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North Wales music festival looks to new horizons

North Wales music festival; Poet Aled Lewis Evans who will be reading poetry at the Music festival. Picture Mandy Jones

A DEEPLY moving poem written by a National Eisteddfod winning bard is the inspiration behind a concert at a top music festival.

The poem, Y Gorwel (The Horizon), links in with the theme for the North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral from Friday, September 15 to Saturday, September 30.

It was written by John Evans, the grandfather of Aled Lewis Evans, from Wrexham, who is also an acclaimed, award-winning poet.

The poem describes an old man gazing out across Cardigan Bay from his home in the Barmouth area of Gwynedd and looking back to his childhood and how the innocence of youth looked to the horizon of his future not knowing the woes of life.

North Wales music festival; Poet Aled Lewis Evans who will be reading poetry at the Music festival. Picture Mandy Jones

Aled, a chapel minister, will take part in the bilingual concert, Gorwelion y Gair (The Horizon of Words) at the festival on September 22, when he will be reading some of his own poems.

The concert also features the Trelawnyd and Bro Glyndŵr male voice choirs and the Dee Sign British Sign Language Choir as well as the popular folk quartet, Pedair.

The poem will also feature in a Chamber Music morning concert with poetry on September 28. Ensemble Cymru clarinettist Peryn Clement-Evans and pianist Iwan Llewelyn-Jones will perform music inspired by poetry selected by Aled on the theme of horizons.

It’s all being made possible thanks to the support of the Arts Council of Wales and the festival’s headline sponsor, the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT), that was set up by the Pendine Park care organisation to provide funding for arts and community activities.

Other sponsors include Colwinston Charitable Trust, Arts & Business Cymru and Tŷ Cerdd while PACT is also supporting the Gorwelion y Gair concert.

Aled’s grandfather, a headteacher at Llanegryn near Tywyn, Gwynedd, won the chair at the National Eisteddfod in Aberystwyth in 1952 and again at Ystradgynlais two years later.

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North Wales music festival; Poet Aled Lewis Evans who will be reading poetry at the Music festival. Picture Mandy Jones

He said: “When the festival’s Artistic Director, Ann Atkinson, asked me for suggestions for a concert at this year’s event themed ‘Horizons’, the poem, Y Gorwel, quickly came to mind.

“It tells of some crossing the horizon into world wars, and not returning. At the end of the poem he looks straight to the last horizon which is death, and beyond. He faces it confidently and completely naturally at the end of the poem.”

Ann Atkinson said: “It fits in perfectly with the theme of this year’s festival.

“The horizon of war raises its head and then finally, the final horizon and the final journey. The choirs will sing and sign a varied repertoire, in both Welsh and English, which will reflect these aspects of life.”

Meanwhile, Pedair, consists of well-known harpists Gwenan Gibbard and Siân James along with acclaimed singer-songwriters Meinir Gwilym and Gwyneth Glyn. Together they will perform a number of folk-related songs about the concert’s theme, bringing to life traditional material with new arrangements on harps, guitars, piano and accordion.

The event also plays a part in the anniversary celebrations of the two male voice choirs, with Ann being the musical director of both.

Côr Meibion Trelawnyd is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and the Corwen-based choir, Côr Meibion Bro Glyndwr, was formed 50 years ago.

Ann added: “Both choirs have staged special concerts this year to celebrate their anniversaries and I thought it would be apt to bring both together to sing at this concert. We could have more than 100 singers singing a beautiful choral arrangement of Robat Arwyn’s iconic song, Anfonaf Angel.”

The 30-strong Dee Sign choir will join the two choirs in the cathedral to sign the song in British Sign Language or BSL.

Choir director Celia Chapman said: “Anfonaf Angel is new to us and we are arranging for it to be translated into BSL.”

North Wales music festival; Poet Aled Lewis Evans who will be reading poetry at the Music festival. Picture Mandy Jones

The festival itself will be looking to new horizons and the closing concert on Saturday, September 30 will take the form of a farewell to Ann who is stepping down after 20 years at the helm.

The farewell concert will feature the festival’s resident orchestra, NEW Sinfonia, the NEW Voices Community Choir and soloists Lisa Dafydd and Dafydd Jones.

Also taking part will be Ann herself and her husband, accomplished baritone, Kevin Sharp.

“This orchestral concert will include the young instrumentalists from our Instrumental Project and a bit of Opera and favourite pieces.

“The programme will include our 2013 Commission by Paul Mealor ‘A Welsh Prayer’ and a follow up new commission from Paul Mealor for 2023 ‘A Welsh Blessing’,” said Ann.

The talented vocal ensemble, Tenebrae, who have performed at the festival twice before, will star in the opening concert on Friday, September 15.

Acclaimed Manchester-based acoustic quartet Kabantu aim to ‘celebrate the spaces where different cultures meet’ with their eclectic, folk-inspired original music at a concert on Thursday, 21 September.

On Saturday, September 23, NEW Sinfonia will be joined in concert by American violinist Tai Murray and Welsh pianist Teleri-Siân.

Canadian-born pianist Janina Fialkowska will perform a recital featuring pieces by Schubert, Brahms and Chopin, on Thursday, September 28.

The following evening former Royal harpist Catrin Finch takes centre stage on September 29, when she will be appearing with Irish violinist Aoife Ní Bhríain.

In addition, there will be an extensive programme of daytime concerts and other events, including a dementia friendly and inclusive concert, a “Schools” concert and a “Tots” concert all with musicians from Live Music Now Cymru.

There will also be a morning concert with classical guitarist Jonathan Richards and various masterclasses and workshops.

Tickets and further details about the festival programme are available online at www.nwimf.com. 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).