OPERA superstar Sir Bryn Terfel has sent his “heartfelt congratulations” to an international music festival celebrating its 50th anniversary.
His talented wife Hannah Stone, a former royal harpist, also sent her best wishes to the North Wales International Music Festival which returns with a hybrid event after being held only online last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic .
Organizers say the support of the Arts Council of Wales and festival sponsors was crucial in making the event go ahead.
This year, five concerts will take place in the festival’s traditional home, St Asaph’s Cathedral, with the London Tango Quintet featuring Craig Ogden on guitar on opening night on Thursday 30 September.
Other highlights include chamber music group Ensemble Cymru, resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia with American pianist John Frederick Hudson and harp virtuoso Catrin Finch performing with kora player Seckou Keita at the last evening, Monday, October 4.
St Asaph-born Professor Paul Mealor performed at the launch of this year’s North Wales International Music Festival. He played the Welsh premiere of a new symphony performed by the NEW Sinfonia Orchestra at St Asaph Cathedral.
There will also be the Welsh premiere of a new piano concerto by royal composer Paul Mealor which was jointly commissioned by the festival, as well as world premieres of works by acclaimed composers Jon Guy and Brian Hughes.
Brian Hughes is also a member of Family Affair, including his son Daniel and daughter Miriam, who will also perform at the festival with tenor Dafydd Jones.
The second part will be a virtual festival from November 15, when recordings of the concerts in the cathedral are available online, along with a series of other performances recorded elsewhere.
It was all the music of the years of Sir Bryn Terfel and his wife, Hannah, the former official harpist of the Prince of Wales.
Sir Bryn said: “Reaching this milestone is a remarkable achievement for the North Wales International Music Festival and I extend my sincere congratulations to you.
“The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights of our cultural calendar and a lasting legacy for its visionary founder, composer William Mathias.
“In these most difficult and fragile times, the festival also symbolizes our unwavering love for classical music and continues to attract world-class artists.
“Like so many other events, the festival had to adapt to the current situation and went digital for the first time in its history last year and was able to reach an even wider audience. This extra ‘string to their bow’ will certainly be of great use to them.
His wife, Hannah Stone, has fond memories of performing at the festival.
She said: “The festival has a knowledgeable and appreciative audience and the cathedral has wonderful acoustics, making it the perfect venue for concerts.
“Over the years, the festival has continued to evolve and develop. Artistic Director Ann Atkinson does a terrific job making sure the music stays relevant while staying true to William Mathias’ vision.
“The pandemic has been a nightmare for the performing arts and the festival has continued to provide jobs for musicians through their digital concerts.
“Their support will not be forgotten and I wish them well for the next 50 years.”
The festival was founded in 1972 by Professor William Mathias, who 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 nineteen eighty one.
He chose St Asaph Cathedral as the venue for the festival, believing that it offered the best acoustic setting.
Festival Artistic Director Ann Atkinson, a talented mezzo soprano, said: “Saint Asaph Cathedral is the perfect acoustic environment to present our very talented programming.
“The combination of stone and wood creates something truly magical.
“I also performed in the Sydney Opera House concert hall and although it has brilliant acoustics, I have to say that St Asaph’s Cathedral is actually a much better venue acoustically.”
She added: “It will be so wonderful to be back in the Cathedral with a live audience and we are very grateful to the Arts Council of Wales and the festival sponsors for their continued support.
“Last year’s digital festival reached a global audience and the second part of this year’s festival will be a series of online concerts in November for the people who have followed us from America, all over Europe and the all over the world to New Zealand – as well as those closer to home.
“This will give us the best of both worlds because, in addition to allowing us to enjoy live music again in the cathedral, we will also be able to reach a global audience.
“We are incredibly grateful to Sir Bryn and Hannah for their best wishes, especially since both have performed at the festival in the past and know what we are.
“Overall it’s really a busy schedule this year and we’re going to have the pleasure of enjoying some amazing music performed by talented, world-class musicians.
“There is something for everyone and I am very excited about this year’s festival.”
Tickets are available online 24/7, at Theatr Clwyd, Mold – 01352 344101 (Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or at Cathedral Frames, St Asaph – 01745 582929 (Wednesday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). For more information on the North Wales International Music Festival, please visit www.nwimf.com