by Mick Tems
The fiddles-and-cello chamber-folk trio VRï and veteran singer, songwriter and Welsh language campaigner Dafydd Iwan shared two accolades at the prestigious Wales Folk Awards, held at the Hoddinott Hall in the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay on Thursday, April 20. Dafydd wrote the most remarkable ‘sleeper’ song in the galaxy. He composed the proud and defiant song ‘Yma o Hyd’ (Still Here) 40 years ago and recorded it with supergroup Ar Log – then hundreds of Cardiff City soccer fans took it up, following and singing the cracking chorus. The song was adopted by thousands of ‘Red Wall’ Welsh football supporters, bellowing the lyrics and cheering Wales on in the Qatar World Cup.
Trac Cymru, the All-Wales folk development body, organised the Awards, and the BBC Radio Wales show Celtic Heartbeat and BBC Radio Cymru broadcast in both the English and Welsh languages. Celtic Heartbeat presenter Frank Hennessy and S4C presenter Caryl Parry Jones introduced the accolades, and artists and musicians from all walks of life lined up to receive the prestigious prizes. Guitarist and vocalist Mari Mathias and her band opened the show, winning the award for Best Traditional Welsh Song (‘Tŷ Bach Twt’/’Milgi Milgi’). Nia Lynn and Oli Wilson-Dickson received the Best Original English Language Song award for ALAW’s ‘Fill The House’; Nia and Oli performed this beautiful song, sadly without master guitarist Dylan Fowler, who was unable to be there.
Dafydd Iwan won two awards for Best Original Welsh Language Song (‘Yma O Hyd’, with Ar Log and The Red Wall) and Best Solo Artist. VRï trio Patrick Rimes, Aneirin Jones and ‘cellist Jordan Price Williams walked away with a brace of awards; Best Instrumental Track (‘Yr Ehedydd’) and Best Album (Islais a Genir). They stole the show by performing three breathtaking pieces, and their sheer energy and brilliant musicianship shocked and delighted the audience.
South-East Wales folk-rock band Rusty Shackle won the Wales’ Folk Favourite award, and experimental inspiring harper/vocalist Cerys Hafana was busy touring gigs and could not be there to receive her Best Emerging Artist award; but the band Calan – Sam Humphries, Patrick Rimes, Bethan Rhiannon and Angharad Jenkins, who is on extended maternity leave – won the Best Live Act accolade. Angharad paid a warm and loving tribute to American opera singer, author, leading authority on Welsh folk music and centenarian Phyllis Kinney, born in Detroit and married to the late musicologist, author, lecturer, folk singer and head of the BBC Wales entertainments section Meredydd Evans. Phyllis’s grand-daughter Cathryn accepted her Lifetime Achievement Award. A special award for all the unsung heroes who just enjoy a good traditional tune and pass it on to others went to Dr Keith Floyd, who composed a 48-bar jig in the Welsh tradition.
Caernarfon folk-rock band Bwncath received the Best Group Award, and lead vocalist and guitarist Elidyr Glyn, lead guitarist Robin Llwyd, bassist Alun Williams and drummer Twm Ellis performed three songs. They were joined by Dafydd, who belted out what must be termed as the greatest unofficial Welsh anthem to end them all, ‘Yma O Hyd’ – and band and singer triumphantly ended a stunning show.
- I had the very great honour of Trac Cymru inviting me to become one of the six Welsh Folk Awards judges, including tradition bearer and musicologist Stephen Rees, Sesiwn Fawr Dolgellau chairman Ywain Myfyr, Naomi Saunders from the Galeri Caernarfon arts centre, Traditional Arts and Culture Scotland officer David Francis and Rhian Davies from Menter Maldwyn. We gathered in a Zoom meeting, and the major decisions were done by email. I made a mental note of greeting and shaking hands with all the judges at the Awards evening; but apart from a hurried chat with Stephen, I missed nearly all of them. So, Diolch o’r Galon to Stephen, Ywain, Naomi, David and Rhian – I know that we’ll meet again!