“A touch of Celtic magic… Hauntingly beautiful” (The Western Mail)
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (REVISITED)… A struggling musician boards a train and finds a man sat in her seat. The man turns out to be none other than Glastonbury Festival organiser Michael Eavis. What happens next is a story that not even Alfred Hitchcock could have dreamt up….
A Welsh harpist who wowed at Glastonbury Festival after she met boss Michael Eavis by chance on a train will release her stunning debut album on June 21st 2021.
‘Ffiniau’ by Bethan Nia is already being hailed as a modern folk classic – the album that will turn the Pontypridd mum into a world music star.
But, as a struggling relative unknown, how on earth did she get to play the coveted Avalon Stage at Glastonbury – not just playing her own show, but also guesting live onstage with The Levellers in a barnstorming set that has gone down in Glasto folklore?
“Michael Eavis was sitting in my seat on a train,” she grins. “He moved as soon as he realised, sat opposite me and we got talking. To be honest, it’s hard not to recognise him! After he discovered I played the harp for a living, he asked me to play at the opening of his village hall, which he had given money to for its renovations, which led to a gig on the Avalon Stage at Glastonbury Festival. I couldn’t believe my luck, that such a giant gig had fallen into my lap.”
Bethan entranced the crowds with songs and tunes that would later appear on forthcoming debut album ‘Ffiniau’… And they’d already received a seal of approval from The Levellers’ singer & guitarist Mark Chadwick.
“I was in a yurt at the performers’ area at Glastonbury when I had to move because Katie Melua needed the space,” Bethan recalls. “I found another tent, and I was tuning up my harp when Mark Chadwick walked in. He seemed really interested, so I played him a Welsh song and he said, ‘Wow, that was amazing!’
“I asked him if he’d like a go and taught him a Welsh folk tune. I had trouble getting my harp back from him!”
“That’s when he asked me to join The Levellers on stage that night. It was sensational. What an incredible experience!
“This was the same year I won the Danny Kyle Award at Celtic Connections, and that, together with playing at Glastonbury, was where it all began really. I then started a family and things went quiet for several years, until I met Charlie and got excited about music again”.
Bethan’s bilingual album ‘Ffiniau’ (it’s Welsh for ‘Borders’) is produced by REM’s studio whiz Charlie Francis and explores the boundaries that exist between people, languages and worlds. The songs are deeply rooted in the Welsh tradition, but with subtle beats and atmospheric strings underpinning Bethan’s sparkly harp and vocals.
The tracks on the album represent almost ten years of Bethan’s writing and are already attracting rave reviews.
“She delivers a superb mixture of the traditional and contemporary,” says BBC Radio’s Frank Hennessy, the undisputed godfather of Welsh folk music. “Her harp playing perfectly matching a gorgeous voice.”
Bethan, who has also captivated thousands at France’s huge Lorient Interceltique Festival, is a little more modest.
“This album has been a labour of love for several years and I’m just pleased it’s finally come to fruition,” she says. “The musicians who I have supporting me are the cream of Welsh folk musicians, and I’m so happy to have them play on the album.
“The world needs music right now. I hope that ‘Ffiniau’ will relax, soothe and enchant listeners and be the perfect accompaniment to that day on a summer beach that we all hope and pray is coming.”
Bethan Nia’s debut album ‘Ffiniau’ will be released on Bethan’s own Pili-Pala label on June 21st 2021.
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