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It’s tango time for top music festival

MUSIC lovers are being encouraged to put on their dancing shoes for a special concert at an international festival.

Among the stars of the North Wales International Music Festival that resumes virtually in mid-November are the renowned London Tango Quintet.

The festival is being staged this year as a hybrid event with a varied mix of live concerts and recorded performances after being held solely online last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

All the live concerts were filmed and are now being edited ready for streaming online from November 15.

It’s been made possible by the support of the Arts Council of Wales and headline sponsors Pendine Park via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust, along with the other sponsors.

The London Tango Quintet opened this year’s festival at a sold-out St Asaph Cathedral at the end of September – and there is now a second opportunity to tune in to their foot-tapping performance.

The talented musicians, drawn together by a love of the tango, mesmerised the audience and would have loved to see some, if not all, get up and dance the night away.

But Covid-19 pandemic measures limited attendance and prevented audience members from moving around the cathedral once the concert had started.

Violinist and quintet founder David Juritz, said: “I don’t know about the audience but we had a really fantastic time, it’s such a great venue to play in and it was a really nice audience.

“And after so long without audiences it was fantastic to be back playing in front of live, breathing people.

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“Despite taking lessons David admitted to being a “really rubbish tango dancer”.

He said there’s a lively tango scene in London and the quintet have been playing locally at dances.

“Tango is a funny thing. The music is not difficult to play the notes, it’s all fairly simple but capturing the spirit of it is the real task. You have to completely soak it in and play it a lot. We love it.

“Dancers are very welcome. It’s really fantastic to play for people dancing and we’ve had gigs when we tell people they are welcome to take to the floor.

“When you see people moving to your music it does change the way you play and it’s really quite exciting and gives you an extra sense of rhythm. I love playing for dancers and I wish more of our audiences did dance. Anytime someone dances to our music we are very happy,” he said.

The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, said the quintet’s performance was “truly magical” and a wonderful start to the event which was first held 50 years ago.

“It was such a shame we couldn’t get up and dance but from what I saw there were people moving about in their seats. There were plenty of dancing shoulders!” said Ann.

The London Tango Quintet was set up 14 years ago but its origins can be traced back to the early 1990s when David heard an album of music by the Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla.

He recalled: “It was something I wanted to do for years. My wife put on this record which she had just bought and was really excited by it. I was so knocked out myself by the music I decided it was what I wanted to do.

“But I put it on the back burner because there were other things and it wasn’t until I met accordionist Miloš Milivojevic that we decided to create a tango band. Guitarist Craig Ogden said he was keen too so we started staging concerts.”

In the early years they played three or four concerts a year but as their repertoire, and reputation, grew they were joined by the bassist Richard Pryce and pianist David Gordon.

Five concerts were staged at the festival’s traditional home, St Asaph Cathedral at the end of September.

The other concerts featured performances by chamber music group Ensemble Cymru, resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia with American pianist John Frederick Hudson, and harp virtuosa Catrin Finch performing with kora player Seckou Keita 

Concert goers were enthralled by the Welsh premiere of a brand-new piano concerto by Royal composer Paul Mealor which had been jointly commissioned by the festival. The concert also featured world premieres of works by acclaimed composers Jon Guy and Brian Hughes.

Brian was also part of Family Affair, including son Daniel and daughter Miriam, who performed at the festival with tenor Dafydd Jones.

Ann Atkinson said the recordings of the concerts in the cathedral will be available online, along with a series of other performances recorded elsewhere.

She said these include performances by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales which was recorded at the Hoddinott Hall at the Wales Millenium Centre in Cardiff.

“Acclaimed pianist Iwan Llewelyn Jones recorded pieces for the festival at Bangor University’s Neuadd Powys. They have a new Steinway piano which makes for a beautiful sound in a wonderful setting.

“And of course it was where our founder, Prof William Matthias, was head of music.

“Folk singing harpist Gwenan Gibbard has recorded for us at the Sain studios and we have the St Asaph Cathedral Choir and other performers.

“It is the first time we have held the festival in two parts and in a hybrid format.

“Last year the festival was entirely virtual with many performers playing at home and we reached a worldwide audience but it was wonderful to be back in the cathedral before a live audience once again.

“It lifts the spirits to be able to play live even if there were still limits on attendance and we had to ensure there was only limited movement during the concerts and of course everyone wore masks.

“But it was so wonderful to be back actually in the cathedral with a live audience and we are very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales and festival sponsors, including headline sponsors Pendine Park, for their continued support,” she said.

For more information about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com