As they take to the stage at Blackwood Miners Institute, it is hard to believe that folk band Calan already have ten years of playing music under their belts. With youth still on their side (the band formed when members were aged between 13 and 22) their age belie their vast experience on stage. While appearances can be deceptive, it is clear from the opening few songs in this excellent performance that the band are a well-honed live act. Angharad Sian on fiddle, accordion player and clog dancer Bethan Rhiannon, guitarist Sam Humphreys, Alice French on harp and Patrick Rimes on fiddle and bagpipes show the kind of musicianship, cohesion and timing that can only come with years of hard graft in the live arena. It is no surprise that they have picked up prestigious awards such as Best Group at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient, Brittany.
As part of a series of gigs to mark this quintet’s decade – a tour that has already taken them to Canada and Brittany – Calan come to the ‘Stute for the first time. While it was a shame there was not a full house to greet them, the band members did not let this affect their performance. In any case, the audience that gathered made enough noise for a full house, such was the raucous reaction to the performance. What attracted such praise during the course of a two-hour set was a showcase of the band’s musical highlights drawn from four studio albums plus some new tracks recorded for their new compilation album ‘Deg.’ The likes of Madame Fromage (in honour of Patrick’s cheese-making mother), Yr Eneth Ga’dd ei Gwrthod (The Rejected Handmaiden), Ryan Jigs, Pe Cawn i Hon (Oh, Were She Mine) and A Tale of Two Dragons are all played with the dexterity and enthusiasm that has made the group such an international hit.
Perhaps the highlight of the night was the track Kân, which gives the old Pembrokeshire tradition of Canu Pwnc a modern twist to make it sound fresh and vibrant. Revitalising the traditions of Welsh folk music has become Calan’s stock in trade and, for this, the nation owes them a debt of gratitude. The fact they make such a joyful and compelling sound in the process is more than a bonus. The night was a triumph and will hopefully be the first of many visits to the ‘Stute.
On the basis of this performance, Calan can look as confidently to the future as they can look fondly upon the past.