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Thursday, 28 July 2016
Friday, 22 July 2016
Leeds band Clay came into being in June 2014, and consist of songwriting brothers Joe and Jack Harvey, bass player Rob Gration, a childhood friend, and Danny Armitage.
The bands track Sun Dance was picked up by Zane Lowe back in 2014, who played it BBC Radio 1 as one of his last ever Next Hype features.The track was also featured on prime-time HBO show Ballers in the USA starring Dwayne Johnson shortly after.
Since then the band have gone on to release two more tracks, Oxygen and Stay Calm!, both of which have been received with the same acclaim from the likes of Huw Stephens and Phil Taggart at BBC Radio 1, their debut EP, Heaven was released on July 15 and they will be heading out on tour shortly with a date at Cardiff’s Moon Club scheduled for August 8.
How did Clay come together as a band and where did the name come from?
Clay came together primarily as a result of a collective ambition to get out of suburban Leeds and see the world. The band comprises of two brothers, me (Joe) and Jack. We'd been writing together for some time and it was only when we approached Rob and Danny, who we met through mutual friends, that the body of work we had amassed started to become a coherent set of songs. Unfortunately, there isn't a particularly interesting story behind the name! One syllable all the way, though.
How would you describe your sound?
This question never gets easier. I'm sure most bands would agree but it's particularly difficult for us. Perhaps that's a good thing. It's an eclectic mix really, we don't directly try to emulate anybody in particular, although I think we're subconsciously influenced definitely by modern pop music. We listen from everything from Stormzy to Tears for Fears so I'd like to say somewhere between that, whatever that means!
You’ve just released your debut EP, can you tell us about It?
Its called the Heaven EP! I wholeheartedly see it as our best work yet. The songs are ambitious in every way, we channeled the modern pop production we obsess over and made it truly unique. Lyrically, it's very direct and honest and I think that's really going to connect with people. The content is about isolation and ambition so it's pretty universal. We can't wait to get it out.
You’ll be playing Cardiff, is this your first Wales’ show and are you looking forward to it?
Yeah it's our first Wales show which we're buzzing about! It's strange because we record in Wales and our producer, Gethin, is from Pontypool, but we've never done a show there. It's still a surreal prospect for us that our music is being received so well in places that we've never played. It's almost as if the songs have traveled further than us which is very humbling.
Finally what are you listening to at the moment?
I think it's important to have an evolving music taste so we listen to whatever is current, be it what we hear on the radio, or discover online. I think that's particularly important in this day and age, where everything is instantly accessible. Our music needs to reflect modern life and culture, and I think dwelling too much on old music can be damaging to a band nowadays. We're really digging new American band LANY at the mo.
- Visit moonclub.net for booking details.
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on July 22, 2016
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
Friars Walk Shoppers were given an added bonus of colour, as well as sunshine, on Tuesday morning as stage stars turned out to promote this years Riverfront pantomime, Cinderella.
Riverfront Panto regulars Elin Llwyd and Richard Elis were fully kitted out as Cinderella and Buttons and were joined by Lloyd Green as Prince Charming along with Nic Gibney and Liam Tobin as The Ugly Sisters.
Actress and TV presenter Elin Llwyd is looking forward to returning to The Riverfront stage in the lead role of Cinderella. “Its one of my favourite jobs of the year,” she says, “I get to come back to Newport. It’s a lovely company here and you get to dress up in nice dresses!”
Miss Llwyd also confirms that the Friars Walk shopping centre is also a big attraction for her, “Of course it is,” she laughs, “there’s Christmas shopping to be done, I’ll be buying something for somebody else and something for me!”
Former EastEnder Richard Elis has become a familiar face to Newport pantomime audiences in recent years. Mr Elis, who will shortly be seen in a new BBC3 sitcom pilot A Brief History of Tim, will play Buttons and is delighted to be returning to the Riverfront, “I love it here,” he says, “I love the audiences and I love the feel of the theatre, its brilliant!”
West End Actor Lloyd Green lists the role of Sky in Mamma Mia among his musical theatre dance acting credits; however Cinderella will be his pantomime debut, in which he will play Prince Charming. Mr Green, who is currently holidaying in Cardigan is looking forward to stepping into the role of Prince Charming, “Who wouldn’t?” he says, “I’ve seen Cinderella the most, its the only one I ever remember!”
The panto cast were on hand to launch a social media competition to try and find out where 6 shoe related images are located in and around Friars Walk and The Riverfront. The competition which can be entered by following instructions from @riverfrontarts on Twitter will give entrants the chance to win a brand new pair of Skechers and a family ticket to the pantomime.
Cinderella will be produced by both The Riverfront and Hiss and Boo, who also produced last year’s Jack and the Beanstalk pantomime. The performance, suitable for all ages, runs from Tuesday November 29 to Monday January 2, 2017, with tickets ranging in price from £6 to £20 with family and group tickets also available.
Ticket information is available on The Riverfront’s website at www.newportlive.co.uk/riverfront and via the Booking Line on 01633 656757.
Saturday, 16 July 2016
FOLLOWING their first two releases, 2012’s self-titled debut and 2015’s Expect Delays, London five piece Evans the Death are back with a brand new album Vanilla, seeing the band’s sound progress into a more aggressive, extroverted and raw direction.
Named after the undertaker in Dylan Thomas’ radio play, Under Milk Wood, the band was formed by brothers Dan and Olly Moss after meeting singer Katherine Whitaker at a Let’s Wrestle show. After numerous line-ups, the band is now completed by James Burkitt on drums and Daniel Raphael on bass.
Evans The Death are also back on the road, with a return visit to Cardiff a year on from their last visit. Andy Howells recently put questions to Dan from the band.
It’s a year since you played Cardiff and you’ve had a bit of a line-up change – what’s been happening with the band?
James has left so Sam Yardley from Porridge Radio will be playing drums with us, other than that it’s the same.
You’ve also got a new album with Vanilla, what’s the inspiration behind it?
Lots of things, mainly just how we felt and what was going on in our heads during that year.
Evans The Death was named after the character in Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood, what was the reason for choice, do the band have any Welsh connections?
The name was an arbitrary thing really, although Olly and I have some Welsh relatives. Our 2nd cousin plays in the under 21s football team.
You are back in Cardiff soon, what can fans expect?
Definitely come down early for Neurotic Fiction and Anxiety, we’re looking forward to watching them. Porridge Radio too of course. We’re particularly excited for Cardiff actually, last time was loads of fun, we wrote down all our songs on bits of paper and did a setlist tombola, but I doubt we’ll do that this time.
Are you looking forward to bringing new material?
Yeah, although it’s not all that new to us anymore, we played some of it last time. Generally the newer stuff is more exciting to play because of how the songs are constructed, it’s more dramatic.
What else for 2016 ?
I think we’ll be a bit quiet for a while, working towards another record, we want it to be our masterpiece. A good thing about our name is its high googleability. I suppose our facebook page or twitter is best for news.
- Evans The Death play The Full Moon, Cardiff on July 21. Visit ents24.com for ticket details.
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on July 15, 2016
Martha who hail from Pity Me near Durham released their second album Blisters In The Pit Of My Heart on July 8. Martha comprises of J. Cairns on guitar, Daniel Ellis on guitar, Naomi Griffin on bass, and Nathan Stephens Griffin on drums, all of whom share singing and song writing duties .
Martha have been busy since the release of their 2014 debut Courting Strong not only with their own band, but also playing for others. Daniel and Nathan also play in Onsind, while Naomi also plays in No Ditching.
The band will be heading out on a UK tour later this month and play Bristol’s exchange on July 23. Andy Howells recently put questions to Nathan from the band.
How did Martha come together and what was the inspiration for the band’s name?
Naomi and I are siblings. We've known Daniel since we were toddlers. We met JC when we were a bit older, playing in bands as teens. We all have similar tastes and views on the world, so we decided to try and start a pop band together. We're named after the last surviving passenger pigeon. She died in the early twentieth century and the species was extinct. It's fitting because we all care about animals, and we like to think we can look back and learn from the past.
Its two years since your debut Courting Strong, how have you developed as a band in that time?
Mainly we've just tried to get better at what we do, especially with the craft of song writing. It's been harder to exist as a band, as some of us have gone from being relatively able to do stuff to having much less flexibility and there are all kinds of work and life commitments that have made touring trickier. But it's also made us appreciate the band more and informed the way we do things and conduct ourselves.
What is the inspiration behind your new album Blisters in the Pit of My Heart?
If the first album was about punks growing up, this one is about grown-ups who stayed punk. It's a collection of energetic pop songs about struggling to keep doing the things you love in the face of obstacles like money, work, and mental illness. There's always been a side to what we do that's been about the intersection between the very sweet and the mucky imperfections of life. There are love songs and sad songs and angry songs.
You have a variety of inspirations on this album. Christine, is a love song taking inspiration from the 1980s Nuclear war TV drama Threads, Precarious (The Supermarket Song) finds romance in the washing powder aisle, and Goldman’s Detective Agency re-imagine s 19th century anarchist Emma Goldman as a private eye vanquishing corrupt cops and politicians. How do you sit down and come up with such diverse ideas?
We always try to write about what we know, but draw inspiration from worlds beyond our own. I also think it's important to acknowledge the way that cultural narratives impact on reality and the way we understand and fit ourselves into the world. JC and I both had similar experiences watching Threads, experiencing panic and nightmares, and we've both always been morbidly obsessed with the end of the world and nuclear apocalypse. The juxtaposition between that and a very human love story our friend told us seemed fitting, a combination of love and anxiety. We just try and write about stuff that's interesting and heartfelt. We know that musically we're not reinventing the real, but I like to think lyrically we sometimes offer something that people won't or can't get elsewhere.
You’ll be playing Bristol shortly, what can people expect from the show?
We're really excited about it because it's with our friends WOAHNOWS and TWO WHITE CRANES. It's a really great lineup and we're very excited to be playing! The past couple of times we've played in Bristol it's been in the amazing cafe/bike workshop 'roll for the soul'. It's a shame we won't be there again this time, but it's also very exciting to be playing a bigger space and I think the show itself will be really fun- we'll bring as much excitement and energy as you can handle!
Will you be playing any South Wales shows soon?
We have nothing booked in South Wales but we'd love to come back soon. Possibly in August. We were meant to play Wales Goes Pop! last year but our van broke down so we had to pull out. It was very frustrating and sad. Maybe they'll ask us back next year.
What are you all listening to at the moment?
Big Star, Thin Lizzy, The Replacements, Tommy Tutone!
- For tickets to Martha’s show on July 23 visit exchangebristol.com
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on July 8, 2016
Sunday afternoon sees the family favourite A Day at the Movies from Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra return to the Hall. Panto star and comedian Mike Doyle will host a rollercoaster ride along the red carpet featuring themes from Star Wars, Frozen, Indiana Jones, Mary Poppins among others.
For more information, times and booking details visit www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk
or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444.
Thursday, 14 July 2016
Over twenty top class performing companies from across the UK and beyond will be bringing over fifty free street theatre shows to the city centre, from high wire, slapstick, dance, and fantastic walkabouts. Performers including Stopgap Dance Company, Nofit State, 2Faced Dance and Les Enfants Terrible, will perform at Newport Live’s The Riverfront Theatre & Arts Centre, following the river down to the University of South Wales City Centre Campus, and at Friars Walk and Commercial Street.
A wide range of free workshops and activities will also take place throughout the two days, hosted at The Riverfront, thanks to sponsors Western Power Distribution. For Under 5s, Newport Live’s Tiny Tots will be putting on soft play, free play and sports activities in the Dance Studio across both days, and The Flying Start team take over the mezzanine with creative play throughout.
Flossy and Boo will host a number of English and Welsh workshops at The Riverfront, diving into stories and adventures, presenting them through the magical art of Theatre. NoFit State will be running circus skills workshops alongside their performances on Saturday and Sunday, as they transform Newport’s Big Splash into a hive of immersive circus activity where anything and everything can happen, and plenty for the whole family to take part in and enjoy.
More opportunities come from Wheel Acrobatics, or ‘Rhönrad’; a spectacular acrobatic discipline in which the performer executes tricks inside and around a rolling wheel. Invented in Germany, it has thrived there as a gymnastic sport since 1925, more recently gaining international exposure due to its growing popularity in circus performance.
|Les Enfants Terrible|
As well as theatre workshops, the Grow Wild Team, funded by the Kew Gardens Grow Wild Project, will also be out on The Riverfront terrace on both days offering some hands on gardening experiences for all the family.
There will also be free music from Railroad Bill on Saturday, who will perform two sets of skiffle classics on washboard, tea chest and guitar at Usk Plaza awhile on Sunday, 25 piece Wonderbrass will play three sets of Ska, funk and soul fusion at The Riverfront, Friars Walk and Riverwalk.
To find out more about The Big Splash, including schedules for the weekend and details of the workshops and companies at the festival, visit www.bigsplashnewport.com. To follow the festival on Twitter @BigSplashFest and like the Facebook page at facebook.com/bigsplashnewport
|The Kaiser Chiefs|
The set will featuring the bands biggest hits including I Predict A Riot and their Number One smash Ruby, The Kaiser Chiefs fronted by Ricky Wilson will also play tracks from their forthcoming sixth album Stay Together, which includes their latest single Parachute.
Ricky Wilson has described the bands latest material as a return to previous form. “When we wrote the first record we were very direct,, little needed explaining. The songs seemed to speak for themselves and did all the hard work for us, " he says, "Parachute is pretty self-explanatory and a bit of a return to that. Parachute is probably the first love song we’ve written since Ruby”.
The Kaiser Chiefs will be supported by Dizzee Rascal who will bring his own brand of rap, pop and grime in to the early evening slot and indie-rock band Everything Everything .
The event will take place at the home of Glamorgan County Cricket Club on July 16. Gates will open at 2pm with Kaiser Chiefs on stage at 8.30pm. Tickets are available from from the Glamorgan County Cricket Club box office (02920 419311) as well as TicketMaster.co.uk
|Animals & Friends|
In 1964, The Animals topped the UK and US charts with The House of the Rising Sun. The band subsequently achieved over twenty global Top Ten hit records, many of which gained the Number One slot in various parts of the world. In Britain alone, the band had no less than twelve chart entries.
Animals & Friends will perform their famous chart topper along with We’ve Gotta Get Out Of This Place, It’s My Life and tracks from their recent album, Prehistoric.
For ticket information visit ticketsource.co.uk/acapela/events
Friday, 8 July 2016
|Circo Rum Ba Ba|
The young promoters have been worked as managers, marketing officers, designers and more to create a wonderful setting and audience for the event entitled L’Hotel which took place at the school on July 1.
Pupils worked with staff to organise a raffle, refreshments and snacks while local businesses also got involved with fund raising donations. Funds raised on the day went to Blenheim Road Community Primary School.
|Pupils at Cwmbran's|
Blenheim Road Primary School
Young promoter facilitator Naz Syed continued, “It has been a brilliant experience working with the group of young promoters In Blenheim Road Community Primary School. The support of their teachers and chance to be in charge on the day gave the children a new found confidence.”
An Arts Council of Wales scheme, Night out takes away the financial risk of bringing professional shows to community venues in Wales, providing funding, tickets, advice and recommendations for great shows. For further details on other Night Out events visit nightout.org.uk
Thursday, 7 July 2016
|Stick in the Wheel|
The Maindee carnival parade will commence the theme of Fair Play as it makes its way through the streets of Maindee from 11.30 towards the festival site at Maindee Primary School. The parade will focus on the theme of fun and games, featuring giant footballs and scrabble pieces as well as dancing and drumming from Newport’s own Sene-Gambian and Spanish Latin American associations.
The afternoon events will commence at 1pm with performances and walkabouts from Eveswell Primary Taiko drummers, and various dance companies. A varied programme of events will take place on the three main stages across the site of Maindee Primary School. Amongst the Main Stage highlights will be Maindee’s Got Talent 2016 hosted by Newport City Radio and Urban Circle’s DJ. Amongst the Main Stage live music highlights will be sets from Nigel Blackmoor, Joshua Doughty and Connor and the Conmen.
The Garden Stage focus on acoustic sounds with sounds from Maindee School’s Wild Crew, Eveswell School’s Celtic Folk Band and performances from Rhys Hone and The Maharaja Blues. Meanwhile, The Spoken Word tent will feature story telling from Dick Berry and performance poetry from Mike Church, Rhys Trimble and Des Mannay.
For film fans, The Neon will host The Maindee Fairness Film Festival which includes screenings of the films The Divide and Extchange between 2.30 and 4.30.
The evening has further music highlights lined up to this years festival with London based folk band and Glastonbury favourites Stick In The Wheel will play Maindee library at 8pm and Ska favourites, Skarcasm closing the days events at The George on Chepstow Road later in the evening.
For further information email email@example.com or visit facebook.com/MaindeeFestival
Bel describes the album as a journey of her songs, many of which are anchored in the rivers, and landscapes of South and West Wales. The recording began last autumn, with an outside recording of the title track on the banks of the River Ely, Cardiff.
Keeping the geographical approach River of Dreams, was written by Cenarth Falls on the River Teifi, Nans Ddu on the Taff Fawr, Waterfall by the Nedd Fechan,and Wild Dog Rose by the Taff.
Bel, plays guitar and harmonium on several tracks is also joined by Jamie Nemeth on Violin, Ben Steer on mandolin and guitar, Kevs Ford on guitar and harmonium and A.J Constable on percussion.
The launch of the album on August 1 will coincide with a free performance of music and poetry at Octavo’s Cafe and Wine Bar, Cardiff between 5-7pm.
Any profits from the Our Places after project costs, will be donated to Michaels Project , a service for men, run by the mental health charity Cardiff Mind Visit belblue.co.uk for further details of the album and latest news.
Friday, 1 July 2016
Abergavenny-based poet, author and playwright, Owen Sheers presents Poetry in the Pews at St Cadoc’s Church at 6.45pm. Sheers, who recently appeared at The Hay Festival, wrote the script for The Passion, a 72-hour production in Port Talbot by National Theatre Wales, directed by and starring Newport actor Michael Sheen. Also appearing at this event will be the Allegra Ladies Choir and the Merthyr poet, Mike Jenkins.
The literary theme will continue into the weekend as The Priory Hotel plays host to Literature on the Lawn which features authors Angela John, Peter Finch, Richard King, Holly Muller and Rachel Trezise getting underway at 11am on Saturday.
The Priory Hotel also presents the fifth All-Wales Comic Verse Finals on Sunday at 2pm presented by Broadcaster and former Newport Town Poet, Goff Morgan. To purchase tickets for the literary events visit caerleon-arts.org or call in at Caerleon Post Office.
Music will also play a key part of this years festival with two free Pub Rock events getting underway later today.
The Gatecrashers, a four piece acoustic band from Llanfrechfa will play their repertoire of light rock, blues and country music at The Hanbury Arms at 8.30pm.
At 9pm, The Bell Inn will play host to The Albino Frogs. Known for their appearances at festivals such as Brecon, Raglan and Aber Jazz The Albino Frogs will be playing material from their third album Big Dog.
Further pub rock highlights into the next week will include Spellbound at The St Julian Inn on Sunday at 4.30pm, TaffyWasAThief at The Old Bull Inn on July 6 at 7.30pm and The Tom Williams Jazz & Blues Band at The St Julian Inn on July 7 at 8.30pm
Further Caerleon Festival events will see St Cadoc’s Church host a free Festival Songs of Praise at 4pm on Sunday and an appearance of The Morriston Orpheus choir on July 6 at 7.30pm To purchase ticket details for the latter event visit caerleon-arts.org
Thursday, 30 June 2016
Bharatanatyam, a classic Indian dance will be performed by Shishyas (disciples) trained by India Dance Wales at 2.30pm. In this annual showcase, Shishyas of all ages, abilities and backgrounds come together from classes held in different cities for an exciting gala event.
At 8pm, India Dance Wales’ will present their production of Shakuntala, an epic story told through the classical dance style of Bharatanatyam with English narration and directed by Kiran Ratna. A tale of love, heartbreak, & forgiveness to reunite love, the play was the first Indian drama to be translated into a Western language, by Sir William Jones in 1789. In the following century, there were at least 46 translations in twelve European languages.
There is a special discount of £20 for those wishing to attend both shows if booked as one purchase.
Contact the Box Office on 0333 666 3366 or visit everymanfestival.co.uk for full details.
|Lily James and Richard Madden star in Romeo & Juliet|
The broadcast of Romeo and Juliet follows that of last year’s presentation of The Winter’s Tale which topped the UK cinema box office when it was broadcast to 520 cinemas across the country. Reuniting the stars of the celebrated film Cinderella, Kenneth Branagh and Rob Ashford will direct Shakespeare’s heartbreaking tale of forbidden love.
|Meera Syal and Lily James in Romeo & Juliet|
“The live broadcast is so exciting because it gets the play out of the Garrick Theatre and across the world, opening it up to an entirely different audience,” says Lily James who plays Juliet, “When Ken first talked to me about Romeo and Juliet he described how we would really try and capture the thriller aspect of the story and set it in 1950's Italy, firmly in the world of la dolce vita. The feel would be monochromatic, like those beautiful old black and white movies of that time, and it all immediately felt very filmic anyway. I really think it's so exciting to see Shakespeare on film and to watch plays displaced from their original setting into a new medium. I can't wait!”
South Wales filmgoers will be able to catch The Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company’s production of Romeo & Juliet at Newport’s Cineworld, Cwmbran’s Vue Cinema and Monmouth’s Savoy Theatre.
For more information visit branaghtheatre.com
|A scene from last years Humble By Nature|
There is still an opportunity to purchase weekend or Saturday only ticket for other festival events including an appearance from TV chef Matt Tebbutt, fresh from his morning stint on BBC’s Saturday Kitchen. Joining Matt, are Romy Gill (Romy’s Kitchen), Freddy Bird (Bristol Lido) and Jane Baxter.
Local food will be on offer from Hang Fire Smokehouse, Dusty Knuckle and Native Breeds as well as Monmouth’s Aahaan Thai and Taste of Persia. Jane Baxter will be creating a delicious Italian sharing menu at her pop-up dining event in the barn.
Gareth Malone OBE will be in the Lambing Shed with free singing workshops for kids, while there will be live music from Swing from Paris, Grace Hartrey, Railroad Bill and The Penarth Soul Club.
The family friendly festival is jam packed with great activities for kids and grown-ups, including a Saturday Evening Barn Dance, Mini Land Rovers, Jitterbug Circus, Wild Tots Outdoor Play, Archery and Survival Skills. There's also chance to relax with some Yoga and massage on Sunday morning.
The Big Day Out camping field opens at 5pm on July 1, activities start at 6pm with food, live music and comedy running into the night. The main festival field opens Saturday morning with the fun continuing through to Sunday afternoon. Visit www.humblebynature.com/bigdayout further festival and ticket details
Purveyors of classic soul are advised to dig out their shades, dust off their dancing shoes and to party like never before to music from the classic films including the worldwide hit Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.
For more information or to book tickets call 029 2087 8889 or visit www.newtheatrecardiff.co.uk
People’s History Museum ‘Songwriter in Residence’ Matt Hill whose work as ‘Quiet Loner’ has garnered rave reviews and a Glastonbury appearance, will bring the Battle for the Ballot highlighting the story of the vote and how the democratic process evolved.
Matt was appointed to this coveted role earlier this year and set about creating original musical works inspired by the museum’s collections, all of which explore the history of working people in Britain.
Quiet Loner’s music is inspired by the storytelling traditions of American Folk and country music but with a distinctly British lyrical bite. His third album Greedy Magicians was both personal and political and led to his being invited by Billy Bragg to perform at the 2013 Glastonbury Festival.
The Battle for the Ballot was to originally be performed at the Cwtsh Arts Centre, Newport on July 1, but due to its clash with scheduled Wales Euro match will now take place on September 8. To find out more about Quiet Loner visit www.quietloner.com
Five authors and five composers will combine talents for peer to peer learning, creating, collaborating and co-authoring work and discussions about the musical theatre genre in various locations around Cardiff and the Valleys from July 4-8. The week will culminate with the sharing of work and discussions about the art form at The Other Room, Cardiff on July 8 providing a supportive “safe space” for artists to explore and develop their own practice.
“We have seen a positive shift in our attitudes towards musical theatre in Wales recently.” says Angharad Lee, “But I still feel that we shy away from a genuine grassroots investigation of the genre. The question I will be asking the artists is: ‘How do you make a story sing, and not just the artists?’ The approach to the week will be very task driven, much in the same vain as I would work with actors. Roles may be switched and specific tasks will be set by a group of year 5 students I am working with at the moment who are also developing their lyric writing skills. This will hopefully open up a discussion about who exactly are we writing for and why.”
Lee, whose most recent work includes the successful To Kill a Machine added, “I am keen to open out the discussions to artists who wouldn’t necessarily find themselves writing musicals. I want to challenge form and our approach when it comes to assembling such productions. It is an age old problem that sometimes artists can feel hugely disempowered when it comes to how work is commissioned in theatre in general. Everyone wants to be commissioned but it is vital that there is playtime and safe spaces to explore one’s own practice as part of an artists continued development. It can sometimes seem like moments of dreams rather than reality. To be able to pay artists to learn from each other and to be inspired by each other is an absolute joy.”
Key organisations throughout Wales have also been keen to lend support while numerous programmers and venues have confirmed the clear need for this kind of work. Among those confirmed to be in partnership with 10 Minute Musicals / Open Space are Wales Millennium Centre and Blackwood Miners Institute.
Friday, 24 June 2016
How did you first start out in music?
Music has always been something that came naturally. I started singing (Frosty the Snowman) at the same time as I started talking! I've been singing in choir, competitions, talent shows, etc. ever since. I was like every kid who dreams of being a rock star, movie star or professional athlete, but as you grow up so many of us let our own self doubt or other people's opinions mold the path we take for a career. I graduated with a degree in entrepreneurship from Baylor University and then my younger brother was drafted to play professional baseball by the St. Louis Cardinals. At that point in time, I decided I didn't want to wake up in 10 years and think "What if?" So I moved to Nashville and started learning as fast as I could and as much as I could about the music business.
Who or what has inspired you most on your musical journey?
It's definitely been my family. I'm incredibly lucky to have parents, grandparents, cousins...everyone really say follow your dreams and we'll support you. I talked earlier about my younger brother and he truly is my biggest inspiration. My parents are also a huge part of why I'm doing music. They pushed me to follow my dreams and taught me all I know about having a strong work ethic. Growing up I watched them overcome obstacles and never lose sight of what's important.
Can you give us some background about your latest release?
I have a new album that's available for pre-order on iTunes called Full Speed Ahead now and will be out on July 12! This album is all about personal experiences plus one of my all time favorite songs that I made my own and covered! Compared to some I haven't been in the music business very long, but in that short time I've learned a lot. Each song has been inspired by something in my music career, and I'm so excited to share these stories with the world.
You’re touring shortly are you looking forward to that?
Touring is my favorite part of my job! It's so amazing to get to meet the people that support me and my music. There are so many people that I hear from on social media on a daily/weekly basis, and I love getting to hug their necks and say thank you in person! Music is a team sport. I wouldn't be where I am without the amazing people who listen to, share, and support my music.
What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig?
This is one of the few UK shows that will be acoustic. It's also our first show in Cardiff! My co-writer, guitar player, and best friend, Glen Mitchell, will be playing all our UK dates with me this summer. The show in Cardiff will just be Glen, me, and a guitar. Personally I love these shows because you're able to tell all the stories behind the songs, and it's so much more personal! On every other past UK Tour we've stopped in Cardiff to visit, but we're so excited to finally be playing a show! You can see all of our tour dates on my website SaraBethMusic.com/Tour
What are you enjoying listening to at the moment?
At this exact moment, I'm on a plane listening to Blake Shelton's new album! I've also been listening to a lot of UK Country artists like The Shires, Ward Thomas, Megan O'Neil, Laura Oakes, Luke & Mel, Paul Carella, and Gary Quinn….there are so many talented acts in the UK that I'm lucky to call friends!
What else have you got planned for the rest of the year?
With a new EP release comes a lot of tour dates. I'll be on the road pretty extensively this Summer. We have 13 shows in the UK starting on August 5th. I'm also incredibly excited about the fall because my younger brother is getting married!
- Stay in touch with Sara Beth online at SaraBethMusic.com
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 24, 2016
Tuesday, 21 June 2016
Billy Elliot the Musical made its Wales' debut at Wales Millennium Centre last week as part of its first ever UK and Ireland tour. Based on the highly successful film, the show is set in a mining town in the North of England against the background of the 1984/85 miners’ strike and follows Billy’s journey from boxing to ballet class where he discovers a passion for dance that inspires his family and whole community and changes his life forever.
Billy Elliot the Musical is brought to life by the multiple award-winning creative team behind the film including writer Lee Hall (book and lyrics), director Stephen Daldry and choreographer, Peter Darling, joined by Elton John who composed the show’s score. The production features scenic design by Ian MacNeil, the associate director is Julian Webber, costume design is by Nicky Gillibrand, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Paul Arditti. Musical supervision and orchestrations are by Martin Koch.
Andy Howells recently chatted to writer Lee Hall about how Billy’s journey has developed from a film screenplay to a stage musical.
|Stephen Daldry, Elton John and Lee Hall |
Photo: Craig Sugden
I first came up with the story almost 20 years ago, I then wrote the screenplay and the film came out in 2000 and we started work on the musical pretty soon after that, so its been part of my life for a long time.
Has Billy Elliot’s success surprised you at all?
Completely! I really thought it was going to be a small British film that would come and go like films do. I was quite surprised by the affect of the film and then we did the show and that went on for so long, it was pretty amazing to me.
Where did you get the inspiration?
It was one of those weird acts of imagination. I had grown up in the North East of England in that time, I knew all about the mining communities because of the miners strike. I think I was quite different from the others because I liked poetry and drama and that kind of thing and I was thinking of a way to tell the story about my journey but in cinematic terms. I thought writing was a boring subject to write about and I thought what if a little kid wanted to become a ballet dancer? I think at the time and possibly still so been a ballet dancer is something that a young lad would never think of doing because they’d get picked on in school, so I was quite interested in the story and I just made it up.
|Haydn May as Billy Elliot|
Photograph: Alistair Muir
It’s also an iconic tale about anyone who has a dream to do something different to the circumstances they were brought up in, everybody’s got something that is unique about themselves or in something that they want to do. It’s a story for everybody.
How did the musical come about?
It came from Elton John, he saw the very first public showing of the film which was in Cannes and he really identified with it. He could see a lot of his own journey in Billy Elliot.
I just got a phone call from Elton’s people asking “Would you like to meet, because he’s really interested in doing it as a musical.” To be honest, when I first heard that, I thought it was a terrible idea. I went to see him and he explained how we should do it and his total passion for the project. I thought “well you can’t not do it,” of course, we gave it a go and the rest is history.
You hadn’t set out to write Billy Elliot as a musical, so how was the experience writing with Elton John?
The thought of writing songs with Elton was beyond ones wildest dreams. I assumed he’d want Bernie Taupin to write the lyrics. He wanted me to do it rather than a lyricist because he knew it needed to be in the language of the characters. He was very determined on that and very experienced having worked on musicals like The Lion King and Aida. He said to me “Listen, We’ll just start at the beginning and work our way through it” and it was great advice not to take too much off, but just to take little bits and build it up gradually. I was in very safe hands with Elton - he looked after me!”
|Lewis Smallman with ensemble cast in Billy Elliot|
Photograph: Alistair Muir
Coming from the North East, I was dying for the last ten years or so that people from home could see it. Eventually, it went to Sunderland on the tour and it means a lot to me that we can take it to regional theatre to let people see it who couldn’t make the trip to London. It’s been a long time coming so I’m really excited about it.
For those who are planning to see Billy Elliot, how would you describe it?
Quite genuinely, there’s something in it for everybody. I think we all set out to make something you could laugh and cry at.
There are also the amazing kids who play Billy Elliot. I’ve been watching it for over 11 years and I’m always astonished at how brilliant they are. They can act, dance and sing and I don’t think there’s another show you’ll see where the kids are so brilliant. I really wanted to make something that my Mam and Dad could go and see as they never went to the theatre. I wanted to make something for everybody. It was really important to me that I made a show that everyone could go and see.
- Billy Elliot the Musical continues at Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday July 16. To book tickets or for more information visit www.wmc.org.uk or call 029 2063 6464.
- A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on June 17, 2016
During July, the 80s feel-good musical Mad On Her will tour 4 fringe UK venues including Liverpool Lantern Theatre (July 14), The Solway Hall, Whitehaven (July 15) and Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate, London (July 17). The July 16 date at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester is already sold out.
Mad On Her follows the story of Donna and Tina who party through the nightlife and drama of 1985.
Donna, ambitious and stylish, is climbing the ladder of success. Finding ‘Mr Right’ is the last thing on her mind – little does she know he could be just around the corner. Tina, with her big hair and big heart, is the disco diva of the boulevard. As Donna’s best friend she sets out to play cupid.
Newport actress Phoebe Rose White, who recently played Mimi in Rent for Two Box productions and featured on The Dreamers original cast album, will Co-Star in the UK tour of Mad on Her playing the role of Brandi. Andy Howells recently spoke to the rising stage star about her current role.
Was been in musical theatre always your dream?
I've been involved with musicals ever since I can remember. I was in Stagecoach at a young age and took part in every school play - I think my first role was a camel with in the Nativity! In secondary school I focused more on my grades until I played Maria in our School's production of West Side Story when I was 16, and then that was it, I caught the theatre bug again! From then on I focused all my energy on getting into drama school and it was my dream to study in London.
Apart from School productions, I performed with the Greater Gwent Youth choir in venues like St David's Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, and the Royal Albert Hall. I also was a member of WAWWA: The Musical Youth for a few years. That was such a special time in my life. I learned so much about professionalism and how to conduct yourself whilst in a company. The support I had from the creative team there was amazing too. We performed in shows in the Dolman Theatre, most notably The Music Man and Footloose.
What was your first professional role?
Whilst in college, we were lucky enough to take part in professional concerts and shows that took place in West End theatres, which was an incredible experience, but my first job out on my own after college was a pantomime tour of Aladdin in which I played Aladdin. It was a really great experience in learning what touring is like - you never quite get used to performing a high intensity show to hundreds of kids at 9am!
You played Mimi in Rent, where was that and what did you enjoy most about that role?
I recently performed in a run of Rent at the Two Brewers in Clapham, London. Playing Mimi was a big tick off my list (I used to watch my DVD of Rent on repeat when I was in school) so there was a big pressure I'd put on myself to get it right. The music of Rent is beautiful, so I enjoyed getting to sing the score every night, but what I really enjoyed was the intensity of the role. Mimi goes from a very happy, carefree place, to her rock-bottom in the space of two hours, and so I put a lot of work into making sure that it was believable, authentic and that people could relate.
You're currently starring in the UK production of Mad On Her, what can you tell us about the show?
Mad On Her is a brand new 80s Musical, about Donna, who is climbing the career ladder to success and will let no man get in the way of her dreams- until new guy on the block Ricki turns up on the scene, The musical is a fabulously fun show set in a nightclub wrapped in everyone's favourite 80s classics. It's an all-singing, all-dancing and acting musical with a starburst of energy and 80s flavouring!!
Tell us about your role in Mad On Her and whats your favourite part of the show?
I play Brandi, one of the IT girls in town and one of Donna's best friends. She is fun loving and is never seen without a touch of glam and perfection. She loves all her girls and will always put her friends first. I've always LOVED the 80s, from the music to the fashion, so playing this role will be an absolute blast! The songs are fantastic and the choreography is insane! I'm also covering Donna for the run, so it'll be a great experience getting to learn two very different parts!
How long will you be continuing with the show for?
The show runs until the 17th July in 4 UK venues with our final night being in London. However there is a huge potential to take this show further and that's such an exciting possibility. I love being involved with the very start of something and seeing where it will take us!
Do you get back to Wales much and will you be returning in a production anytime soon?
I'm very family-oriented and so try my best to get back to Wales around once a month to see my Family and friends. I've been lucky enough to tour Wales twice with two different shows, and also shot 2 short films in Cardiff last summer, which was fantastic. I'd love to perform again in Wales soon - fingers crossed!
- You can find full Mad On Her tour dates and information at www.madonhermusical.com
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on June 18, 2016
Wednesday, 15 June 2016
Belfast born singer-songwriter Kaz Hawkins is Northern Ireland’s very own blues and soul darling. Her high energy, original shows, combining 1950's style swing-dress-meets-Dr Martens look and an ability to closely connect with the audience, make Kaz one of the most popular blues artists in the UK.
Underground for years as a secret songwriter, Kaz is now established as one the biggest performers to come out of Northern Ireland. Locally called "a vocal force" on stage, she envelops the fighting spirit of a true powerhouse singer. Kaz is much-loved for her deep, powerful voice, original songwriting and down to earth attitude; she brings fun to every performance & is loved not only by her fans, but anyone who meets her. She has lived and sung ‘The Blues’, yet has much more to offer across differing genres - soul, rockabilly, folk & more.
Kaz hopes the new sound of her new album, Feeling good, will show a modern twist to the blues and roots she adores, alongside newly penned songs written, as ever, to inspire, excite and move. Ahead of The Kaz Hawkins Band appearance at The Met, Abertillery on June 17, Andy Howells put questions to the lady herself.
How did you get into playing music?
I sang on the cover scene for 20 years but had written lyrics in my journals, a lot of my journal writing ended up in poem format without me realising it so I bought a cheap acoustic guitar in 2007 and taught myself some chords and then ventured into open mic nights in 2010/11.
Tell us about the band, how did that all come together?
Up until 2015 there were lots of band members, some couldn't commit long term, some didn't suit and some just didn't see my vision for the future. My guitarist Nick McConkey has been with me nearly 4 years and was originally only a rhythm player but has grown organically with me since. Peter & Jan Uhrin on drums and bass joined in 2015, they are originally from Slovakia but have been performing around Northern Ireland since they moved here over 10 years ago. They have a great insight into most genres of music so that appealed to me as I wanted to experiment with a bigger more dynamic sound. I then added Deanne Jones as a backing vocalist who I had been mentoring who I met through Nick as he is her cousin, I loved how she complimented my vocal with a sweet edge.
Who are your music influences?
Everyone says Etta James, but she was and is my musical savior through so much in my life, when I first heard her sing St Louis Blues I cried, and that was the moment I wanted to sing. I love discovering old underground blues, one of my favourites is Lucille Bogan and of course the ever faithful artists like Big Mama Thornton (who I mention in PRAY from our album) Koko Taylor, Bessie Smith (our tour bus is named after her).
What’s been your best live experience?
Best live experience I can't choose as things keep going from strength to strength so much, so I get overwhelmed with it all, but just being able to do what I thought would never happen is the best experience for me. I've had amazing opportunities, like supporting Van Morrison, performing in Boston with professors and lecturers from Boston Uni & Berklee College of Music but there is nothing like being in that perfect moment on stage with my band when we are connected and having fun, that's a dream come true in itself to trust my band and them have faith in me.
Can you tell us about your new album Feelin' Good?
Feelin' Good is dedicated to those who think positive, those who will always fight the fight to survive and who come out the other end to proove that life is worth living. It's a mix of 8 original songs, most of which are about my life and 2 classic blues songs we wanted to experiment our new sound on. This album is exciting as its not just a collection of songs, it represents who we are as a unit, showcases what we are and how tight and how much fun we like to have. From blues to ballads, funky rhythms to rock and jazzy sprinkles of loveliness. We want to take people on a journey that they would want to repeat time and again.
Your also going on tour, what can fans expect from your shows?
Our Feelin' Good tour is our biggest yet with nearly 50 dates across the UK and fans should expect an explosion of sound, colour and fun. The music is serious and we mean business with our album but we also like to have fun so that our fans are seeing a show, we want them to jump up from their seats and let the music take over, most of the time I would be the one jumping off stage if I can, although management have warned me with so many dates I have to stop being so clumsy just like dislocating and breaking my shoulder at the end of a previous tour, ha ha, but when spontaneity hits I just gotta run with it.
What else have you got lined up for 2016?
Our Feelin' Good tour is our biggest yet with nearly 50 dates across the UK and fans should expect an explosion of sound, colour and fun. The music is serious and we mean business with our album but we also like to have fun so that our fans are seeing a show, we want them to jump up from their seats and let the music take over, most of the time I would be the one jumping off stage if I can, although management have warned me with so many dates I have to stop being so clumsy just like dislocating & breaking my shoulder at the end of a previous tour haha but when spontaneity hits I just gotta run with it.
We performed on BBC Northern Ireland on 3rd June for BBC Music Day so made our TV debut from the historic Stormont Parliament Buildings just before we head to Scotland for our first tour date. This is amazing exposure for us and what a way to kick off our tour across the UK. We have also been nominated to compete in the UK Blues Challenge on 12th Nov at Robin 2 in Wolverhampton and the winner will get to represent UK in Memphis & Denmark in 2017. ukblues.org. We really won't have time for much else but touring until then as we will be so jam packed and that's a great thing.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Personally, I've been listening to lots of my sisters on the blues scene as I just created Blues Sisterhood UK to help showcase women in blues from one central place so have been researching lots before I leave for tour. I love Lauren Housley who I discovered through BiGIam who is working with us on Feelin' Good. Elles Bailey too, the younger generation who is carrying the torch for blues and roots in my opinion. A lot of Beth Hart lately as her music is really transcendent, I adore her performances, she's crazy just like me and that's a great thing for the audience, the more we can give of ourselves the more the fan experience will be enjoyed. Plus I can identify with her as a performer and her history, when she gets on stage I know that look in her eye where nothing matters but the here and now. I just have to see her live soon but Northern Ireland is too far from anywhere for now lol.
- Catch The Kaz Hawkins Band at The Met, Abertillery on June 17. Visit www.ents24.com/abertillery-events/metropole-cultural-and-conference-centre/kaz-hawkins/4720943 for ticket details.
- A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus on June 10, 2016
Friday, 10 June 2016
From The Beatles to Amy Winehouse, many of popular music’s greats have sung the praises of Ronnie Spector and The Ronettes since they formed the final piece of Phil Spector’s infamous Wall of Sound back in the 1960s.
Ronnie’s inclusion in the Cardiff’s Festival of Song programme was therefore an important one. The decades rolled away as soon as she sang her signature opening “Whoa-Oh Oh-Oh-Oh-Oh” on the 1963 smash hit Baby I Love You on St David’s Hall’s stage last Friday evening.
Supported by three backing singers (suitably attired in 60s style) and a five strong band, Ronnie proceeded to tell the story of The Ronettes early 60s origins in Spanish Harlem before getting their big break performing alongside Joey Dee and The Starliters in Manhattan’s Peppermint Lounge.
Ronnie’s story was illustrated with anecdotes, back screen projections of The Ronettes and a soundtrack of hits from songwriters including Goffin & King, Lennon & McCartney and Harry Nilsson. There was even a rendition of Keith Richards and Andrew Oldham’s I’d Much Rather Be with the Girls recalling The Ronettes 1964 UK tour with The Rolling Stones.
Highlights undoubtedly were renditions of The Ronettes classics Paradise and Is This What I Get for Loving You Baby? all capturing the essential 60s vibe. There was also a moving tribute to Ronnie’s sister Estelle with How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?
Cardiff’s audience gave a warm reception to Ronnie indicating that the music of The Ronettes is still much loved. Be My Baby brought the show to a close with Ronnie inviting the audience up to the front to have a dance, needless to say, she didn't have to ask twice!
For more details on Ronnie Spector visit her official website.
Friday, 3 June 2016
Their latest release on CountryMile Records, Pigs Might Fly proves King Lonnie was right on the mark, hanging on to their skiffle roots, Railroad Bill bring the skiffle genre firmly into the 21st century, with shades of classic rock n roll and raucious punk thrown in for good measure. There are some fabulous stand outs from the bluesy Obstinate Child to the rock n roll of Selfish Jean performed with more than a nod to early Elvis!
Pigs Might Fly displays the versatility of Railroad Bill and even allows a few friends in on the journey too including welsh singer/songwriter Kizzy Crawford who gives a fabulous vocal on What You Need.
For a sneak peek of Railroad Bill, catch them taking part in the new BBC Four documentary series UK's Best Part-Time Band at 9pm this evening.
- Order Pigs Might Fly by Railroad Bill online
- A version of this review by Andy Howells appears in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 3, 2016
|360 Degrees - Jordan Archer and Marino Meano|
In this short time their talents have quickly been recognised on the music scene gaining them the great reputation they deserve and an almost fully booked year of gigs and private parties including Newport's Celtic Manor. The boys are thrilled at the way that their audiences have taken to them and already have a strong following.
To celebrate their first year and by popular demand following their sell out Christmas show, 360 Degrees are back at The Dolman Theatre Cabaret Bar on Saturday 11 June from 7.30pm to bring you One Night Only Summer Spectacular. Dance the night away with hits from every era or just sit back and enjoy the evening of fabulous entertainment.
Tickets are available on line at www.dolmantheatre.co.uk and are £10 which also includes a cocktail on arrival.
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
It hardly seems that long ago that when the charts were laden with the repetitive beats of Stock Aitken and Waterman songs, Eddi Reader and Fairground Attraction arrived to take music back to its most simplistic but melodic form. The song Perfect hit the top of the charts, and although Fairground Attraction split shortly afterwards Eddi continued as a solo artist and has continued to create, diversify and even educate us with great music in the 25 years since.
The Best of Eddi Reader is a comprehensive collection of 30 tracks, taking in the Fairground Attraction hits Perfect and Find My Love, solo successes Patience Of Angels and What You Do With What You’ve Got as well as renditions of Ay Fond Kiss, Moon River and My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose.
Not just a treasured collection, The Best Of Eddi Reader is an introduction to one of the UK’s greatest singers, listen to this and you’ll want to discover more from her, and she has a solid back catalogue to back every track on here up – a rare accolade indeed!
The life span of a hit record these days appears to go a lot further than it would have done 20 or 30 years ago. Maybe that’s because after several weeks (or even months) of a pre release a song can spend an incredible long time floating around in a chart and to a degree even longer on a “no repeat” radio station playlist. If it still has any durability left, the song will then wind up on numerous compilation albums.
Just Great Songs 2016 appears to have done that for tracks which have been around for well over a year including Hozier’s Take Me To Church and One Direction’s History. Still with other contributions from Justin Bieber, Zayn, James Bay and Foxes, this might be the ideal compilation if you want to avoid annoying commercial radio adverts and still hear recent hits.
Its common practice now for artists to revisit their back catalogue and tweak classic albums for remastered and extended editions. Phil Collins, appears to have taken a step further with recent reissues of No Jacket Required, Hello I Must Be Going, Face Value, Dance Into The Light, Both Sides and Testify. These 6 titles bookending an album output of some 30 years.
Not only has Phil given the tracks a significant clean up, but he’s also taken the trouble to recreate the original album artwork with up to date images of himself.
Of course, Phil Collins music goes beyond face value, In The Air Tonight, Both Sides Of The Story and Take Me Home, among others still stand up as great pop songs, and if remastered renditions of classic Collins is still not enough to pull you in there is an extra disc to accompany each album brimming with demos and live rarities.
Now's the time to get caught up on one of the greatest British solo acts of the 80s and 90s, the music of Phil Collins has never sounded better.
- Versions of these reviews by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement, The Guide during May 2016.