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Pandemic poetry unlocked by top orchestra

A PERFORMANCE poet whose love letter to Wrexham went viral has teamed up for an unlikely collaboration with a top orchestra for a new work about the pandemic.

Evrah Rose, who was inspired by rappers Eminem and Tupac Shakur, is looking forward to the premiere at a special concert to mark the 10th anniversary of Wrexham and St Asaph based NEW Sinfonia.

She rose to prominence in 2019 when her poem, I Am From Wrexham, which was written in response to the unfair bad press the town had received, attracted plaudits and tens of thousands of hits on social media.

Evrah has now joined forces with NEW Sinfonia and its recently formed chorus, NEW Voices,  to create the new work called ‘There’s Just no Time’.

It reflects on choristers’ experiences during the Covid-19 crisis and the subsequent lockdowns.

The piece will be performed during one of the 10  concerts and events being organised by brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy who founded NEW Sinfonia which is also the resident orchestra at the North Wales International Music Festival in St Asaph.  

Entitled Ten4Ten, the events will take place at St Giles’ Parish Church in Wrexham and at the town’s community arts hub Tŷ Pawb on the weekend of November 26-28.

Among the other highlights of the festival will be the world premiere of a new work by Jonathan Guy and a concert featuring the Chester Dee-Sign choir who sing while signing for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Evrah, 33, a former carer from Wrexham, said she had not done anything like the recent collaboration with the choir.

She said: “I jumped at the chance when they asked me to be involved. I went along to some of the rehearsals and collected people’s experiences of the pandemic, good, bad or ugly.

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Composer and professional clarinettist Jonathan Guy is writing a new musical piece, Smile, Smile, Smile, based on Pack up Your Troubles which will be premiered by young musicians of all abilities during a festival workshop. Pictured is Composer and professional clarinettist Jonathan Guy is writing a new musical piece, Smile, Smile, Smile, based on Pack up Your Troubles and his Brother Robert Guy.

“Some people were really positive about it – they lost weight and got in touch with nature and done things they hadn’t necessarily done before like walks.

“Other people found it really quite difficult with the isolation and there were people in the middle where they felt isolated but also grateful for the kind of community spirit. It was a process of developing those experiences and then getting it into a written piece.

“It was really nice to see people together again, laughing and smiling and working together. It was really quite a cool experience.”

NEW Sinfonia co-founder Robert Guy said the choir worked closely with Evrah to create the piece.

Robert, who is director of the University of Manchester’s elite undergraduate conducting programme, Head of Choral Programmes and Director of Ensembles, added: “It is a piece for a narrator while the choir accompanies the new piece. It’s quite a powerful reminder of what it was like.

“The piece reflects that it has been difficult but that there is now light at the end of the tunnel. It finishes with a really beautiful chorale and the words ‘we are the light, we are the fight, we are the safety we can hold’.

The music for the new work is one of several pieces written for the festival by Jonathan Guy.

He said: “It’s a narrative piece and I’ve written a piece for the orchestra to play just beneath the narrator like an accompaniment and then the chorus joining in for the final section.

“It’s been interesting working with someone who is creative in a different way,” he said.

Another piece of music written by Jonathan is the accompaniment for a song called the Nightingale which was for a competition run by Wrexham’s Nightingale House Hospice during the first lockdown.

“My father wrote the song and that’s been sung in the concert with the Chester DeeSign choir at the Angels Sign and Sing concert. We’ve called it that because at St  Giles Church there’s a festival of angels.

“With the orchestra playing, the choir singing and people will be signing in British Sign Language. I think it will be a very moving event. We’ll also be singing Anfonaf Angel by Robat Arwyn which ties in nicely with the theme. of angels,” he said.

Since its founding in 2011 the NEW Sinfonia have performed at various venues with some leading performers and soloists.

“We’re a professional musical organisation but we’re really passionate about wanting to break down barriers and make our concerts as inclusive as possible.

“It’s trying to show we’re a musical organisation for the 21st century working with a variety of artists who are disabled and non-disabled. It doesn’t matter, it’s all about the music,” said Robert.

Two family events for children as the orchestra brings to life the Slumbersaurus classical music story! Children from  Ysgol Deiniol Marchwiel are designing artwork for this performance.

Another concert includes music by established and well known composers such as Saint Seans and Dukas and by new Welsh composers, including Patrick Rimes from Bethesda and Angharad Jenkins from Swansea. Both are members of well-known folk group Calan.

“I’m really looking forward to it. I think there’s something for everyone.” said Robert.

Further information and tickets for the festival are available on the NEW Sinfonia website https://www.newsinfonia.org.uk/copy-of-events