Link to Living Tradition Homepage





CALAN - Kistvaen 

CALAN - Kistvaen 
Sienco Records SIENCOCD006 

In August 2013 I interviewed Calan immediately following a live performance. At that time Patrick Rimes told me that: “Almost all of what we do is traditional Welsh songs and tunes so there’s quite a limited literature… We do some original material, but mainly we like to stick to the task of bringing Welsh traditional music to the people.” They have stuck to this principle but are much more secure in their approach these days and combine traditional and contemporary music to great effect.

This album traces its genesis and development to a day spent poring over old texts and scores in the National Library of Wales. My interpretation is that the title references that institution: ‘cist faen’ – a (storage) chest of stone.

Lifting the old tunes and verses from the chest, they work with them, take inspiration from them and add bits of their own devising. The Song Of Evan, for example, consists of traditional tunes and verses but also includes some new lyrics. Others, like Mari Morgan, are taken and arranged for their ensemble. Among the new pieces, a short reflective piece, Aur Yw’r Afon, leads directly into the anthemic O. G. Greta, as the album moves to a rollicking conclusion with a set of traditional dance tunes, Bailey’s, including what has become quite a distinguishing feature of their performances, step dance percussion. But it’s not quite over as another short piece, Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect £200, gives you time to catch your breath and …relax.

This music is rooted in and is respectful of the long if little known history of Welsh music, beautifully arranged, musically inventive with strong solo and harmony singing. Traditional with a contemporary feel. A bit of a triumph really.

I’ll leave the last word to Angharad Jenkins, speaking seven years ago, but relevant today. “I think we have a duty, a responsibility, because we all believe in this music.” This album demonstrates that it’s a duty that they have not shirked.

Iain Campbell


This review appeared in Issue 136 of The Living Tradition magazine