THE PRESTIGIOUS Wales Harp Festival returns this year after the Covid-19 pandemic forced its cancellation two years ago and into becoming a virtual event in 2021.

There will be a live audience at Galeri Caernarfon when it becomes the centre of the harp playing world with the staging of the event for two days on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 12 and13.

Under the artistic direction of Elinor Bennett, an internationally-renowned harpist, the festival combines concerts with master classes and workshops, offering harpists of all ages and abilities the opportunity of learning from some of the best performers in the world.

There will be afternoon and evening public concerts which will include the world premiere of a new work for harp.

Elinor said: “I look forward very much to welcoming harpists from all over Wales and beyond to the festival.

“I’m excited also to work with our friends from the harp department of the TU Dublin Conservatoire to celebrate and strengthen the Celtic connection that has existed between Wales and Ireland.”

“The competition for the Nansi Richards Award will be held  for young Welsh  harpists. Lastly, but certainly not least, enthusiastic and progressive teachers will help aspiring harpists with their studies.”

Speaking about the frustration of the past two years caused by the Covid-19 pandemic she added:  “The healing powers of the harp are well-known and the Wales Harp Festival will provide a fantastic opportunity for harpists and beginner harpists to come together once again. 

“I look forward very much to be inspired by other harpists,  both younger and older, to create music which will  uplift our hearts and spirits, after the anxieties of  Covid. 

“Let us look together into a better future with positive hearts, by promoting the harp in a Festival that was postponed in 2020  because of the pandemic.”

The Festival Concert on Wednesday evening features Swansea-born harpist Gwenllian Llyr who will play a new piece by Mared Emlyn and a new arrangement by herself of the well-known hymn tune Calon Lân.

Joining Gwenllian in the concert will be  jazz harpist Benjamin Creighton-Griffiths, along with his band – the Transatlantic Hot  Club with Adrien Chevalier from New York on violin and Ashley John Long on bass.

Elinor said Mared Emlyn’s piece had been composed and had been due to be performed at the 2020 festival which had to be called off due to the pandemic.

“At last the piece can be heard and in public too where it rightfully belongs,” she said.

Elinor is also looking forward to hearing Benjamin Creighton-Griffiths perform as he is one of her former pupils.

Both harpists will give workshops and lessons on composition, jazz and improvisation  during the Festival.

The festival was first established in the late 1970s and was initially held at Bangor University as a residential course for young harpists.

It evolved into a festival with lessons and workshops being joined by competitions, concerts and other activities and is now firmly established in the music calendar.

Organised by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (CGWM) since 1999, the festival is held annually and has also spawned the International Harp festival which is held every four years and which is due to be staged once again in 2023.

Elinor Bennett

CGWM director Meinir Llwyd Roberts said harpists of all ages are welcome to attend the festival and join in the workshops and classes.

She said these begin at 10am on both days. After lunch on the first day there is a  concert by members of the course and a Composition class: Gwenllian Llyr and Mared Emlyn.

During the late afternoon the festival features a concert in the Galeri café called the Wales and Ireland Celtic Knot.

The first day’s activities are rounded off by the Nansi Richards Scholarship Competition at 6pm.

Organised by the Nansi Richards Trust, the scholarship is open to harpists under 25 years old who live in Wales, or were born in Wales.

It dates back to 1976 when a tribute concert was held for Nansi Richards, Telynores Maldwyn, in Corwen with the lady herself present in the audience.

A fund was created from the profits of that evening, and a trust was created to manage the money. The first competition was held in 1983 and the scholarship has continued ever since.

After morning classes on the second day of the festival, Wednesday, April 13, Ben Creighton-Griffiths will lead a jazz workshop during the afternoon before two concerts round off the festival.

Renowned harpist Dylan Cernyw will play in the Galeri cafe at 6.45pm before the main festival concert at 7.30pm.

Before then, at 5pm, over 40 harps will be placed on Galeri’s internal balconies for a special performance by course participants which is free of charge to watch.

Full details of the festival programme can be found at the website: www.walesharpfestival.co.uk