Trac Cymru is aiming to ensure that the Welsh folk traditions are felt as the beating heart of the nation’s contemporary life, with our tunes surviving and flourishing in the years to come. For many years we have worked with numerous brilliant and enthusiastic musicians to establish local Tune Clubs to share the joy of learning and playing Welsh music.
One such musician and Tune Club founder is the dynamic fiddler Helen Adam, who explains her own journey that she has taken with the organisation: “My experience of working with Trac is very much at grassroots level and my passion is really community music making – engaging people in the joy of making music. And my other strong passion is getting more people to play and appreciate Welsh music. It’s not flashy, it’s not dramatic, but it’s subtle and it’s lovely – and it’s our music, it’s based in the countryside, and I have this real sense of music being rooted geographically.”
Helen remembers how her Tune Club was started with the help of some funding from Trac: “I was originally approached though a project called Sesiwn Dros Gymru around 2012, I think because I’d already done some workshops in various places.” The charity asked Helen to be the coordinator of 10 open workshops across South West Wales, such as at Fishguard Folk Festival as well as in open venues including a pub in her local town of Llandeilo, which then developed into a regular Tune Club.
After taking a break for health reasons, Helen was inspired to get the club running regularly again from her home when the pandemic started: “It started initially with five or six of us meeting in the garden with our masks on, two metres apart, and now it’s very much beginning to grow again and it’s brought it back to life really. It’s quite varied with the people who come in and dip in and out of it. This year we’ve played at a couple of public events including a local festival and at the launch of an arts project in Cwmgors.”
Helen talks enthusiastically about the value of the Tune Club format: “It’s somewhere between a session and a workshop – it gives people the opportunity to stop and say, ‘I don’t quite get this, how do we do this?’ But in a very free way, you’re not the teacher and the student but there’s a little exchange of knowledge. It’s very much based around a circle and we all listen to each other. It gives us a space to focus on the music but in a social way – it’s a lovely social bonding thing.
“I think Welsh music is underrepresented and underappreciated, and it’s very nature is subtlety. The more you listen to it the more you appreciate it.”
“Knowing the initial workshops were underwritten with funding from Trac was crucial because as a working musician it’s difficult to do anything without that stability, and having the organisation behind us was very important because it gave the work some validity and strength – as well knowing there was a pool of other people around to call on, and connecting musicians from around the country. It just feels like you’ve got someone behind you and you’re not just ploughing this lonely furrow, that there’s this organisation that has got your back.”
Amongst Helen’s many other activities outside Tune Club sessions, she has also been developing a wonderful ‘Tunelines’ website which maps a collection of songs to the place names contained within their titles – you can find a link to this project via Trac Cymru’s directory. The featured tunes include this haunting recital of the tune Ym Mhontypridd Mae’r Mwriad (In Pontypridd Is My Intended) which was arranged by Helen Adam and performed live by Llantwit Major tune club:
With your help, Trac Cymru will continue to support folk musicians across the nation to ensure that every community can benefit from our vibrant living culture – please consider supporting us by making a donation today.
Please help us to celebrate the achievements of Trac Cymru’s first 21+1 years of work by sharing our stories with your friends and colleagues, and join us in posting your own happy memories about Welsh folk music on social media #TRAC21.