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Calan On Mountain Stage

Brian Blauser
Mountain Stage

Capturing the vibrant spirit of traditional Celtic folk music, the young Welsh quintet Calan is already a staple on the festival circuit across the pond. Calan remains the only Welsh band to have won the "International Folk Band Award" at the Inter Celtic Festival and was named "Best Group" at Festival Interceltique de Lorient.

Accolades aside, the group's mission is two-fold: to spread the word of traditional Welsh music and to keep it contemporary. Singing in both Welsh and English (often in the same song), the melodies evoke mid-century folk songs while the rhythms and textures (some electronic) propel the music comfortably into the 21st Century.

Calan opened with the title track of its current release, "Solomon," featuring Bethan Rhiannon's lithe voice accented by penny-whistle, courtesy of multi-instrumentalist Patrick Rimes. Aside from its musicianship, the band's strong suit is creating a gorgeous, rich sound, thick and textured, by stacking accordion and bagpipes over Sam Humphrey's driving rhythm guitar.

The instrumental "Ryan Jigs" features Alice French on Celtic harp, melding a medieval sound with twin fiddles, by Rimes and Angharad Jenkins, establishing the intricate melody. You'll hear a variety of instruments as the members seamlessly switch between accordion, fiddle, pipes and the pibgorn, a traditional Welsh reed instrument.

"Kan," a song that sets the band apart, draws inspiration from an ancient form of Welsh chanting, adding lyrics taken from a poem by Nigel Jenkins, fiddler Angharad Jenkins' father. The result moves between madrigal-styled chanting with Angharad's rapid-fire lyrics and spoken word. It's a heady musical stew that brings together old and new - just the way we like it.

The group closed with "The Dancing Stag," a funky, fiddle and accordion-based jig that leaves no doubt as to the bloodline of traditional Appalachian music, and featured some nimble step dancing by Rhiannon (one of the bonuses of attending a live Mountain Stage.)

Set list:

  • Synnwyr Solomon
  • Ryan Jigs
  • Kan
  • The Dancing Stag
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    Michael Lipton