Caught by the River

A Festival No.6 Primer – The Kane Players

21st August 2012

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be running stories about some of the people who’ll be joining us at the inaugural Festival No.6 in Portmeirion next month (September 14th – 16th). Much like at Port Eliot, we’ll be staging three days of talks, readings, live music and good beer. We’re running the stage with our friends from the Faber Social – a perpetually inspirational, once-a-month literary salon that takes place in the Social on Little Portland Street. The full Festival No.6 line up is online here – make sure to check the Brynthoniad Male Voice Choir performing an incredible version of ‘Blue Monday’ on the site too.

The Vernal River – Bernard Kane, Jr from charlie davies on Vimeo.

The Kane Players by Robin

Although I didn’t think I knew Bernard Kane, turns out I was well aware of what he did. A viola player who forms part of the Vulcan String Quartet, he’s recorded and toured with Manic Street Preachers since 2006. As we were piecing together the line up for Festival No.6, Manics frontman James Dean Bradfield recommended that we speak to Bernard about a project he was working on. From the first conversation, it was pretty clear that Bernard had composed a musical version of our own Words on Water book – a cycle of tone-poems based around British – specifically Welsh – rivers. Some of the places he was soundtracking I knew very well (one of them, Dunraven Bay is not only right at the bottom of the road my Dad lives on but it’s also unavoidable on the telly these days as perpetual location for Dr Who shoots). Realising that our area at the festival sits right on the estuary of the impossibly beautiful River Dwyryd, it was clearly too brilliant an idea not to put on the stage. Very, very excited about this one.

Below, Bernard explains the stories behind the pieces he and the Kane Players will be performing from his Rivers of Wales cycle at Festival No.6.

1. Dunraven Bay. Written for my brother’s wedding, this work was inspired by the cliffs and sea of Dunraven Bay, Southerndown, South Wales.

2. Sargasso. This piece was written whilst I was living in Bermuda and homesick for Wales. The work was conceived on Elbow Beach, Bermuda. Bermuda lies in what Columbus called the ‘Devil’s Triangle’ and the islands themselves have seen over 300 hundred shipwrecks since the Islands’ discovery by the wreck of the Ventura in 1609. I was overlooking the Sargasso Sea when the idea came to me: shipwrecks, storms, lost souls, waves. The work is a seascape of that mysterious part of the world.

3. Bardsey Sound. Near Aberdaron on the Llyn Peninsular, North Wales, lies Bardsey Island – a place of pilgrimage for centuries. In order to get to the island, pilgrims had to cross Bardsey Sound – some of the most treacherous waters in the whole of the British Isles – many would never make the journey, but the ones that did, believed that it was the link to the next world. I wrote this work in two days in St Ives, Cornwall. My inspiration came from the Poem ‘The Other’, by R. S. Thomas. I also took inspiration from ‘And Death Shall Have No Dominion’ by Dylan Thomas – particularly the first stanza:

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

4. Vernal River. The nucleus behind Vernal River occurred to me whilst I was cycling the Taff Trail – a trail that follows the river Taff from its source in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales to the sea. What has always inspired me about this river – and indeed rivers in general – is the eternalness of its flow; their journey is continuous until they reach the sea. The main melody struck me whilst viewing the river in dead calm and as I wrote the work, I imagined the river’s journey in sound on the Spring Equinox, the Vernal Equinox – when the death of winter is about to burst into vibrant spring, as it does so dramatically in South Wales. The result is this work.

Click here to hear Vernal River