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Award-winning singer to dedicate Celtic festival performance to Leah Owen

Branwen Jones

A multi-award-winning singer will dedicate her performance at a Celtic festival to the late Welsh music icon Leah Owen.

Branwen Jones, from Ruthin, paid tribute to her “incredible” musical mentor ahead of the Pan Celtic Festival (Gŵyl Ban Geltaidd), which will take place in Carlow, Ireland between April 2 and 7.

The festival promotes and nurtures the languages, cultures, music, modern and traditional, and sports of the Celtic nations.

Branwen is set to perform on the opening night at the striking VISUAL Centre of Contemporary Art & The George Bernard Shaw Theatre on the opening night.

The 17-year-old was coached for eisteddfods by the gifted vocal soloist and conductor for various choirs, who received an honorary Doctor of Music from Bangor University for her contribution to Welsh and Welsh culture, music and arts in December.

Leah Owen, who shaped Welsh music and culture for generations died aged 70 following a period of illness.

She grew up in Rhosmeirch on Anglesey, and lived in the village of Prion in Denbighshire for years.

She mentored and coached numerous talented individuals in North Wales, including Steffan Rhys Hughes, Mared Williams, Angharad Rowlands, and Denbigh sisters Jade and Amber Davies.

Branwen, who has been singing since she was very young, regularly taking part in Sunday school performances and eisteddfods, has won a string of awards.

Recently she had success at the National Eisteddfod in Tregardon in 2022 where she won first prize in the alaw werin and cerdd dant under 16.

Following this she won in the alaw werin category at the Wyl Gerdd Dant in Llanfyllin

At the Urdd Eisteddfod in Llandovery, she won a scholarship for the most promising soloist under 19 years old and won six medals in total, including first place in the cerdd dant solo and duet.

She won first prize four times at the Llyn and Eifionydd National Eisteddfod.

Branwen said: “I have singing lessons for my exams with Ann Atkinson and I had lessons with Leah Owen for eisteddfods.

“Leah Owen was such an incredible woman. She told me exactly what I needed to do in a way that was easily understandable and she also gave me the confidence that I could do it.

“She has given me such a good foundation. She was such an incredible woman.

“I can arrange my own cerdd dant now and that’s something she taught me to do. She gave me everything I needed to do it.

“Her influence on music in Wales continues to be felt through everyone she taught.

“I want to dedicate my performance at the festival to Leah because she’s been so huge for me. She’s influenced so many people over the years.”

Branwen added: “I’m really looking forward to the festival. It’s something different to what I’ve done before. I think it will be an interesting experience to perform outside of Wales. It’ll be interesting to see the kinds of traditions that other Celtic nations have.

“I think I’ll sing some folk songs and a bit of cerdd dant. I’m looking forward to singing traditional Welsh songs in front of an international audience.

“Getting to be part of the long tradition of the Gŵyl Ban Geltaidd is something I am very grateful for. It’s a real honour for me to take part and It’ll be really nice to have that experience.”

The Pan Celtic Festival’s Organiser for all of Wales, Arwel Roberts said: “It’s difficult to overstate the immense impact that Leah Owen has had on Welsh music and Welsh culture.

“We owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for her enormous contribution, both locally and to the nation as a whole. Our culture in Wales has been enriched by all the work she has done.

“Her impact continues to be felt through the generations of talented performers she has mentored.  

“We’re delighted that Branwen Jones is going to be performing at the Gŵyl Ban Geltaidd this year.

“She’s a very talented young woman and it is fitting that she will be dedicating her performance to Leah Owen.

“The festival is a wonderful way to connect with our Celtic cousins and to promote the Welsh language, Welsh music and Welsh culture.

“We have a great crew going over to Ireland this year for the festival, and for anyone who is interested, there are still some spots available on the coach.

“It’s a great opportunity to have a fully immersive Welsh language experience for anyone who speaks the language or is learning it.

“The trip will feature plenty of traditional singing and cheer. We’re set to have 8 choirs from Wales performing.”

For tickets to the Pan Celtic Festival contact Arwel Roberts on 07813550998 or email at [email protected].