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Talented youngsters take centre stage for big festival launch

19 May 2023 5 minute read
Artistic director Ann Atkinson (L) and harpist Morwen Blythin

Talented youngsters from across the north of Wales will take centre stage at the launch concert for an international music festival.

Soloists will join two choirs and ensembles for the enchanting concert at St Asaph Cathedral at 7pm on Thursday, June 22.

It will be a curtain raiser for the North Wales International Music Festival that’s taking place from September 15 – 30, 2023.

Artistic director Ann Atkinson said it had been a conscious decision to focus on youth at this year’s launch concert.

“Since the festival was established more than 50 years ago it has given a large number of singers and instrumentalists as well as composers the opportunity to perform in the spectacular setting of the cathedral with its renowned superb acoustics to an appreciative audience.

“For many it was the first step towards a professional career in music and we wish to continue that tradition,” she said.

Ann, who has been the festival’s artistic director for the past 20 years, said the concert will feature the young singer Bethan Guiver from Llanfair Talhairarn, near Abergele, and the acclaimed harpist Morwen Blythin, from Rhuddlan.

Other highlights at the launch concert will be performances by guitarist, Jonathan Richards, Ukrainian pianist Victoria Ibragimova and clarinettist Jon Guy, a co-founder of the festival’s resident orchestra, NEW Sinfonia.

Ysgol Gynradd Glanrafon

Also taking part will be youngsters from Ysgol Gynradd Glanrafon, Mold, who won several competitions at last year’s Urdd National Eisteddfod which was held in Denbigh, as well as the Cathedral Choir from St Asaph and the flute trio from Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias.

“Bethan has a very special voice and has already won several awards for her singing. She has a promising future ahead of her,” said Ann.

The 17-year-old is a year 13 pupil at St Brigid’s School, Denbigh, and preparing for her A-levels. She is a Senior Chorister at St Asaph Cathedral with aspirations to become a teacher. In addition, Bethan also plays the flute when she has some spare time.

Morwen Blythin began studying the harp aged nine and following success at the local and national level she continued her studies at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She worked as a freelance harpist, performing at many functions for members of the Royal family and a host of other dignitaries.

Morwen toured the UK and performed in the West End with a number of musicals. As a soloist, she has given recitals and concert appearances in England and Wales and is now a tutor with Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (William Mathias Music Centre) and is a co-director of Telynau Clwyd.

She is also the accompanist of the award-winning Côr Cytgan Clwyd and Flintshire Youth Choir as well as being in demand as a tutor and workshop leader.

The celebrated Welsh and Royal composer William Mathias founded the festival in 1972 and it is regarded as one of the cultural highlights in the north Wales calendar.

“Mathias’ vision was to bring top class performers to the people of North Wales rather than having to travel to concerts in Liverpool or Manchester.

“The festival has provided people from all backgrounds and of all ages the opportunity to experience live performances of different genres of classical music, given by performers of the highest quality, while further promoting the development of Welsh culture and music within the region,” she said.


Ann revealed the theme of this year’s festival is ‘Horizons’.

She said: “It features a wide range of musical styles by some artistes who are appearing at St Asaph for the first time and others who have visited the festival before.

“As in previous years the festival will feature new music by Welsh composers. This year there will be three World premieres as we have commissioned Paul Mealor, Gareth Glyn and Jon Guy, and their compositions will be performed for the first time during the festival.”

Among the highlights during the two week festival will be a return to St Asaph of the Mugenkyo Taiko Drummers. Ann Atkinson said their return to the festival is by popular demand after raising the Cathedral roof last year.

The acclaimed Manchester-based acoustic quartet Kabantu will present their eclectic, folk-inspired original music while talented vocal ensemble Tenebrae, who have visited the festival on two previous occasions, will feature Renaissance music and mark the 400th anniversary of English composer William Byrd’s death.

Bilingual concert

A bilingual concert, entitled Gorwelion y Gair (The Horizon of Words), will feature the Trelawnyd and Bro Glyndwr Male Voice Choirs – both are led by Ann Atkinson as their musical director. They will be joined by the Dee Sign BSL Choir and the very popular folk group, Pedair. Poet Aled Lewis Evans will also take part in the event.

The NEW Sinfonia orchestra, the festival’s Orchestra in Residence, will be joined by American violinist Tai Murray and pianist Teleri Sian from Wales in concert. And former Royal harpist Catrin Finch and Irish violinist Aoife Ni Bhriain’s programme is inspired by bees travelling over the horizon from Wales to Ireland in the 6th Century.

Online concerts from the 2022 festival are now available to view for free on the festival’s website,, with donations gratefully received. Red Priest’s ‘Truly Madly Baroque’ programme and Paul Mealor’s Community Opera ‘Gelert’ in both English and Welsh have now been added.

Tickets for the launch concert and further details about the festival programme are available online at Tickets also available from Cathedral Frames, St Asaph – 01745 582929 (Weds – Fri, 10 – 4) and Theatr Clwyd by phone – 01352 344101 (Mon – Sat, 10 – 6).

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