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Last Updated: Friday, 2 November 2007, 18:35 GMT
Jailhouse rock for Cerys Matthews
Cerys Matthews
Cerys Matthews says she would welcome a return to the jail
Inmates at Cardiff Prison have been treated to a rare lunchtime concert by former Catatonia singer Cerys Matthews.

Matthews, 38, who has returned to Wales from the US after her divorce, played a selection of her own hits and cover versions for about 80 prisoners.

The impromptu concert was arranged by chaplain Mark John, and was followed by questions and answers and autographs.

He had been trying to book her for a Christmas concert and was "gobsmacked" when she agreed to this instead.

Last month she revealed she planned to settle with her young son and daughter in her native west Wales after splitting from her former American music producer husband Seth Riddle.

I was sitting in the chapel eating my lunch and watching her sound-checking earlier in the day and I thought to myself, 'If Carlsberg made lunch breaks...'
The Reverend Mark John

Catatonia had a series of hits from the late 1990s, including Mulder and Scully and Road Rage, before splitting in 2001, when Matthews went solo.

As well as her own songs, she performed Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender and other hits to the prisoners for 40 minutes in the Chapel of St Leonard on F wing. She was then presented with a drawing by a prisoner.

Mr John organised the unusual gig at short notice after he was told Matthews would not be able to perform at the Christmas concert but could make last Wednesday instead.

Cardiff jail
Prisoners also took part in an Q & A session with the singer

"Nobody was more gobsmacked than me," admitted the chaplain, who described himself as a "huge fan".

"But if you don't ask you don't get."

The show was for unconvicted prisoners who do not work, and he added: "Her voice just hits me on an emotional level and I have always loved her music.

"I was sitting in the chapel eating my lunch and watching her sound-checking earlier in the day and I thought to myself, 'If Carlsberg made lunch breaks..."

'Not forgotten'

Mr John said the prison service was about rehabilitation and getting people ready to return to society.

"People like Cerys show the inmates they are not forgotten."

The prisoners did not know the concert was happening until five minutes beforehand, and she told them: "I have come here because I want to come here."

After five years in Nashville, Matthews recently released a mini-album entirely in Welsh called Awyren (Aeroplane) and has rescheduled a tour of Wales for February.

After her jail concert she said she would welcome the chance to go back and play some of the songs of American legend Johnny Cash, who made a famous appearance at San Quentin Prison in California in 1969.

"I'm hoping they will ask me back again and maybe next time I can play some Johnny Cash for them," she said.

"I think they would like that."



SEE ALSO
Divorced Cerys returns to Wales
15 Oct 07 |  South West Wales
Cardiff jail starts radio station
19 Dec 06 |  South East Wales
Cerys makes festival return
17 Jul 04 |  Wales

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