World premiere in North Wales to celebrate Dylan Thomas centenary

A new work celebrating the talent of poet Dylan Thomas will have its world premiere at a top musical festival.

The news was revealed at the launch of the stellar line-up for this year’s North Wales International Musical Festival at St Asaph Cathedral between September 20-27.

The piece to mark the centenary of Thomas’s birth is being written by the acclaimed Anglesey composer, Gareth Glyn, and will be performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

garethglyn ceidiog

The composition, called Every Day of the Night, was inspired by the poet’s masterpiece, Under Milk Wood.

Delighted organisers at the event supported by the Welsh Arts Council have just found out the concert on Saturday, September 2, will be broadcast live on Radio 3.

Gareth Glyn said: “As a professional composer being commissioned to write any new piece is welcome but to write something that is based upon, and celebrates, Under Milk Wood is a real honour.

“It’s a daunting challenge and I’m still working on my ideas for the piece. Ideas that are still percolating although I definitely know the direction the work needs to take.”

The festival launch was held at the Scala Cinema in Prestatyn who will be providing a box office service for the event, now regarded as a highlight of the UK’s cultural calendar.

Other highlights this year will include a special concert to celebrate the life and work of the festival’s founder, the late Professor William Mathias, the royal composer who would have been 80 this year.

Another Welsh composer with royal connections, Professor Paul Mealor, who shot to fame when he wrote the music for the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, will be there with his choir from Aberdeen University.

Paul and bbc sso 2 ceidiog

It will be an opportunity for Prof Mealor, who was born in St Asaph and raised in Connah’s Quay, to pay homage to the musical genius of William Mathias under whom he studied.

The internationally renowned piano virtuoso Llyr Williams, who hails from Rhos, near Wrexham, is also among the star attractions, along with the young Chinese classical guitarist, Xuefei Yang.

The popular Tippett String Quartet will be returning to the festival together with pianist David Owen Norris, who will be playing a programme of newly discovered piano music from Jane Austen’s family collection.

Mid Wales Opera will be performing Acis and Galatea, an opera that tells an enchanting story from ancient mythology, while the Aspire Inspire Concert will provide a platform for a host of talented young musicians and singers and will include only the second performance of a work called Adar Rhiannon (Rhiannon’s Birds), composed by harpist Catrin Finch.

Artistic Director Ann Atkinson said: “I am very excited about the programme because it is a year of momentous anniversaries – the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and of course William Matthias, our founder, would have been 80.

“On the Monday we have a lecture on Dylan Thomas which is a bit of a departure for us because we’ve never had just a lecture. Then in the evening we’re going to have Stan Tracey’s Under Milk Wood Jazz Suite performed with some rather fantastic actors reading the parts and it’s going to be really a lot of fun.

“The world premiere of the new work by Gareth Glyn marking the Dylan Thomas centenary – which we jointly commissioned with Ty Cerdd – will provide a fitting climax for this year’s festival, especially as it is going out live on Radio 3.

“We are delighted that we have been able to unveil our programme at the Scala, which is now providing our box office.

“The entertainment this evening has been provided by Jonathan Richards, a fantastic classical guitarist from Colwyn Bay, who will also be performing at the festival and the talented young harpist, Elin Bartlett, from Rhos, near Wrexham.”

Elin, 13, a pupil of Ysgol Morgan Llwyd in Wrexham, was delighted to have the opportunity to play at the launch.

She said: “Since I was small, I liked the sound of the harp and I think it sounds really nice and I love playing it because of the sound.

“I’d like to be a doctor when I’m older but I’d like to continue with music and I’d like to be part of an orchestra.

“I’m going to be competing in the Gŵyl Gerdd Dant which is going to be in Rhos, so it’s local to me. I’ll be competing on the harp. I also sing Cerdd Dant and I will be singing a duet with a school friend.”

Jonathan Richards was also delighted to be there.

He said: “Musically, when I was very young, I was learning the violin and the piano and I turned on one of the three television channels that existed in those days and there was somebody playing classical music on the Spanish guitar and that was it.  From that moment on, nothing else would do.

“Ever since then I just knew what I had to do for a living. It’s been a very rewarding life. I wouldn’t swap it for anything.

“My musical career hasn’t made me much in the way of fame and fortune but I’ve made some cracking good friends and I’ve enjoyed every second.

“The performance in the festival is a very special one to me this year because I actually hit the big 50 in September and so this year I’m doing a sort of autobiographical programme.

“It’s my favourite music festival. It has a lovely atmosphere. I’ve played in music festivals all over the country but the acoustic properties of the cathedral, as I’m sure any musician who’d played there will agree, are just unique.

“It’s the only place I can think of which is so big but you can play as quietly as you like in the certain knowledge that any little wisp of sound will reach all four corners.

“It’s always a fresh challenge. You might be teaching someone a piece of music that you’ve taught dozens of times in the past but you might have a new problem with it so it never gets stale.”

Rhiannon Hughes, the Chair of the Trust that runs the Scala, was pleased about the new partnership with the festival.

She said: “We hope that we’ll have a positive benefit because people will be buying their tickets here so it should be very convenient so we hope that the festival will have a bumper year because we’ll be selling the tickets.

“We are very lucky to have a festival of this quality on our doorstep because it means that local people here in North Wales can go to see world class art locally and that’s a wonderful thing.”

For more information about the festival and how to buy tickets go to:

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