The Big Experiment
Wales’ own ‘folk school’ – a wonderful way to spend an autumn weekend in a beautiful location, cram-packed with music, dance and song. Over the weekend there’ll be nearly 30 hours of tuition and activities including mixed-instrument groups, songs, clogging, taster workshops, masterclasses, concerts, performances and sessions. It’s a fantastic environment to learn a wealth of new repertoire, improve your technique, experiment with unfamiliar (and unusual) instruments, songs and dance styles, and make new friends at the same time. The Saturday evening twmpath and session and Saturday and Sunday afternoon workshops are open to the public.
We are awaiting the Arts Council of Wales’ decision on funding for the Big Experiment 2017, which is planned for 1-3 September in Carmarthen. More news in July! Meanwhile, this is what was on offer last year.
Welsh-speaking or not, you’re equally welcome. Our resident simultaneous translator, Martin, helps learners and non-Welsh-speakers access all areas.
Your family or group of friends can book your own flat and there are a number of bursary places for young people in full-time education.
Morning course: playing, singing or clogging
Morning classes are a course of four lessons, two on Saturday, two on Sunday.
There are four ensemble classes for instruments at three ability levels, with tutors Stephen Rees, Stacey Blythe, Robert Evans and Sioned Webb.
Singers have their own strand for folk song with respected tradition bearer Linda Griffiths. Evenings and afternoons will include informal singing and workshops if you’d like to learn or practise some Welsh songs.
Dancers can clog with the legendary Huw Williams (intermediate to advanced level) or with another new face at BEAM – Tudur Phillips (foundation level – for absolute beginners or ‘refreshers’ – less confident cloggers who’d like to brush up their steps).
Numbers in each group will be limited to ensure you have the best tuition experience. When you book, please choose one morning course only, though you can swap groups after the first lesson if your first choice wasn’t right for you.
The morning groups are for adults and children from age 11 upwards. There is no special group for primary-age children this year, but there’s a new course just for them in December – Gwerin Iau. More details on that soon.
Afternoons include a range of ‘freestanding’ workshops, designed to ensure you won’t miss out, whatever your morning choice. The timetable includes
• Meet the Crwth, with Robert Evans
• Singing with Arfon Gwilym
• ClogFit! with Tudur Phillips
• Ornamentation & expression with Stephen Rees
• Folk Dances of Lady Llanover
• Clogging for all – have a go!
• Accompanying folk songs
• Canu o’r Galon (Singing from the heart) with Linda Griffiths
• Renew familiar tunes with phrasing
• Storytelling workshops
• Flute and whistle workshop
These are open to the public, and cost only £5 each. There’s more detail about the workshops including times/days in this post https://trac.wales/afternoon-workshops-beam-2016/
On Friday night we settle in with a meal and a session, with tutors and BEAMers sharing tunes and songs. Saturday night’s main attraction is the Twmpath (social dance) plus more sessions and maybe a film. There’ll always be somewhere for songs and for those who want to play at a gentle pace.
Meet the tutors
Linda Griffiths: Welsh Folk Song
We are thrilled to welcome a much-loved singer and new face to BEAM – Linda Griffiths.
Linda’s been a familiar face and voice on the Welsh folk scene for almost 40 years, from the influential harmony group ‘Plethyn’ to more recently as a solo artist. A songwriter too, she’s considered to be one of the most important interpreters of Welsh traditional unaccompanied folk song.
Huw Williams: Clog dance – Advanced/Intermediate
Huw is a master of the art of Welsh clogging. In this group, competent dancers who already know the steps will learn ways of putting them together into combinations and routines while advanced dancers tackle techniques such as syncopation.
Tudur Phillips: Clog dance – Foundation
Welsh clogging for beginners and less confident dancers with another new BEAM tutor, the vivacious clog champion Tudur Phillips. Some clogs will be available to borrow, if you don’t have your own. Dance yourself fit with his afternoon ClocsFfit class too!
Stephen Rees: Instruments – Advanced
Stephen has been involved in the traditional music of Wales since he began accompanying folk dance groups in the Amman Valley in the during the mid-1970s. He was a member of the folk groups Ar Log and Crasdant, and was also one of the founders of Clera and trac. More recently, he has been a member of Siân James’s and Steve Eaves’s bands, and also in a fiddle duo with the Anglesey fiddler Huw Roberts, the fiddler from Angelsey. He has led many workshops over the years, and is looking forward to returning to BEAM this year.
Stephen’s advanced ensemble class will concentrate on developing co-operative skills between individual musicians, concentrating on the ways in which musicians can respond to one another and shift roles in a group context.
Stacey Blythe: Instruments – Intermediate 1
Irrepressible multi-instrumentalist Stacey teaches at RWCMD and plays and sings with the bands Elfen and Ffynnon.
Her class will explore how to put tunes together and create arrangements, using different harmonies, rhythms, and time signatures.
Robert Evans: Instruments – Intermediate 2
Bob is well known for playing Welsh dance tunes and also Welsh music in less well-known styles. In this group he will present a variety of tunes.
His gentle and meticulous style of both playing and teaching gained him many fans when he was last a tutor at BEAM. A good group for ‘lower intermediate’ players.
Sioned Webb: Instruments – Foundation
Versatile musician and experienced tutor, Sioned is also a composer, performer, and a founder of the Glerorfa.
This group is for less confident players, maybe playing their second instrument or new to playing by ear or new to the Welsh repertoire.
The venue: the Halliwell Conference Centre, Carmarthen
The Big Experiment moves south this year, to the new conference centre at Trinity St David’s university campus.
Accommodation is in single or (a few) twin en-suite study bedrooms at £130 per person (£110 Early Bird). If you’re in full-time education, there are a limited number of bursary places for only £60.
Prices include your tuition, all your meals and your accommodation.
Rooms and bursaries are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis so book early for the best choice and the best deal: discount
‘Early Bird’ prices end on 20 August.
The accommodation is arranged in flats of 9 bedrooms plus a kitchen. Families or groups of friends are welcome to book their own flat together.
The accommodation is simple and if you’d like a little more luxury, there are B&Bs, guest houses and hotels nearby.
Campervans are welcome on site.
If you’re local or don’t need a room, it costs just £90 (£80 Early Bird) for a non-resident place, which includes meals.