Launch of new SOW Acapella album
Despite my best efforts I could barely choke back the tears at the launch of the new SOW (Sound of Wales) Acapella album in the Gate Arts Centre Cardiff on Thursday 31 October.
I know I can be lachrymose at times, ask any middle aged man, but I was overwhelmed at the beautiful and powerful harmonies coming from this female trio. It may have been a wet and dreary night in Wales' capital but the concert atmosphere was red hot.
SOW Acapella is an offshoot of the SOW band and features Hannah Barnes, Jessica Morgan and Cath Woolridge. SOW is a collaboration of musicians using their gifts to declare the good news of the gospel through music. In addition to albums and concerts, SOW also has a change of community based training programmes.
Speaking of the band's vision, Cath Woolridge said: "We want to take all kinds of genres of music and to uniquely create new, dynamic arrangements using the simplicity yet dynamism of vocal harmony.
"We honestly believe as gospel centred people, that the Holy Spirit moves in the song of the land of Wales, and SOW Acapella is just another vehicle in seeing the phenomenal message of freedom, salvation and restoration flow out through sound and song. It's about the Holy Spirit inhabiting the voice of Wales."
The Holy Spirit was clearly moving on the 300 crowd that gathered to hear the songs being sung by this dynamic trio. Bread of Heaven was given a new twist and their signature tune Llef (The cry) was sufficiently intense to raise the dead. But alongside classic hymns there were folk songs like Myfanwy, Dacw ngahriad i lawr yn y berllan (that's my lover down in the orchard) as well as contemporary mash ups of Tom Jones songs.
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After a stirringly patriotic first half, the remainder of the evening was given over to gospel music, including a cover version of Sister Act II's Joyful, joyful.
Joining the band members on stage were a variety of guest artists. Some of these were local friends but there were a couple of singers with a national and international reputation. During the first half of the concert we were serenaded by Welsh National Opera tenor Luther Vaughan, singing Nella Fantasia from The Mission. Later in the second half BBC TV's The Voice finalist, Ash Morgan, raised the roof with a solo performance and then joined the band in a foot stomping gospel number.
Speaking of the importance of song in Welsh culture, Cath said: "Song is sung in all capacities from all corners and nooks of the nation from times of old to the present day. From Eisteddfods, to the passion of belly singing in rugby matches, to male voice choirs, to Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Katherine Jenkins, Bryn Terfel and so many more. Song is always sung and music is in our veins! So much of our identity is rooted here, and we believe that song is one of the vehicles God uses to bring his glory here in this nation.
"For a long time we have believed that there is something of the spirit in the song of Wales and we want to unlock this spiritual inheritance and see God move in a new and profound way in this nation and the nations around the world."
What I experienced that night was the power of beautiful and unashamed praise. Enough to make a grown man cry.