Gwerincymru — o Gymru o’r byd
NOTE: The Live Reviews Page has been hit by a computer glitch; this means that all the reviews have disappeared into a dark hole, leaving Jackie Oates and Beyond the Border as the only reviews of late. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible – fingers crossed…
In this issue:
by Iain Campbell (who also took the pictures)
A festival in the early summer of this year was almost sure to be affected by rain and Beyond the Border was no exception. I arrived on in the rain on Friday evening, tent in the boot, ready to bed in for the weekend but... I parked up and walked through from the car park at King George’s Field to the festival site. I caught Dan Yashinsky and Taffy Thomas in the opening Rambling House, was ready to go to Almas Almatov only to discover that visa problems meant that they would not be there. My first impressions of the site and the programme were favourable. Dispirited by the rain but not by what I’d seen or my first reading of the programme, which was intriguing, I headed back to Cardiff making a mental note to catch She’koyokh the following day. Not an auspicious start.
On Saturday I headed back. By the time I arrived I had, unfortunately, missed She’koyokh but was lucky enough to hear them later providing music to Sally Pomme Clayton’s tale of Dede Korkut, which she had picked up in Kazakhstan. An impromptu collaboration that helped provide context to the story.
As a BtB virgin, it was on Saturday morning that I discovered a weakness in my approach. With up to eight events happening simultaneously it would have been a good idea to plan, with military precision, my festival in advance. I managed to miss a lot that I would have liked to see, That did however, produce the occasional bonus of catching something delightful that was not on my hastily drafted schedule. It did not take long to appreciate what an inspired festival this was: stories and music from all over the world, beautiful setting and such a lovely ambience, despite the weather.
Although the mornings were grey and wet, the afternoons turned out to be
beautiful. I took the opportunity of indulging in the many delights to be had sitting in the garden, under a burning sun: music from Fernhill and a trio with Dylan Fowler on guitar, Oli Wilson Dickson’s on fiddle and Gill Stevens’ crwth, stories from Dan Yashinsky and Daniel Morden and my favourite
story session: Dau Dafod (Two Tongues), a bilingual set of tales from Guto Dafis, Essyllt Harker and Michael Harvey. They enchanted a mainly monoglot English audience with stories told mainly in Welsh but with translation of key elements into English. And there was Nick Hennessy, who played music interspersed with short conversive introductions in his A Harper’s Trade, where songs and ballads from the tradition were counterposed with his own and stitched together with tales of dogs, love and death that brought out the essence of the songs and the timeless nature of the themes he was exploring.
Strolling up and down between the different venues, arranged on all the levels of the gardens which slope down from the Castle and Arts Centre to the Jousting Field, I was tempted by offerings not on my schedule. Musically I was surprised by the Magic Of The Persian Poets. Siamak Nemat Naser, Rana Shieh, Fariborz Kiannejad and Arash Moradi, with strings and drums, produced some of the most enchanting sounds I have heard recently. Unable to get into the tent to hear Dan Yashinsky’s The Storyteller At Fault, I lay on the grass, in the sun, close to the entrance to listen.
Early evenings were enhanced by Mr Grundtwig’s Cabaret, where storytellers from all over Europe entertained with a series of sad, funny, uplifting and always entrancing short stories. Stalls selling books, CDs and crafts were arranged at one end of the Jousting Field next to the beer tent, which offered such a huge range of real ales that I was glad I was staying on Saturday night. Other stalls selling food were interspersed with the storytelling tents, ranged on each side of the Jousting Field.
Workshops producing wire and paper sculptures gradually transformed the grounds and lanterns added radiance on the approach to the Big Top. On Sunday the festival was rounded off by a big Fireshow and a pounding set from Transglobal Underground that stressed the seams of the Big Top. I arrived home in the early hours of Monday morning, tired but too wired to sleep.
This is such a good festival: small in numbers, compared to many, but large in vision and content, and so friendly. I’ll definitely be looking to go in 2014.
Bryngarw House, Bridgend: Tuesday, July 3, 2012
by Mick Tems
Memories of the soggy summer, and how Bridgend Council’s good intentions got ruined in the awful incessant weather… I sploshed my way through the pelting rain to a sodden marquee in the beautiful grounds of Bryngarw House, the jewel of the Valleys with its 19 four-star en-suite bedrooms and its sumptuous Harlequin restaurant, for this debut concert. Time was when you could plan a summer event like this, and you were just plain unlucky if the heavens opened. But that was before this nightmare season – and, guess want? Some bright spark had ordered the car park toilets to be closed, and the only way for the ticket-buying public to get blessed relief was a long, wet hike to the house itself.
But Jackie and her three fine musicians, who consisted of flowing and elegant guitarist Tristan Seume, accordionist and keyboards player Mike Cosgrave and magnificent cellist Barney Morse-Brown, rescued this concert from the teeming deluge brilliantly with a heartwarming, welcoming set that seemed to draw the public into her welcoming kitchen with a bright, roaring fire to warm the heart and soul.
Jackie was an ex-member of the Unthanks and the Winterset, and she sings her traditional songs (and a few well-chosen written ones) with a fragile voice that carefully and lovingly polishes each piece, her soft fiddle and viola applying the finishing touches. She remains the sweetest voice of her generation of English folksingers, a one-woman wisp of the oldest art of storytelling and sparkling, bright dew intermingled. Jackie and Barney performed Holiday, a piece where he accompanied her with some amazing ‘cello runs. Every song (and Mike’s composed tunes) was an important treasure, and Jackie charmed the enthusiastic audience who had braved the downpour to see her.
This was an important musical event, and Jackie and her band triumphed over the rain and wind and brought the music home – and full marks for that.