‘Under the Spotlight’ with Cerdd Ystwyth

Tell us about how and when Cerdd Ystwyth was established? 

The shop was founded by former piano teacher Libbie Lawrence in 1983.  I started working for her in 1985 and took over the business on her retirement in 2013.

How central is Welsh heritage to your business? 

We’re a specialist retailer for all areas of Welsh printed music & recordings, which we combine with a large quantity of general stock.  The name of the shop is bilingual – Cerdd Ystwyth & Ystwyth Music mean the same thing.  75% of our current staff are first-language Welsh speakers.  Our location in a very beautiful seaside University town is wonderful – we’re in the town centre, but less than 50 yards from the beach.  

What would you describe as your unique selling point? 

We pride ourselves on nearly 40 years of experience in the trade – obviously we have huge expertise with Welsh music, but customers frequently comment on how much we help them in all areas. We’re very committed to the High Street, to having an environment with physical goods where customers can browse properly and compare their options for editions, exam lists etc.

What is the balance between in-store and online customers? 

The usual balance is about 70% instore, 20% online & 10% phone / written orders, but since we’re JUST completing our new website, we hope that will swing things more in the online direction.

 Tell us about the range of products you offer, and which are proving the most popular 

We sell a large selection of printed music – the most popular probably being the Welsh solos / choral pieces / collections, but also at this time of year all the beginner instrumental tutors: our county music service in Ceredigion is excellent, and it’s a delight to be able to mutually support them. Only the very cheapest options are moving well instrumentally – can’t get over how many £25 ukes we sell! – but accessories are constantly selling. CD sales currently very low, but they usually pick up towards Christmas – since we do classical & Welsh, downloading is less of a thing in these repertoires. 

Have you served any famous customers?  Are you able to tell us a little about them? 

Two of our former Saturday staff (who worked for us on days off from school in their teens) have gone on to be big in Welsh music (and further afield!):  composer / singer / instrumentalist Meilyr Jones, and singer-songwriter/ harpist / radio presenter Georgia Ruth [Williams], who presents a weekly show on BBC Radio Cymru.

Over the years we’ve sold Meic Stevens guitar strings,  and Phil Jupitus a Stereophonics book.

Most recently we took part on the new More4 documentary series “Tony Robinson’s Museum of Us”, – the series starts on 17th October, the Aberystwyth episode we’re in airs on 31st Oct, on More4, 9pm (hmm, Halloween….)  – Sir Tony was delightful.

 What is your favourite music to listen to, and do you play or sing yourself?

 I’m a classical, opera and music theatre listener and performer myself; I direct, stage manage and sing for several different amateur groups. I have a particular passion for 20th century music, but I’m an eclectic listener!

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