A new Wrexham-based community choir will help a top music festival celebrate its 50th anniversary and two other major milestones.
Organisers of the North Wales International Music Festival say the launch concert at St Asaph Cathedral on Saturday, June 4, will be a “big, brassy choral spectacular and it’s going to be loud!”
The concert is a curtain raiser for the main festival’s Golden Jubilee event that’s taking place from September 17 to October 1.
It’s all being made possible thanks to the support of the Arts Council of Wales and the headline sponsor, the Pendine Arts and Community Trust that was set up by the Pendine Park care organisation to provide funding for arts and community activities. Other sponsors include Jones Bros and Salisburys Accountants.
According to artistic director Ann Atkinson, the launch concert is being timed to coincide with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee while this year also marks 10 years since St Asaph was officially recognised as a city.
The festival was founded by Prof William Mathias, who was one of the first Welsh composers to win international acclaim.
He 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.
Prof Mathias chose St Asaph Cathedral as the venue for the festival believing it provided the best acoustic setting in North Wales.
Ann Atkinson, who is also a talented mezzo soprano, said: “St Asaph Cathedral is the perfect acoustic environment to showcase our highly talented line-up at the launch concert and the festival itself.
“The combination of the stone and the wood creates something really magical somehow.
“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 the cathedral would be the perfect place to showcase the new community choir, NEW Voices.
The Kana Chamber Choir, made up of talented musicians from across North Wales, and soprano Tesni Jones, from St Asaph, will also perform.
The NEW Voices choir was launched by the NEW Sinfonia orchestra that was established by brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy, who come from Wrexham.
The aim of NEW Sinfonia, which is also the festival’s resident orchestra, is to provide a platform for talented young musicians.
Robert Guy, the orchestra’s musical director, said the programme for the launch concert had been picked specifically with the triple celebration in mind.
He said: “It’ll have Zadok the Priest, music that is associated with the Coronation and Royal Weddings as well as music commissioned for the NEW Sinfonia by the festival during our residency plus some music by my brother, Jonathan.
“We’re going to have a brass ensemble for a big, brassy choral spectacular. It’s going to be loud!”
Robert added: “Both the festival and NEW Sinfonia greatly value their work within the community. NEW Voices reflect this, anyone can come along and sing, it is as inclusive and accessible as possible.
“Obviously, some people have sung before but others have never sung before. In Wrexham, where we currently rehearse, we have a good mix of people.”
The main festival straddles three weekends in the autumn and one of the concerts will be dementia-friendly.
Community events, performances in local schools and music workshops will be taking place during the fortnight.
The workshops are a feature of the festival that inspired Robert Guy to become a professional musician.
Robert said: “When I was 16, I took part in an educational workshop at the North Wales International Music Festival and it was one of the early experiences of working with a professional orchestra and professional musicians.
“It feels really special that the NEW Sinfonia that I founded with Jonathan just over ten years ago is now running those workshops and I’m on the other side having benefited from them in the past.”
Ann Atkinson commented: “I can safely say the 50th anniversary festival will be a fitting celebration and there’s going to be some really exciting concerts that involve young people and members of the community working with leading international soloists.
“We are incredibly grateful to the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd, Pendine Park care organisation, Salisburys Accountants, Jones Bros., and all our other sponsors because it would not be possible to stage the festival without their support.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said: “Music and the arts generally provide a golden thread that runs through everything we do at Pendine because it is something that enriches the lives of our residents and staff alike.
“We are therefore delighted to be able to support the North Wales International Music Festival again, particularly as it is celebrating three important milestones.
“Since it was founded by the visionary composer, William Mathias, it has grown into one of the highlights of the cultural calendar here in Wales and is now firmly established as one of our national treasures.”