The end product was a complete album, released by trac and Sain Records in October 2013, and a tour of Wales. Here’s a taster:
The project reached the finals of the National Lottery awards, for which this four-minute video was made.
So how was it for the musicians?
The whole week was life changing for me e.g. having the opportunity of meeting Meredydd Evans and seeing the archives in both Aberystwth and St. Fagans and knowing the abundance of material which is held there. I cannot thank all of you at trac enough.
Huw Evans after the research phase.
The most valuable part of the project for me was the research week, it was an eye opener. I learnt things that have changed the course of my life. I’ve started an MA course at Bangor University to look at traditional Welsh music, which is a direct outcome of my experiences during the week on the bus. It was an honour to be part of this valuable and unique experience. This project has influenced me as a musician in a big way. It has given me confidence as an individual, and I’m more confident in my ability as a fiddle player, in my singing and through composing/arranging.
The highlight for me was being able to access Welsh culture in a way that I have never been able to, as a non-Welsh speaker…. Most of this was an unseen world to me and it has been fascinating.
The research week was so inspirational. Before the project, I didn’t really know where to start looking for old songs, but now I feel like I have, enough inspiration for a number of lifetimes work! The project has totally blown my mind! The main thing I’ve learnt from the project is to crack on with researching, arranging and releasing all of the amazing material that is just sitting in the archives waiting for a new lease of life. The project has given me as a musician, lots of exposure and has helped my career progress a great deal With out wanting to sound cheesy, it’s true what Craig said – 10 Mewn Bws has changed my life!!!! Diolch o galon.
BBC Wales’ Polly March profiled the project in her blog (click below to follow the link)
Pioneering folk project results in album launch and tour
By Polly March, BBC Wales
The 10 Mewn Bws (10 in a Bus) project aimed to reinterpret and demystify traditional Welsh folk music by selecting ten musicians from different musical backgrounds to research their musical roots and to reinterpret Welsh traditional music in a ways relevant to them, and to modern audiences.
The ten musicians travelled around Wales, visiting the sound archives in St Fagan’s and the National Library’s music collections, as well as meeting some of Wales’s ‘tradition bearers’ and ethnomusicologists including Phyllis Kinney and Meredydd Evans, Arfon Gwilym, and Stephen Rees.
Then, in a week-long writing retreat at Tŷ Newydd, Llanystumdwy, they worked together to re-interpret the traditional material and compose new work based on their experiences during the research phase.
The tour concluded at the Swn Festival at the start of the World Music Expo (WOMEX) event in Cardiff, a timely celebration of a successful year-long project, and of traditional Welsh music at a global event. 10 Mewn Bws went on to tour again in Wales including supporting Cerys Matthews at the Hay Festival, and reached the finals of the National Lottery Awards.
Since then, Gwilym Bowen Rhys has become a major figure in Welsh folk, researching and recording old and new ballads in a series of successful albums. Gwen Mairi Yorke regularly guests on Gwilym’s recordings and is harp tutor to the Youth Folk Ensemble of Wales. Lleuwen Steffan continues to forge links between Wales and Brittany and Catrin O’Neill, after joining Allan Yn Y Fan for some years, is successfully pursuing her solo folk career.
Meet the ten:
Gwilym Bowen Rhys
Gwilym Bowen Rhys from Bethel, Caernarfon, was the youngest of the ten musicians, familiar to many on the Welsh Rock Scene as a member of the rock/pop band Y Bandana as well as his alternative folk band Plu with his two sisters.
Lleuwen Steffan is a singer/songwriter from the Ogwen Valley. As well as a nomination for the Welsh Music Awards, her latest album, Tân, won the award for Album of The Year in France 3 TV’s annual awards. Lleuwen won the Liet International songwriting competition for her Breton song, Ar Gouloù Bev.
Francesca’s classical violin training took her to Manchester University and then TCM, London. There she began to work with contemporary composers, street performers and bands. Then, she ran away to join the circus, honing her musical saw playing, and meeting musicians from all over Europe. She claimed to be delighted swap a circus wagon for a bus around Wales!
Gwen Mairi Yorke
Harpist, Gwen Màiri was brought up in a Welsh-speaking household in Scotland where she studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now Royal Conservatoire of Scotland). She works professionally with orchestras and chamber groups with many pupils at the Glasgow Gaelic School and the RCS Junior Department. In recent years, Gwen has been spending more time with traditional music and the clàrsach, using the Welsh and Scottish folk music she grew up with.
From Aberdare, Craig Chapman is always trying to find ways of blending organic and digital music together in ways that compliment each other. Influenced by LCD Soundsystem, SFA and Hot Chip to name but a few, Craig is the pioneer of Replaced by Robots and is one half of John Mouse. He studied Pop Music at the University of Salford, Manchester and brought his expertise of trumpet, guitar and synth/keyboard to the project.
As a fiddle player Mari has a strong grounding in traditional music, and has been familiar with the songs and tunes since before she can remember. She also studied classical violin during her time at the University of Bangor. She often plays with the pop band Them Lovely Boys and also does the occasional session work. She is into music from all genres.
Ellen Jordan is a York based music graduate and cellist from Llangammarch Wells, Powys. She has worked as a composer, sound designer and performer in theatre, chamber opera, visual arts and contemporary dance productions. Ellen has directed a number of unique events, such as a Javanese gamelan shadow puppet play, based on the Mabinogi story, Culhwch ac Olwen. She often experiments with folk melodies, vocals and field recordings in her compositions.
Huw Evans is a singer, flautist and composer. He studied voice, flute and viola at Trinity College of Music in London. Highlights of Huw’s classical career included performing at the Royal Festival Hall, St Martins-In-The-Fields and Birmingham Symphony Hall. He performed classical music until his early 20’s and then developed an interest in Welsh folk music, which intensified after attending The Big Experiment, trac’s annual folk school in 2010 and he has taken every opportunity to perform Welsh Folk music since then.
Catrin O’Neill is a Welsh folk singer originally from Aberdyfi. Catrin can turn her hand from hauntingly beautiful airs sung in her native Welsh, to rowdy Irish drinking songs accompanied only with her Bodhran. She has performed extensively around Wales and is passionate about bringing traditional Welsh music to new audiences.
Leon Ruscitto is a drum kit and percussion player from Swansea. A graduate from the Royal Northern College of Music, Leon in experienced in performing in a range of musical styles from Big Bands to jazz. Leon also blends soul, indie and rock in the successful function band, the Provocateurs who perform regularly and have appeared at venues and events including the Gherkin (London) and the Isle of Man TT races.