Monday, 26 January 2015

A year in the life of Bella Hardy

Bella Hardy’s seventh solo album With The Dawn is an account of one year of her life.

Where previously Bella has adapted and explored traditional ballads and fables to tell her contemporary folk tales, the stories that inspired these songs are her own experiences: good and bad, happy or sad.

With The Dawn is a more intimate and reflective album than before. Working with producer Ben Seal, the arrangements are more instinctive, more reactive, as befits the mind-set that informed the lyrics. Brass gives way to lonesome piano; choral voices peal; banjos emerge out of beats and blips. Elements of the initial demos, sometimes recorded into a phone as the thoughts occurred, have been kept. Whatever instrument was nearest to hand was grabbed and deployed whenever and wherever (even on one occasion in the bath) giving With The Dawn its striking immediacy.

These are songs written on the road, full of that sense of displacement, longing and contemplation that all itinerant musicians know. This was a time for a turning-30 Bella where nothing was stable. Documenting that flux as an album was a way to make sense of it all. On With The Dawn, Bella’s soaring kite-like voice is married to lyrics that poetically question everything she’s seen and done up till now; letting go of expectations, both other people’s and her own. But with closing lullaby And We Begin there’s a light at the end... or rather the beginning.

Only one song didn’t spring directly from Bella’s year of touring and tumult. Jolly Good Luck To The Girl That Loves A Soldier was commissioned by Songs For The Voiceless, a project which gathered the country’s best folk artists to sing some of the lesser known stories of World War I. The resulting album was one of many bold paths Bella Hardy’s career has taken in recent years. From collaborating with Martin Simpson, John Smith and others on the hugely acclaimed Elizabethan Sessions, to a joint tour with Edinburgh miserablist Blue Rose Code, and an international songwriter exchange with Canada’s Cara Luft who also guests on this album.

Bella grew up in Edale in the Peak District but now lives in Edinburgh. Although the Hardy family sang in the local choir, it was a combination of her childhood love for ballad books and visits to local folk festivals that decided her future. At 13 she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals and in 2004 reached the final of the BBC Young Folk Award, having taught herself to fiddle sing. Following a BA in English Literature and a Masters degree in Music, Bella released her debut album Night Visiting in 2007. One of its songs, Three Black Feathers was nominated for a BBC Folk Award. It was her first original composition.

Since then Bella has continued to record and perform at a tremendous rate; singing solo in a sold-out Albert Hall at the Proms, composing the music for a radio documentary on the Post Office, writing with former Beautiful South founder David Rotheray, and forming an all-female fiddle group with folk royalty Eliza Cathy. 

With The Dawn Tour – Spring 2015


21 Keswick Theatre by the Lake
23 Newbury New Greenham Arts Centre
24 Birmingham The Mac
25 Kendal Brewery Arts Centre
26 Buxton Buxton Opera House
30 Bury The Met


1 Edinburgh Queens Hall
2 County Durham Witham Hall
3 Sheffield Greystones
5 Hull Fruit
6 Exeter Exeter Phoenix
7 Swansea The Welfare
8 Worcester Huntingdon Hall
9 Bristol Colston Hall
12 London The Borderline
13 Peterborough Key Theatre
14 Guildford  The Boiler Room
16 Southport The Atkinson
19 Cornwall Tolman Centre
20 Tewkesbury Roses Theatre
21 Totnes South Devon Arts Centre
22 Exmouth Exmouth Festival
23 Annan Annan Arts Centre 

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

A celebration of Welsh and English folk

New folk project Beyond The Marches / Dros y Ffin will explore and celebrate the shared history and culture of two nations, England and Wales.

In a unique artistic residential collaboration, a group of young musicians will dig into the countries’ national archives to unearth traditional songs and tunes that have transcended the border and create new material during a short residential at Tลท Newydd, the National Writing Centre of Wales and former home of David Lloyd George. 

The group - Elan Rhys, Patrick Rimes, Georgia Ruth Williams, Archie Churchill-Moss,  James Findlay, and Lucy Ward - will develop a new show using the material, songs and information that marks the similarities and embraces the differences of the material uncovered on their journey. 

 The Beyond the Marches artists are (top row from left) Georgia Ruth Williams, James Findlay, Elan Rhys, (bottom row from left) Lucy Ward, Patrick Rimes and Archie Churchill-Moss
Beyond The Marches / Dros y Ffin will then be performed at three high profile concerts at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff and Cecil Sharp House, the home of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, in London in May 2015. 

Reflecting a heritage of cultural and musical differences which has transcended borders, weaved together in their own inimitable styles, this alliance will be a rare opportunity to savour a new piece of musical history. 

The concerts

Saturday 2 May, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth, 8pm 

Sunday 3 May, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff, 7:30pm 

Monday 4 May, Cecil Sharp House, London, 7:30pm 

  • Beyond The Marches / Dros y Ffin is a joint commission by trac Cymru and the English Folk Dance and Song Society. It is supported by the PRS for Music Foundation Beyond Borders programme,