymru’ ambassadors Calan have just released their third CD, Dinas – they have come a long way from busking around the streets of Cardiff, hoping to raise money to pay for university fees, to playing concerts around the world and the USA, even taking the stage at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The Calan sound is a melting pot of delicious, driving guitar, thrilling fiddles, Welsh bagpipe and pibgorn, tingling harp and flashy accordion, and in addition to her fetching and warm vocals, Bethan Williams Jones completely knocks the audience out with her jaw-dropping clog footwork. One exciting duo who are guaranteed to please the audience are Midlands harmonica virtuoso Will Pound and breathtaking accordion master Eddy Jay, who spends his busy time between living in the Monmouthshire village of Llanellen and collaborating in numerous arts projects around the UK and New York; and Cornish groundbreakers Flats & Sharps, five young guys who blur bluegrass, folk, country and pop. From their humble beginnings, they started busking around Penzance; now they are headlining major concerts and festivals around the world. The Governor of Kentucky jumped on stage to play with them, and they were the headline act at Ireland’s Westport Folk and Bluegrass Festival in County Mayo in June 2015.
On Sunday afternoon’s concert, brilliant County Durham songsmith Jez Lowe takes the stage with his trio of musicians The Bad Pennies – Jez was starring at The Miners’ Institute arts centre at Blackwood in South Wales in January this year as a quarter of The Pitmen Poets national tour, with famous faces including the War Horse Song Man Bob Fox, Lindisfarne frontman and singer Billy Mitchell and Tyneside song expert Benny Graham. Pembrokeshire singer-songwriter Lowri Evans tours all over the UK and has just released her acclaimed latest CD, Everyone Is From Somewhere Else, and she will be accompanied by guitarist, singer and studio engineer/producer Lee Mason. Winter Wilson, stunning Scottish vocalist Kip Winter, born in The Netherlands, and impressive songwriter Dave Wilson, conjure up a cauldron of songs. Dave, described by John Tams (Sharpe, War Horse, National Theatre) as a “magnificent” songwriter, is now recognised as one of the best on the acoustic scene; Kip possesses one of the best voices in the business, delivering power and emotion in equal measure (described by one promoter as “from melting to belting”). In the past she has sung everything from jazz to opera, but is at her best and happiest when singing folk and blues. She also plays flute, piano accordion and occasional guitar.
Highlights include the wonderful Barron Brady, with Paul Lloyd Nicholas supporting, sponsored by Newport Folk Club in their Friday night showcase; songwriters Si Barron and Ros Brady conjure up mermaids, crows, devils and disappearing hedgerows in their world on folk. Paul, incidentally, has had his new album Hold The Line played on many radio stations, including Frank Hennessy’s Celtic Heartbeat show on Radio Wales. Cairns-Howarth, the super-charged fiddle-and-guitar son-father duo from Mid Wales, are appearing in the Saturday session, supported by Llantrisant and The Lyceum Folk Clubs – and the impressive local teenage trio Morfa perform a storming repertoire of Welsh, Irish and Celtic music. Morfa consist of amazing multi-instrumentalist and fiddler Meg Eliza Cox, now 15 years old and collaborating with other bands, notably Band Nantgarw and The Hay Band, and chalking up a list of appearances including The Royal Albert Hall and Twickenham Stadium; dancers Rhys Morris, a classical guitarist who has performed with Pontypridd-based dance team Bro Tâf, and fiddler Osian Gruffydd, who has won clog-dancing prizes with Dawnswyr Nantgarw and Bro Tâf and performed in Mexico, Slovakia and the prestigious interceltic Lorient festival in Brittany. Local folk club regulars Roy Zeal and songwriter Phil Millichip are added to the list; Phil found fame when well-known international artist Vin Garbutt sang his composition about the deadly pneumoconiosis in the South Wales mining industry, ‘If I Had A Son’, broadcasting it around Europe and recording it.
On the Ceilidh scene, Tredegar House Folk Festival welcomes the mighty band Juice, who grew out of the Marshfield (on the Gwent Levels) KilBride family band, originally named Juice Of Barley, who will be wowing the dancers in the Ceilidh Tent on Saturday. Now only two Kilbride brothers, guitarist Daniel, director of all-Wales folk development organisation trac, and fiddle player Bernard, are left in the band; Expert caller Dave Parsons, of Dinas Powys, will be directing the action.
An added highlight for beer lovers: Gwent CAMRA (Campaign For Real Ale) will look after the Real Ale Bar, showcasing rare and popular Welsh ales and ciders. Newport West MP Mr Paul Flynn is the President of Tredegar House Folk Festival and opens the Festival every year. The Tredegar House website is www.tredegarhousefestival.org.uk, and the festival address Tredegar House and Country Park, Newport NP10 8YW.