Cwlwm Celtaidd opens Young Musician 2016 competition

Cwlwm Celtaidd
Robin Huw Bowen and Dylan Cairns-Howarth

The annual Cwlwm Celtaidd’s Young Musician of the Festival competition for under 18 year-olds returns.

 As part of the festival weekend on March 4-6, 2016 Cwlwm Celtaidd will welcome talented young musicians to the Porthcawl Grand Pavilion stage where the winner will receive a financial prize of £50 and a chance to play as part of the main concert on Sunday, March 6.

The festival will also welcome artists form four corners of the Celtic world with RURA from Scotland, Jamie Smith’s Mabon, Linda Griffiths and Sorela from Wales and dancers Perree Bane from the Isle of Man among them.

To have the chance of winning the ‘Young Musician of the Festival’ title the applicant will need to present between 3 and 5 minutes of traditional Celtic tunes on an instrument of their choice with a short explanation.

This year’s adjudicators are accordionist, Jamie Smith, triple harpist Robin Huw Bowen and the Breton piper Antwn Owen Hicks.

Jamie Smith is the band leader of one of this year’s headliners, Mabon. He says:

“It’s a pleasure to be one of the judges again this year for the Young Musician of the Festival competition. We had a highly encouraging turn out for the first one last year and after some tough decision-making the prize went to Welsh fiddler Dylan Cairns-Howarth, beating off some stiff competition from Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man!”

Last year’s winner, Aberystwyth fiddler Dylan Cairns-Howarth, picked up the fiddle for the first time at 5 years old and will be returning to Cwlwm Celtaidd this year to perform with his father, guitarist Andy Cairns. They will be playing new arrangements of traditional dance tunes from Britain, France, Scandinavia and North America. Judge Jaime Smith says:

“As Dylan has his own concert spot this year at the festival, it shows what a great launchpad it is for young musicians who are interested in performing opportunities. It would be fantastic to have even more entries this year, especially from young Welsh musicians. Although we take the judging seriously the event is warm and friendly, just like the whole festival, so it’s not too scary! The main aim is to get young musicians together to listen to each other play and inspire each other. As judges we offer some positive critical feedback on ways they can improve.”

A family friendly festival, Cwlwm Celtaidd has a packed programme of concerts, dances, workshops, free street dance displays in the Town Centre and on the Esplanade as well as legendary music sessions at the bar.

The competition will be held at Porthcawl Grand Pavilion at 10am on Sunday, March 6. Those interested in entering the competition can download the form from Cwlwm Celtaidd’s website. They will need to fill in the form and send to Sarah Smith, 209 Erw Hir, Bridgend, CF31 2VH or email to by Saturday, March 5, 2016.


Folking at Cambridge Folk Festival 2013 – Day 1

CamFF_FoxyA folking brilliant start to a truly stellar line-up at this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival.

Now in its 49th Year, it remains a cornerstone event in the folk diary.

After finally getting the tent up, losing half my body weight in liquid from my newly erected sauna, I headed from Coldham’s Common campsite and caught the well organised and frequent bus to the main festival site.

The picture on the left really sums up the atmosphere of the place, a gathering of people of all ages who share a love of life, music and community.

I was really looking forward to seeing Jamie Smith’s Mabon opening the main event on the stage 2 and you will see from the video below that it was the perfect way to set the standard for the weekend.

Kat&SeanHusband-and-wife team, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman followed with performances from their superbly crafted album Hidden People. Kathryn’s sublime voice and effortless delivery and Sean’s masterly guitar arrangements wooed the Cambridge crowd as the sun beat down on folk town. The Ballard of Andy Jacobs was a particular highlight, made memorable by the solitary figure of Kathryn sitting on stage at her piano.

Rusty ShackleI then headed over to the club tent to catch Rusty Shackle. We’d featured them on folking last year so I was keen to see them in action.

Formed back in 2010 and with an infectious pulse and style, they are difficult to pigeon hole. That said, elements of folk, rock, bluegrass, Celtic rhythms and Delta blues are clearly present.

They are the sort of band that have even more fun than the audience and their rough and ready style grows on you, as you are left pondering, how a band can have the balls to bring two genuine Welsh lamps with them on stage.

Larkin Poe then brought the Thursday night club tent to a rocking climax. I was very much looking forward to seeing The Lovell Sisters in action as we had featured their album Thick as Thieves back in 2012 and this was the first chance I’d had to catch them since. A great end to a brilliant day.

The folkmaster

JAMIE SMITH’S MABON – Windblown Review

I must admit that I was pretty blown away by Mabon’s last CD and my thoughts haven’t changed much with this excellent follow-up. Jamie Smith’s accordion pyrotechnics are still there joined by band members Oliver Wilson-Dickson, Adam Rhodes, Matt Downer and Iolo Whelan. Opening with the bouzouki driven, triplet heavy “Huzzah!” along with guests Calum Stewart on flute and Tomas Callister on banjo they go straight for the jugular bringing to mind halcyon days of The Bothy Band at their fiery best. The surprising thing about this album is the decision to add vocals to the mix thereby extending their choice of material even further and although perhaps not exactly a ‘real’ marriage as such with almost everyone lending a hand they certainly make a fair stab at it. I get the impression that this was more a case of taking a step from what was essentially a superior ceilidh band to full blown ‘concert’ band and fair play to them for their endeavours. I’m sure they will prove a hit on the festival circuit with an undeniable exuberance that will have their audience dancing in the aisles and finally credit should go to photographer Paul Michael Hughes and the sleeve design team of Adam Rhodes & Grainne Joughin for tying everything together. A very impressive album and I look forward to the next one.


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MABON – Live At The Grand Pavilion (Easy On The Records EOTR01)

No messing here as Welsh band Mabon take the stage for an opening set of driving reels “Hello Poppet/The Hustler” led by Jamie Smith’s accordion. Taking up the reins where Capercaillie once held court, with lively ‘kick ass’ folk-rock arrangements (predominantly all penned by Smith) you can tell why this line-up goes down a storm at festivals. There’s a certain joy that brings a smile to the face when you hear material this well presented and the rest of the band; Ruth Angell (fiddle), Calum Stewart (flute/pipes), Derek Smith (guitar), Matt Downer (bass guitar/upright bass) and Iolo Whelan (drums/ percussion) look and sound as if they were having a blast. The tunes, full of syncopated rhythms and downright funky grooves propels the music at breakneck speed leaving very few reflective moments as is so often the case with a purely instrumental album and I’m sure they’ll be giving Shooglenifty a run for their money. As is getting to be an industry standard these days, there is also an excellently filmed DVD to accompany the CD so that you can see our heroes in action. If you’re looking for something to fill the gap before your next ‘festival fix’ this recording will do nicely.


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