Culture

Opera superstar Bryn Terfel sings praises of top Welsh festival for reaching ‘momentous milestone’

23 Aug 2021 5 minutes Read
Former Royal harpist Hannah Stone visited Pendine Park along with Welsh opera singer Bryn Terfel. She performed for residents and staff at Hillbury. Bryn Terfel joins Hannah for a song

Opera superstar Sir Bryn Terfel has sent his “heartfelt congratulations” to an international music festival that’s celebrating reaching its 50th year.

His wife Hannah Stone, a former royal harpist, also sent her best wishes to the North Wales International Music Festival that’s returning with a hybrid event after being held solely online last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Organisers say the support of the Arts Council of Wales and festival sponsors was crucial in enabling the event to go ahead.

This year five concerts will take place in the festival’s traditional home, St Asaph Cathedral, with the London Tango Quintet featuring Craig Ogden on guitar performing on the opening night, Thursday, September 30.

Catrin Finch performing with kora player Seckou Keita

Other highlights include chamber music group Ensemble Cymru, resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia with American pianist John Frederick Hudson, and harp virtuosa Catrin Finch performing with kora player Seckou Keita on the final night, Monday, October 4.

There will also be the Welsh premiere of a new piano concerto by royal composer Paul Mealor which was jointly commissioned by the festival, along with world premieres of works by acclaimed composers Jon Guy and Brian Hughes.

Brian Hughes is also part of Family Affair, including son Daniel and daughter Miriam, who will also be performing at the festival with tenor Dafydd Jones.

Part two will be a virtual festival starting on November 15, when recordings of the concerts in the cathedral will be available online, along with a series of other performances recorded elsewhere.

‘Adapt’

It was all music to the years of Sir Bryn Terfel and his wife, Hannah, the former official harpist of the Prince of Wales.

Sir Bryn said: “Reaching this momentous milestone is a remarkable achievement for the North Wales International Music Festival and I send my heartfelt congratulations.

“The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in our cultural calendar and a lasting legacy for its visionary founder, the composer William Mathias.

“In these most difficult and fragile times the festival also symbolises our enduring love of classical music and it continues to attract world class performers.

“Like so many other events, the festival has had to adapt to the current situation and went digital for the first time in its history last year and was able to reach out to an even wider audience. Surely this additional ‘string to their bow’ will stand them in good stead.”

His wife, Hannah Stone, has happy memories of performing at the festival.

She said: “The festival has a knowledgeable and appreciative audience and the cathedral has a wonderful acoustic, making it the ideal venue for concerts.

“Over the years the festival has continued to evolve and develop. The artistic director, Ann Atkinson, does a wonderful job in ensuring the music remains relevant whilst staying true to the vision of William Mathias.

“The pandemic has been a nightmare for the performing arts and the festival has continued to provide employment for musicians via their digital concerts.

“Their support will not be forgotten and I wish them well for the next 50 years.”

NEW Sinfonia

‘Magical’

The festival was founded in 1972 by Professor William Mathias, who wrote music for a number of royal occasions, including the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981.

He chose St Asaph Cathedral as the venue for the festival believing it provided the best acoustic setting.

The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, a mezzo soprano, said: “St Asaph Cathedral is the perfect acoustic environment to showcase our highly talented line-up.

“The combination of the stone and the wood creates something really magical.

“I have also performed in the concert hall at Sydney Opera House and, while it has a brilliant acoustic, I must say that St Asaph Cathedral is actually a much better venue acoustically.”

She added: “It will be so wonderful to be back actually in the cathedral with a live audience and we are very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales and festival sponsors for their continued support.

“Last year’s digital festival reached a worldwide audience and part two of this year’s festival will be a series of online concerts in November for the people who’ve been following us from America, from across Europe, and right across the world as far afield as New Zealand – as well as those closer to home.

“This will give us the best of both worlds because, as well as providing the opportunity to enjoy live music in the cathedral once again, we will also be able to reach out to a global audience.

“We are incredibly grateful to Sir Bryn and Hannah for their best wishes, particularly as both have performed at the festival in the past and know what we’re all about.

“All in all, it really is a busy programme this year and we are going to have the pleasure of enjoying some amazing music performed by talented world class musicians.

“There is something for everyone and I’m very excited about this year’s festival.”

Tickets are available online 24/7, from Theatr Clwyd, Mold – 01352 344101 (Monday – Saturday, 10am – 5pm) or Cathedral Frames, St Asaph – 01745 582929 (Wednesday – Friday, 10am – 4.30pm). For more information about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com

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