Children’s day masterpiece from composer at International Eisteddfod

The man behind one of the musical centrepieces of the acclaimed London Olympics opening ceremony is to work his magic for the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.

Welsh composer Gareth Glyn worked with Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle to provide one of the musical arrangements for the spectacular ceremony at the Games in August.

Now he is doing the same for this summer’s Eisteddfod in July when one of his compositions will be the highlight of International Children’s Day on the first day of the event.

The day will feature the triple attractions of Doctor Who’s Tardis, a musical spaceship and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Gareth Glyn provided the arrangement for Elgar’s Nimrod, from the Enigma Variations, for Danny Boyle’s incredible Olympics opening ceremony, watched by a worldwide television audience of a billion people.

His part in it involved the Anglesey-based composer in a clandestine game to keep his connection with the ceremony secret from his colleagues on BBC Radio Cymru’s Post Prynhawn programme.

But there’s no secrecy attached to his participation in this year’s Llangollen event which takes place on July 9-14 and will feature his ground-breaking SPM 1 composition, a young person’s guide to the orchestra for the 21st century, as it is described by Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths.

Gareth, 61, who lives on Anglesey but was born in Machynlleth and educated in Cardiff and at Ysgol Maes Garmon, in Mold, is no stranger to Llangollen: “I’ve only ever been a competitor there before,” he said.

“I was there with a choir some years ago. We didn’t win but people always say that taking part is what’s important and that’s really the case at Llangollen.

“We gave a good account of ourselves a and it was fun to compete against people from all over the world and that’s the spirit of the Eisteddfod, all the different peoples, the colours and the languages and getting involved in that is a wonderful feeling.”

He will be there for International Children’s Day on Tuesday, July 9, when BBC National Orchestra of Wales will give two performances of his SPM-1 – Spaceship Powered by Music – for the Eisteddfod’s opening day.

Local children will take part and just as at the Olympics it will be specially arranged by Gareth so that children of different musical abilities can participate.

He said: “The idea is to make the concert venue a spaceship which is powered by the music of the orchestra while the crew are the children with the conductor as the captain.

“It works very well and has been performed by, among others, the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican and I very pleased to be doing it now at the Royal International Pavilion at Llangollen.”

Eilir Owen Griffiths added: “The plot of the story is that the spaceship is taking music to distant galaxies and by doing that brings peace and harmony and that underlines the Eisteddfod’s message of peace which has always been its theme.

“Grant Llewellyn will be conducting the orchestra and following on from Gareth’s piece they will be playing a number of pieces including the theme from Doctor Who which celebrates its 50th birthday this year and we will even have the Tardis there for the children to see and have their pictures taken with it.

“It’s great to have Gareth there and this piece should work perfectly and what better way to do something for the children than to have them participate in a piece by one of our leading composers and Wales’s leading orchestra.

“It will be the centrepiece of a fantastic day which will also offer so much for young people with workshops in Bollywood and street dancing, music from the Eisteddfod on the S4C stage, plenty of cover in case of rain  and even a display of flying owls, very Harry Potter.”

Gareth Glyn, son of Welsh poet T Glynne Davies and a graduate in music from Merton College, Oxford, has done a number of works involving the participation of children.

He said: “That kind of multi-ability music has become a bit of a speciality of mine and I have been asked to do it for the National Orchestra of Wales, the LSO and for orchestras in France, Germany and the USA.

“But it was quite an ask to do it for the opening ceremony. When I heard what it was for I was gobsmacked.

“It was top secret and everyone had to sign a secrecy agreement, even the children, and I had to find lots of excuses to slope off from Post Prynhawn but unfortunately because of an arrangement made earlier I couldn’t be there at the ceremony.

“But it was seen by an estimated billion people on television, including me, but I will be there at Llangollen and it should be a great occasion – the sight and sound of a full orchestra in full flight with all the trimmings and percussion is a pretty visceral experience.

“It’s like the pounding you get in your body at a disco and hopefully it will help make the children aware of what classical music can be and encourage them to take an interest in it and in playing an instrument.”

BBC National Orchestra of Wales are in North and Mid Wales, from March 14 to March 17, under the baton of new conductor Thomas Søndergård, playing concerts at Aberystwyth, Bangor, Wrexham and Llandudno.

The 67th Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod takes place this year from Tuesday, July 9, to Sunday, July 14, at the Royal International Pavilion site and boasts a star-studded lineup of concerts and competitions.

It kicks off on Tuesday with International Children’s Day including interactive performances from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the colourful procession of the competitors to the Royal International Pavilion, led by Eisteddfod President Terry Waite, CBE, the former Archbishop’s Special Envoy and a long-time supporter.

The evening concerts start with Tuesday night’s Carnival of Nations featuring four of Wales’s finest male voice choirs, the Rhos Orpheus, Cor Godre’r Aran, Cor y Brythoniaid and the chart topping Fron Choir, performing on the 60th anniversary of the historic visit of Germany’s Oberkirchen Choir. They will be joined by the St Melodians Steel Band, from Trinidad and international competitors.

Wednesday night will feature An Evening with Scottish percussionist Evelyn Glennie who will be joined by the rising American tenor Noah Stewart and harpist Claire Jones, former official harpist to HRH the Prince of Wales, along with the Eisteddfod Orchestra and the Santo Tomas Choir from the Philippines, twice Choir of the World winners.

Thursday will be Strictly Cuban, a celebration of Latin dance rhythms with James and Ola Jordan and the Buena Vista Social Club while Friday will be VERDI 200, a performance of Verdi’s Requiem by to mark the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth with Claire Rutter, Mirouslava Yordanova, Gwyn Hughes Jones, Jonathan Lemalu and accompanied by the Eisteddfod Orchestra conducted by Andrew Greenwood.

Saturday is Choir of the World which this year will also feature Only Men Aloud, Last Choir Standing TV winners while for the first time dance will be teamed with choral music on Saturday night as the Eisteddfod’s top two dance troupes dance off for the new Dance Champions 2013 Trophy.

On Sunday keyboard king Jools Holland will bring the house and the curtain down with his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra and a special guest.

Tickets for this year’s concerts go on general sale on Monday, February 11, and are available from the website at

For more information on this year’s event check out the website or go to Facebook at

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