Folk singing star lights up international music festival
One of Wales’ leading exponents of traditional folk singing will feature in a special concert filmed exclusively for a top music festival.
Gwenan Gibbard took her harp to the Sain Studios near Caernarfon to record the concert which will form a key part of this year’s North Wales International Music Festival in St Asaph.
The event is being held in a hybrid format for the very first time and resumes virtually in mid-November.
Gwenan is well known in the Welsh folk music scene as a harpist and singer, performer, composer, and adjudicator and accompanist at a national level.
She is also a prominent figure in Cymdeithas Cerdd Dant Cymru, which promotes a traditional form of Welsh singing with two counterpointed melodies, and several years ago formed a new choir, Côr yr Heli, who specialise in cerdd dant and folk singing.
Organisers say the support of the Arts Council of Wales and festival sponsors was crucial in enabling the hybrid event to go ahead.
The headline sponsors are the arts loving care organisation Pendine Park via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust which supports arts and community-based activities across Wales.
This year six concerts took place in the festival’s traditional home, St Asaph Cathedral, while others were recorded elsewhere.
All the concerts were filmed and will be available to view online from Monday, November 15.
Other highlights include chamber music group Ensemble Cymru, resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia with American pianist John Frederick Hudson, London Tango Quintet and harp virtuosa Catrin Finch performing with kora player Seckou Keita.
There is also the Welsh premiere of a new piano concerto by royal composer Paul Mealor which was jointly commissioned by the festival. Professor Mealor also wrote the music for the ‘Wonders of the Celtic Deep’ series currently showing on BBC One Wales. The music for the series is performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, who have also recorded a virtual concert especially for the festival.
Pianist Iwan Llewelyn Jones has recorded a concert as well as the St Asaph Cathedral Choir and the UK Gospel Choir.
Born and raised in Pwllheli, Gwenan Gibbard has travelled extensively performing on her own and as part of music projects and has published three solo albums with Sain since 2006.
Gwenan said she has gathered together a collection of rarely-heard folk songs for the concert which has been titled “Wealth and Archives”.
“I found many of them when I carried out research into the contributions of Dr Meredydd Evans and Phyllis Kinney to Welsh folk music. It was interesting to come across the new material and I’m pleased to be able to sing them again, possibly to a whole new audience,” she said.
The discoveries were made after Gwenan was awarded a Doctoral Scholarship by the National Library of Wales. It was a collaboration between the Welsh Music Archive at the National Library of Wales, the School of Music and Media, Bangor University and the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, and focused on specific aspects of collecting folk melodies in the second half of the 20th and 21st centuries in Wales.
Gwenan will sing the folk songs to her own harp accompaniment although some of the songs will be sung unaccompanied.
It will be the first time Gwenan has taken part in the North Wales International Music Festival although she has attended concerts at St Asaph during the event in the past.
Gwenan said despite the pandemic it has been a busy time for her. She is a member of Pedair, a sort of super group of folk singers featuring Gwenan, Siân James, Meinir Gwilym and Gwyneth Glyn. They have made new recordings and taken part in numerous performances online.
She has also presented a radio programme called Ambell i Gân for BBC Radio Cymru. It features folk songs from the archive as well as from abroad in addition to modern folk music.
The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, was excited at the prospect of hearing some rarely-heard folk songs.
She said: “The research that Gwenan has done in the field of folk music sounds very interesting and I’m pleased she’s able to revive some songs that may not have been heard for many years.
“She is one of the leading performers of folk and cerdd dant singing in Wales and her concert is one not to be missed.”
For more information about the resumption of the North Wales International Music Festival online from November 15 please visit www.nwimf.com
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