Clwb Alawon Llanilltud Fawr – Llantwit Major Tune Club – was formed in January 2012 with support from Trac Cymru as part of our three-year Wales-wide grassroots project, Ty a Gardd. Working with local organiser Rob Bradshaw, we funded a series of workshops on Welsh tunes with expert tutors Meurig Williams, Guto Dafis and Delyth Jenkins. These were so successful that the group of folk who came decided to continue meeting. Clera, the Society for Traditional Welsh Instruments, funded more workshops and helped the players organise themselves into a Tune Club, which has continued ever since.
The Club meets regularly, with a mixture of workshop and practice sessions. Each workshop has an invited Tutor, and tunes are learnt initially by ear, but printed music is always available. Practice sessions are simply that, and range from a couple of hours to a full day of music.
Founder Rob Bradshaw takes up the story. “Sometime around 2015 we realised we had amassed a vast collection of pieces of paper comprising the tunes we had already learnt, and decided to collate these into a sensible format. Luckily Creative Rural Communities came to our rescue, and agreed to fund the creation of three 50 page books. We called these Notebooks, because really they are Notes from our Workshops. We fundraised for subsequent print runs and to create and print new Notebooks. Currently there are six of these, a seventh is almost ready, and there is enough material to begin thinking about the eighth!
Of course, one of our goals was to play our Welsh tunes in a local pub session. The Old Swan in Llantwit Major has been incredibly supportive and we have played there regularly at what are now monthly sessions – well until March 2020 of course. Rather appropriately, Guto Dafis had taught us Ton Alarch!”
The village of Llanilltud Fawr (Llantwit Major) lies on the coast of the Vale of Glamorgan. Creative Rural Communities were keen to promote the playing of music collected and associated with Glamorganshire, in particular that of Iolo Morganwg, but also Maria Jane Williams and Llewelyn Alaw. In collaboration with Guto Dafis this led to the creation of a performance of local songs and music.
The Tune Club began to expand beyond simply learning and playing tunes. Rob takes up the story again: “Guto Dafis gave us a lovely evening of stories and tales from Glamorgan. Mike O’Connor provided a fascinating talk and demonstration of Cornish music, followed by an evening of Cornish Folk Tales. A local Llanmaes resident, Jeff Robinson, gave a fantastic afternoon talk on the Barry Sea Shanties collected by James Madison Carpenter around 1930 before he returned to America and they were almost lost. Jeff’s grandfather was one of the Barry seamen who provided a number of the songs. We had a day’s outing on the Heart of Wales train, where we played all the way to Llandeilo and back. The acoustics in the waiting shelter at Llandeilo station were superb! We’ve joined Helen Adam’s Twyi Tune Club, on several occasions, to play at the National Botanic Garden, and at the launch of Helen’s Tunelines project at The Cornerhouse Gallery in Ammanford.
We’ve also had regular Christmas gatherings, and recently played the Christmas music assembled by Angharad Jones. The Vicar of St. Illtud’s Church in Llantwit has been very keen to establish the church as a music venue, and he enthusiastically supported us in organising two public concerts. We had an amazing all-day workshop with Delyth and Angharad Jenkins, followed by a stunning evening concert in the beautiful West Church. The following year we had a half-day workshop with Guto Dafis, followed by another brilliant concert with Guto and Danny KilBride.”
Currently there are about 20 members of the Tune Club, several of whom come from quite a distance to participate. “We have a close relationship with Helen Adam and the Twyi Tune Club, and several of our members participate in other Tune Clubs too, including Llantrisant and the Black Hill clubs” says Rob. “We’ve also enjoyed the Clera sessions organised by Meurig Williams at the Ty Gwerin stage at the Eisteddfod and at St. Fagan’s History Museum.
It’s been an amazing journey. Many thanks to all those who have helped and encouraged us to enjoy playing our national Welsh music. Maybe these are our 24 measures! Angharad Jenkins, Bruce Knapp, Ceri Rhys Matthews, Danny KilBride, Dave Parsons, Delyth Jenkins, Gareth Westacott, Geraint Roberts, Guto Dafis, Helen Adam, Helina Rees, Jeff Robinson, Kate Strudwick, Meurig Williams, Mike Lease, Mike O’Connor, Paul Hutchinson, Richard Jones, Robert Evans, Siân Phillips, Stacey Blythe, Stephen Rees, Steve Jeans, Sue Banks, plus almost certainly many more!”
Trac Cymru is delighted that from the acorn we planted in 2012, thanks to dedicated local supporters, such a broad oak has taken root.