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Royal harpist will be centre stage at national festival

07 Mar 2024 5 minute read
Alis Huws

Royal Harpist Alis Huws who performed at the King’s Coronation will be a star attraction at a music festival in north Wales.

Alis, from  the Banw Valley, near Welshpool, in Powys, will perform at the Wales Harp Festival that’s being staged at Galeri in Caernarfon on March 26 and 27.

As part of the Coronation Orchestra specially formed for the occasion, she had an unrivalled bird’s eye view from her seat in the organ loft of Westminster Abbey.

This summer she will end her five-year tenure as Royal Harpist, coming away with a wealth of once-in-a-lifetime memories.

According to Alis she can’t wait to play at the Wales Harp Festival again.

She said: I’m really looking forward to performing at this year’s festival, especially as I’ve attended before as an audience member and competitor.

“I’m also looking forward to being a festival course tutor for the first time and meeting the next generation of young harpists.

“Growing up, opportunities like these proved so valuable, and I found great inspiration from learning from professional harpists of all disciplines, so I would encourage any young harpist to join us on March 27

Bangor University

The festival was established in the late 1970s by Elinor Bennett, initially held at Bangor University as a residential course. It evolved to offer lessons, workshops, competitions, and concerts, becoming firmly established in the world music calendar.

It has been organised by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (CGWM) since 1999 and expands into a larger International Harp Festival every four years.

Alis, 28, who now lives in London, will perform in the festival concert which will also spotlight top jazz harpist and composer Amanda Whiting, and virtuoso Colombian harpist Diego Laverde Rojas.

Amanda teaches Jazz harp at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Cardiff and the Royal Birmingham Conservatory and was a nominee in the Instrumentalist of the Year category at the 2021 Jazz FM awards.  Her new solo album, The Liminality of Her,  will be released this month.

Diego was born in Bogotá, Colombia, but has lived in London for 20 years promoting the traditional music of the Colombian-Venezuelan plains. He delivers workshops all over the UK and Europe and performs as a soloist and as a member of various ensembles.

Alis added: “I’m excited to be joining the brilliant Amanda Whiting and Diego Laverde Rojas in the evening concert, where I will share some of my favourite works, alongside Amanda and Diego’s contrasting musical styles.”

Another tutor who will be passing on her expertise on the Festival one day course will be Festival Organiser Catrin Morris Jones who studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and the Royal Academy of Music, London.

Catrin said the festival is an important event for any up and coming harpist, as it offers the chance to learn from the best in the harp world.

She said: “Like Alis, I also remember attending the festival when I was a student. I learned so much during those masterclasses. I’d encourage any harpist of whatever level to take up this great opportunity. Come to the festival and enjoy all that it offers.”

Other tutors will be Tudur Eames, Creative Director at Gwynedd and Môn Schools Music Service, and Amanda Whiting will lead a jazz harp workshop.

Festival courses

Beginners or more advanced harpists can reserve their place on the Festival one day course via the Festival website  and tickets for the Festival concert can be booked through Galeri Caernarfon’s website

The first day of the festival, Tuesday, March 26, features a recital and lecture by leading harpist Elinor Bennett, the former festival director who has played with all major UK orchestras.

She founded the Harp College of Wales and was a driving force behind the establishment of Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias.  Her lecture will be about 18th century Welsh composer and harpist Edward Jones who was commonly known as “Bardd y Brenin” – The King’s Bard).

Born in Llandderfel, in 1752 he became harpist to the Prince of Wales, a role similar to that taken by Alis today.

Brenhines y Delyn

This year the festival will also act as host to the Nansi Richards Trust Scholarship competition, in which the Trust awards a £1,500 scholarship in memory of the iconic late harpist, known as Brenhines y Delyn (Queen of the Welsh Harp). The competition is open to harpists under 25 who were born or live in Wales.

Catrin herself is a former winner. She said: “It was such a boost to me to win this when I was in my first year as a student. The financial prize was a huge help as a young student starting out on my own, but the experience of having entered and won was a massive boost to my confidence.

“We’re extremely proud to be hosting the competition once again this year.”

Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias director Meinir Llwyd Roberts said: “We look forward to welcoming harpists from near and far to take part in the festival course and encourage those wishing to hear harp music of the highest quality to book their tickets for the festival’s public events.

“Once again this year all course participants will come together in a special ‘Harps Galore’ event at 5pm on March 27 when harps will fill Galeri’s balconies for a short free performance.”

For tickets and full details of the festival programme go to:

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