On Sunday, September 24, the dazzling Welsh Celtic band Calan comes to the Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM), with a performance for Flying Cat Music. The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $20 or $18 with reservations. For information or reservations, email email@example.com or call 845-688-9453. Reservations are strongly recommended for this popular group.
Few acts have taken the world of Celtic music by storm more quickly or powerfully than Calan, a five-piece band from Wales, which is returning to the Empire State Railway Museum on Sunday for their third appearance in Phoenicia. Five weeks after Calan first played Phoenicia in 2015, they were onstage at the Royal Albert Hall in London. There, they joined Sting and an assemblage of other talented musicians for a televised concert celebrating the fiftieth birthday of Bryn Terfel, one of Britain’s top opera stars.
This year Calan had “Apparition,” the first single from their new album Solomon, receive its worldwide video launch by Yahoo! which wrote: “Yahoo Music is excited to debut the video” while describing Calan’s music in glowing terms, “Welsh-based band Calan may have its music anchored in ancient roots — traditional Welsh music incorporating accordion, fiddle, pipes, and harp — but the sound has translated to a modern audience on a grand scale. Calan has gone from busking in the streets of Cardiff to playing festival shows on huge stages to thousands of fans.”
The three women and two men who make up Calan are still in their twenties, so they come by all of their considerable energy naturally. In 2010, Calan won the prestigious Trophee Loic Raison for Best New Group at Europe’s largest folk festival; the Inter-Celtic Festival of Lorient (English translation). That event is attended by 700,000 people annually. Calan remains the only group from Wales to have ever received that honor. Festival crowds throughout Europe and all over the UK consistently give Calan exuberant receptions, and they’ve now become highly sought as headliners for North American festivals too.
Taplas Magazine, founded in 1982 as “The voice of folk in Wales and the borders,” lauds Calan for “virtuoso playing throughout their lightning fast tunes, eastern-influenced jazzy improvised numbers, and glorious, harmony-laden female Welsh folk songs.” That is typical of the reviews Calan receives as critics respond to the band’s unique energy and unbridled enthusiasm with comments such as these:
“…stunning use of instrumentation, gorgeously crafted songs, sprightly foot-tappers, verve and raw excitement” Belfast Telegraph
“Energy, attitude, freshness, a sense of fun and above all, real talent.” BBC Radio Wales
“…..a diverse ride between giddy Welsh reeling, healthy acoustic folk-pop with upfront attitude and brashness of youth.” fRoots
“…there’s nowt as dear as folk – especially when played with the grace, daring and sheer joy this multi- instrumental five-piece bring to a winning selection of reels, jigs and hornpipes” The Daily Mirror
Reviews for Calan’s latest release, Solomon, are equally enthusiastic:
“Solomon is an amazing album.” Folk Radio UK
“they always strive to hit the highest peaks in intelligent and exciting arrangements; they go for broke all the time, and they don’t understand the phrase: “That’ll do.” Folk Wales Online Magazine
“A fresh and vibrant sound with a pounding beat set against the backdrop of old traditions.” All Celt Music
Calan finds no conflict between tradition and innovation. Vocalist and accordion player Bethan Rhiannon notes, “Welsh music has always been inclusive and ready to develop… There is a huge canon of traditional Welsh music but there’s no reason not to add to it, to develop it, to refresh it.” But even in so doing, Calan never steps far from traditional roots.
Bethan, in fact, is a Wales national clog dance competition winner. Multi-instrumentalist Patrick Rimes, in addition to being a three-time junior Celtic Welsh Fiddle Champion, plays the Welsh bagpipes and a traditional reed instrument from Wales called a pibgorn, made from a wooden pipe and the horns of a bull. Harpist Alice French is developing and examining old traditional harp methods used by the Romani Gypsies of Wales. Angharad Jenkins, who also plays fiddle and sings, is the daughter of the famous Welsh poet Nigel Jenkins and the harpist Delyth Jenkins, so tradition runs deep in her own blood also. Guitarist Sam Humphreys, who comes from the Llyn Peninsula, an isolated part of Wales, perhaps injects a wild card. Originally playing electronic pop and rock music before discovering a magic mix of folk and modern styles, his music comes from an altogether different background.
Calan are ambassadors for a new generation of Celtic music, taking their new sound to new audiences, while raising the profile of Welsh traditional music on stages internationally. We are very fortunate that they’ve taken a liking to our corner of the Catskills.
Empire State Railway Museum (ESRM) in a performance for Flying Cat Music. The ESRM is located at 70 Lower High Street in Phoenicia. Doors open at 7:00 p.m. and music begins at 7:30. Admission is $20 or $17 with reservations. For information or reservations, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-688-9453.