Happy 50th Birthday Swansea.

As I drove to meet up with Kevin Johns at Swansea Sound on Friday morning, something struck me.  This was the first time I had been in the car for over a week. I had popped down to do an interview on Wednesday for Oystermouth Radio but apart from that I had not left my house in about 8 days.  The reason was Calon Lân the musical. With rehearsal starting on Monday 3rd I knew this week was going to be intense and it certainly has been.

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Launching Warm Wind – Calon Lan video with Kevin Johns at Swansea Sound

In the old days if you wanted to edit a video, record a song or release any sort of product you would have to be dashing here, or there, rushing to a studio or making trips to the Post Office. Nowadays you can do it all from the one desk, using the one computer.

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The Ground floor of this building housed…THE COMPUTER!

I’ve always been interested in computers.  I decided to take Computer Science as an option for my ‘A Level’.  Maybe one of the attractions was it meant going to the Tech on Mount Pleasant Hill on day release from school, but it was the magic of machines that really caught my imagination.  We are so used to computers these days that maybe we stop seeing them or realise how quickly they have become part of our lives.  We have them controlling our TV sets, and heating systems.  They are the tills in our shops and the managers of our car engines and the mobile phones that many of us carry everywhere with us have more power in these tiny handsets than ever graced an Apollo spaceship.

Back in the late 1970’s the ‘Swansea Tech’ computer was state of the art.  It was also the size of a small family house; it was enormous.  It had its own air filtered, temperature-controlled building on the campus with technicians dedicated to keeping its temperamental mechanical heart beating.  Also, in those days there weren’t off the shelf programmes or ‘apps’ to use, if you wanted the computer to do anything you had to tell it exactly what it had to do, line by line.

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I looked just like this in the late 1970s!

And, you did it one step removed.  You would write a programme, (that would take too long to explain), you then typed out the instructions and these were printed onto cards that had holes punched out of them.  Then you gave your cards to the technician and returned a week later to find out if it had worked.  If it hadn’t worked, you would try again and have to wait another week.

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How technology has changed in my lifetime.  This week I managed to edit a video, record a song, write a script and communicate with hundreds of people all around the world all from the same desk, all done using the same computer.

It’s not just the time and travel that has been saved by this technology, its that fact that most of the programmes I’m using are freely available to everyone and if you don’t know how to use them all you have to do is go online, and ask google or YouTube to show you a tutorial put online, usually again for free, by enthusiasts who love their technology.

Many people in music, television radio or film have expressed their worry that this new technology has destroyed their industries.  It’s called disruptive technology, one that shakes up an old technology or even replaces it. The truth of the matter is you can’t put the genie back in the bottle.  This new world is all out there and you either embrace or you become a dinosaur.

Which brings me back to my incredibly busy week.  About 3 months ago I started working on a project to create a video of people from all over the world coming together to record a song and video to celebrate Swansea’s Golden Jubilee, Swansea at 50.  Most of the people I contacted I knew already. The local ones like The Morriston Orpheus and Singleton Singers I’ve known for years.  Harry’s Youth Theatre Group based at the Grand Theatre are always putting on terrific musical shows which I try to support.

Others I had met through unusual circumstances. There was a church choir from Atlanta in the USA who had sung at the Hyst last summer.  I had met some members of a church in Singapore at a gathering at the Bible School in Derwen Fawr.

Some people I had never met before this project. I was told about a choir from Mizoram in India who sang Calon Lân in Welsh and Mizo by a friend who worked for the Welsh Presbyterian Church. He sent me a link to a Facebook page and an email contact address.

Week after week I’ve been chatting to, prompting, some might say nagging, these new and old friends to learn a song, to then record it and to then video themselves and send the contributions to me over the internet.  As the project grew, I could see that if we could go a little further then we might create something special.  The poor choir in Atlanta thought they had done everything when they sent me their recording a video of themselves in rehearsals, but I knew that when they sang in church, they all wore robes and moved beautifully.  It was only last Saturday that they sent me yet another video to add to the final edit.

Bit by bit, I took the sound that my band, The Jacks, had either recorded at Tim Hamill’s Sonic One studio in Llangennech or sent to Tim from their own home studios and mixed that together with the videos from Swansea and from all around the world.

Tim Hamill looks pleased after mixing 104 separate tracks to create the final stereo version of Warm Wind

Finally, having finished the video, still using the same computer, I uploaded the video to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and sent it back out across the world to who knows where, to be seen by who knows who!

This is my love song to Swansea at 50.  Its been a joy, and pain, to put together and I hope you like it.  Anything is possible these days Don’t be frightened by technology, embrace it and go and create something for yourself.

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