Thursday, February 28, 2013

Manx Performers Head for The Celtic Festival of Wales

Photo: Courtesy of Phil Kneen 

St David’s Day is a time of celebration for many Welsh people both at home and abroad, but in the seaside resort of Porthcawl it also signals the beginning of Cwlwm Celtaidd – The Celtic Festival of Wales, which has a long-held link with the Isle of Man.

The hub of the event will be the Grand Pavilion situated in Porthcawl, where Island based traditional dance group Perree Bane and new Manx trio Barrule will represent the Isle of Man amongst invited dance groups and bands from many of the other Celtic nations. Built in 1932, and originally intended as a Palm Court, the building is viewed as perhaps the most striking on the resort’s esplanade, with its attractive façade and distinctive octagonal dome.

With a strong core membership and a popular children’s section, Perree Bane offers a versatile selection of informal or staged dance performances and recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. Based in Ballasalla, they are easily spotted at summer events by the women’s attractive short red jackets (beggan ruy) complementing the ‘Juan y Clearie’ weave in their long, woollen skirts, and the men’s distinctive hats and white, collarless jackets.

Barrule, however, is a comparative newcomer to the folk music scene but already making its mark on a national audience with their inspirational arrangements with both traditional and new material. Although their eponymous debut album is currently available on the Isle of Man, it will be released in the UK at a later date, but their rendition of ‘She Lhong Honnick Mee’ with Greg Joughin guesting on vocals has already been aired on Mary Ann Kennedy’s ‘World on 3’ programme (BBC Radio 3). A Celtic fusion of Manx and Welsh musicians, Barrule will also be playing concerts and giving workshops for traditional music students in the Hebridean islands of Benbecula and Skye, followed by visits to Edinburgh and Newcastle, where they will be joined by Dr Chloë Woolley to deliver a lecture about Manx music.

There’s also a further Manx link with the festival’s headline band Jamie Smith’s Mabon which now includes Island musicians Adam Rhodes and Tom Callister amongst its ranks. Known locally as a member of traditional band King Chiaullee, Adam concentrates on playing bouzouki and backing vocals for the Welsh wizards, with Tom taken on board as an occasional fiddle player.

Porthcawl has become a popular springboard into the festival season, with an extensive list of performers from as far afield as Brittany and Asturias. Brittany is a cultural region in the north-west of France, defined by a strong Celtic heritage, and Asturias an autonomous community of Spain with a prominent Celtic influence in its place names. 

Check out their Facebook page – ‘Cwlwm Celtaidd, The Celtic Festival of Wales’ or their new website cwlwmceltaidd.co.uk.

Valerie Caine
© February 2013

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

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