Apr 19, 2011

Swansea Woman - An Interview With Lyn Mackay

Lyn Mackay has been playing piano and entertaining people since she took over from the music teacher at her primary school in Swansea as the pianist for morning assemblies aged 10-because she was a better pianist than the music teacher! She has co-hosted a live radio show where she sang and played 'live' the requests that were phoned in by listeners. She has written 2 musicals - 'Swansea Girls' which sold out on it's 1st run at the Grand Theatre, Swansea and was brought back for a longer run 7 months later......and the latest ...... 'Swansea Women' which staged at the Grand Theatre, Swansea, September 2010 with tremendous success. AmeriCymru spoke to Lyn about her music and her future plans:-

Lyn Mackay
AmeriCymru: Hi Lyn and many thanks for agreeing to talk to AmeriCymru. You are an accomplished musical performer and composer. Would you tell us something about your music background? Where did you study music?

Lyn: I started taking private classical piano lessons at the age of 7, after showing great interest in my auntie's old upright piano. I had a fantastic old teacher called Miss March and she took me through to Grade 8 in both music theory and practial. I went to a very music-focussed grammar school where I then learned choral singing and how to write harmonies etc. I became a professional singer after leaving school at 18 and travelled the world singing and playing piano, being MD and accompanist, writing and arranging. When I did my teaching degree years later, I decided not to do music as I felt I'd already done enough, so I instead opted to do a degree in Literature Media Studies-both of which I also love.

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little about the musical "Swansea Girls"? What factors, experiences, etc. inspired you to create this show?

Lyn: I was working with the Welsh actress Menna Trussler who more or less told me to go and write something that we could do together...well I tried to think of something that we had in common...and I thought 'well, we're both Swansea girls....hey....GREAT name for a show!' and off I went like a rocket!! The entire show was written in less than a week-plus 13 new songs-I already had 12 frrom my back catalogue that I knew I wanted to use in the show. A lot of the script was auto-biographical and observational through my experiences of things I'd seen and done. I was thrilled to bits when it opened to a packed house in Swansea Grand Theatre. One of the proudest moments of my life was when the theatre manager called me to say 'we'd better out another performwnce on-we've sold out!'

AmeriCymru: What inspired the show 'Botox Boogie'?

Lyn: The SONG Botox Boogie came about after i got wolf-whistled at by some builders one day-it made me laugh...and I thought....'maybe youe DON'T have to be perfect to be attractive!' It gave me such a lift-and a laugh. Especially because, at the time, the press/tv was full of the size zero phenomenon and how anorexic models were being used by designers. Plus there was much discussion about botox and teeth veneers and hair extensions and boob jobs! So I wrote the song as a kind of protest-song.

A selection of videos from Lyn Mackay's YouTube Channel

A Single Drop of Rain

My Baby Just Cares For Me

The Botox Boogie

AmeriCymru: Care to tell us a little more about your latest show 'Swansea Women'?

Lyn: In 'Swansea Girls', we meet 'Dolores' who's in her 80's. We find that she ran away from Swansea during WW2 but we don't discover why. In 'Swansea Women' we go back to WW2 and meet her, her family and neighbours as they struggle to deal with the horror of war. We also find out why she ran away.

AmeriCymru: Are there any types of music that you haven't explored that you would like to pursue?

Lyn: Hmmm....I don't think so really. Being classically-trained with 'cello as a second instrument I have a good knowledge and undertanding of that genre and as someone used to playing 6 hours a night, 6 nights a week in the big piano-bars I worked in, I was asked to play and sing every single style you care to think about-and some you probably HAVEN'T thought about lol! I have a very eclectic musical taste-for which I am very grateful. Good music is good music-whether it's pop, a Welsh hymn or jazz or Beethoven.As a composer though, I would love to write for tv or compose a film score.

AmeriCymru: You also run a musical academy in Swansea- 'The Lyn Mackay Academy Of Music Performance LTD'. Can you to tell us a little about the Academy and your students?

Lyn: Yes, I started the Academy to offer specialist one-to-one vocal lessons to students, catered to THEIR needs. I cover all aspects of performance and also offer help with confidence and self-esteem issues. It has been quite successful and my students are now regularly winning university places and gaining success in competitions and auditions, about which I am very proud.

AmeriCymru: You have just released a new single 'Empty Arms Empty Hearts'. Is there a new album in the works? Where can readers hear/buy the single?

Lyn: Yes, the album is called 'A FUNNY TIME OF LIFE' and is being launched in Swansea next tuesday. It should then be available for download within a month. It's a mix of 11 original songs from the 70's to the present and hopefully shows a good range of my writing, with something to appeal to everyone-from rock'n'roll to jazz, ballads and theatre, The single is a track from the album. I was commissioned to write it for SNUK-Surrogacy Network UK to help raise awareness of how desperately some people are to become parents-hence the title 'EMPTY ARMS EMPTY HEARTS'. It is now avalable for download from itunes, amazon and other online mp3 download sites-just google it.

AmeriCymru: You have been vocal in your support for the campaign to save the Dylan Thomas Center in Swansea. Can you explain for our readers the importance of this resource?

Lyn: Oh dear-where to start? Well like I said, I have a love of words and I particularly like Dylan Thomas' work. The Dylan Thomas Centre is world-renowned as a centre of excellence and people come from all over to visit it, using the amazing knowledge of the staff there to follow the life he led in Swansea and see places mentioned in his works. Inside the centre WAS the lovely bookshop café run by Jeff Towns. It is such a lovely place and such a resource for the people of the city and further afield. The revenue that this generates for the city annually, is in excess of 3 million pounds. We annot to afford to lose that, let alone a wonderful venue like the centre. I know that schools and colleges will really miss it as an educational resource as well. It is staggering to me that the council are even contemplating closing it. They have made some DREADFUL decisions in the past and are about to make another. They should be ashamed of themselves.

AmeriCymru: What's next for Lyn Mackay?

Lyn: Gosh...who knows? I have some very exciting projects coming up in the next few months. I also have to write the next musical in my quadrology-SWANSEA JACKS, which takes us from the late 50's into thearly 70's. I would like to do another album and am hoping to film the pilot for a tv show with Welsh entertainer and my good friend, Mike Doyle.

AmeriCymru: Looking forward to meeting up at the West Coast Eisteddfod:) Any final message for the members and readers of AmeriCymru?

Lyn: Well I have loved Americymru since I first joined it-seems like years ago now! I genuinely feel like I have already made some good friends through this network and am really hoping to meet some of you in person in LA this September! See you there!

Interview by Ceri Shaw Email  Margaret Lloyd Beckham

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