Singing out last Winter


Free Songs in Radnorshire

We present a selection of songs from our winter shows and gigs.

Our winter was not all rock and roll, it is true. Radnorshire is a pretty quiet place, with probably more sheep than humans. Nonetheless, we had intentions, when we arrived in the woods, to establish a settled routine of Water, Wood, Fire and Food, and to allow plenty of spare time for song in the local community.

But the cold, the rigours of house-building, and older fatigues (ourselves and each other) soon made things trickier than we’d guessed plausible.

The upshot is, we gigged far less than we hoped. Indeed, in the bleakest depths of winter, our brotherly resolve broke down entirely. But the wheel turns, as it must, and we’re now hoping our deep empty leaden foolishness might turn to gold. If not, it’s all character building stuff.

Even busking was tricky (in that we didn’t manage to do it much). Our main venue, when we tried, was in Llandrindod Wells, an old Victorian Spa town, which is a portrait-photographer’s dream, full of incredibly varied and interesting people. Some locals told us that the council sent all the troublemakers here, the people who caused community disturbances, which is a fitting myth. We learned, from Van, the owner of the town’s good food shop, that 1960s Llandrindod was a post-London mecca for weary hippies, and even the Incredible String Band (Ed’s faves) were here for a spell.

Busking in town won us few pennies, but the unpredictable social interractions made it always worthwhile.

Ryb An avon – Llan Dod


We also sung in a few Care Homes, the British Legion in Rhyader, the Bupa in Llan Dod, and in these places we faced our harshest audiences yet. If the majority did enjoy the old songs, they remained mostly silent; but the outspoken few were greviously embittered at the imposition of folk song on their restful afternoons, and told us so repeatedly.

“Is it over yet? Why’s the TV off?” was the chorus for every song.

There was also a slightly darker side to one care-home, for when no staff were about, an old lady, with spite and sufficient agility to pursue it,  told a frailer co-habitant: “You be quiet now Betty, or I’ll give you a push!”

Amongst OAPs, this was tantamount to a murder threat, and its sinister implications chilled us.

We also sung in Churches, three times on Easter Sunday. We thought it would be a good way to make friends in the local community, and it was; although the congregations were mostly countable on 2 hands.


for the third time today...

The vicar’s eye gleamed when he related how the non-conformist chapels, traditionally more popular than the Church of Wales, were nowadays doing even worse for ‘bums-on-pews’. It seems that Britain is not especially keen on churchgoing these days.

Ed and I enjoy diverse social rituals, and grew up within an Anglican tradition of worship, so we thought we could handle this triple dose of Church. But three services in one day is a startlingly difficult trial. Our bones ached, and our heads hummed with the same sermon told thrice. Our endurance levels just couldn’t cope with all the sitting, standing, muttering, and singing.

For the hymns were appalling, turgid lumps of Victoriana, whose unexpected melodic jumps were beyond the ability or ken of any singer there.  These hymns were actively depressing, and they were the same in all three services.

“Music makes the Church, the Church doesn’t make the music” someone once said, but here the music was un-making the service, and deflating any sense of wonder or awe that might accompany the most Holy day in the Christian calendar. Oh well. We contributed with a Shaker song, a methodist song, and a Gypsy song, for it is always a pleasure to sing good songs loudly in a well-built stone church.

The Good Old Way (Charles Wesley)



outside Cwm Hir Church

The above song was sung in the village church of Abbey Cwm Hir, which is a lovely little village north of Llandrindod Wells. We had hoped to find the public house open after the service, but were told that this village maintained the Welsh tradition of no sunday opening. Forty years ago, we were informed, such a thing was the standard all across Cymru: “But once one pub started opening, and taking all that extra money, well everyone else just had to follow suit”

In Abbey Cwm Hir lies the grave of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, the last King of independent Wales, who was tricked in battle by dishonourable Royalists, and whose death heralded the end of a period of fierce Cymraig resistance to English Dominion.

Grave of the last Welsh King

The Last King's Grave


Cromwell did the Abbey, the Forestry Commission did the Woods

But not all gigs were OAPs and Churches. We sung for beer too. The pub scene is notoriously reliable for welcoming old songs, and this is as true in Wales as anywhere. At the Oxford Arms in Kington, we sang alongside Kington band Ragged Glory, in a musical opening to the Kington Energy Week, which looked toward post-oil energy strategies for the villagers.

Ragged Glory, of Kington

and they called them Ragged Glory


a song and dance


Bigmouth and the Slacker

And as a final gig in Radnorshire, we sung in the Fforest Inn at Nant Melan, which is a most excellent pub. We were not on top form, but the audience were having fun, so everything else followed.


It was lot of fun, but the show was fairly stolen by the 2 kichen girls, each aged 14, who sung rock and roll crooners with their grandad (Uncle?), a sort of ‘Saint Elvis of Preseli and the Kichenettes’ show. It blew us away, and rightly so.


We wish we could give you details of this family group, who have recently recorded something. To track them down, your best bet is probably through the Forest Inn, where they wash up.

2 Responses to “Singing out last Winter”

  1. James Boulton says:

    Do you know any Lady Gaga songs?

    Just kidding…

  2. Rima says:

    Utterly Marvellous!
    Great to hear and read of the latest wanderings.
    You sing all my absolute favourites :)
    Looking forward to the CD int post :)
    Cheering you on in itinerant cheers!

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