Piano virtuoso reveals inspiration

One of the world’s best pianists has revealed how he was inspired to become a professional musician by the founder of the North Wales International Music Festival.

Appropriately, virtuoso Llŷr Williams will be one of the star attractions at this year’s event at St Asaph Cathedral between September 24 and October 1.

Llŷr, from Rhos, near Wrexham, has played in many of the world’s best and most iconic venues, including Carnegie Hall.

But he says the cathedral has unique acoustic qualities which make playing there a joy.

His concert on Tuesday, September 27, is being sponsored by the Wrexham-based Pendine Park care organistion.

Pendine Park has a track record for incorporating the arts within the organisation.

It was one of the first in the UK to employ an artist in residence and has won awards for a long running collaboration with the Hallé orchestra. More recently, Pendine Park was unveiled as one of the Welsh National Opera’s first Community Champions.

St Asaph Cathedral was chosen as the venue for the Festival by William Mathias, the royal composer who wrote the anthem, Let the people praise Thee O God, for the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

 According to Professor Matthias, one of his greatest achievements was the creation of the hugely popular music Festival in 1972.

He visited every potential venue in North Wales before deciding that St Asaph Cathedral provided the very best acoustic setting for the event.

The launch of this year’s festival was held in aristocratic surroundings by kind permission of Eaton Park, near Chester, where Llyr Williams enthralled the audience in a sublime curtain raiser for the main event.

Llŷr read music at Queen’s College, Oxford, and went on to take up a postgraduate scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music where he won every available prize and award.

From 2000-02 he was a ‘Shinn’ Fellow at the Academy, coaching singers and studying conducting. He was also an active member of the Live Music Now! scheme for several years and in 2004 received a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award.

Llŷr said: “St Asaph Cathedral is a great place to play and the acoustics are excellent – I always look forward to playing here.

“I have very fond memories of the festival when I was very young – I played here when I was 10 years of age.

“After the performance, I went round the back and met the festival’s founder, Professor William Mathias.

“He was a big inspiration when I was young and it’s always nice to return to the Cathedral because Professor Mathias is buried here and that always inspires me when I’m playing here.”

Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft, who lives in Denbigh, said: “Llŷr is such a huge talent – he is a North Wales artiste with a worldwide following.

“We’re delighted to have this opportunity to help the festival in a small way and support Llyr which is just fantastic.”

“Llyr has an absolutely world class talent and audiences feel a real warmth towards him – I think people recognise that they’re in the presence of somebody very  special.

“The festival is also very special, it’s an incredible event that is going from strength to strength.

“The line-up this year demonstrates yet again that this is an international festival of the highest order.”

The first concert of this year’s festival features the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, who appeared in the very first festival and have returned many times since, and baritone Roderick Williams.

 Strings feature strongly in the week’s programme, with artists including Welsh triple harp virtuoso Robin Huw Bowen, classical guitarist Dimitris Dekavallas, the ensemble Blazin’ Fiddles and the Vida Guitar Quartet along with the harp quarter, 4 Girls 4 Harps

Apart from Llŷr Williams, the main highlight this year will be the world premier of a new work by the royal composer, Paul Mealor, who shot to global fame thanks to the sensational Royal wedding anthem he wrote for Prince William and Kate Middleton.

 The festival’s Artistic Director, Ann Atkinson, is a talented mezzo soprano in her own right and will again be among the singing stars this year. In addition, Mid-Wales Opera are going to be performing the Puccini favourite, Madam Butterfly.

North Wales International Music Festival, September 24-October 1, www.nwimf.com or ring 01745 584508 for tickets and information.

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