Cathedral with acoustics better than iconic Sydney Opera House

St. Asaph Music Festival - photo at St. Asaph Cathedral of Ann Atkinson

A host of world class musicians are heading for an ancient cathedral where the acoustics are “better than the iconic Sydney Opera House”.

The combination of stone and the vaulted wooden ceiling at the 13th century St Asaph Cathedral has created a unique venue for the prestigious North Wales International Music Festival which got underway on Saturday, September 16.

St. Asaph Music Festival – photo at St. Asaph Cathedral of Ann Atkinson

The festival, which continues until Saturday, September 30, is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and the Colwinston Charitable Trust.

The resident orchestra will be NEW Sinfonia which was established by talented brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy.

According to Robert, 29, an early inspiration for him was taking part in a masterclass, as a teenager, for aspiring young performers organised as part of the festival in 2005.

And in a virtuous circle he will be running a very similar young musicians’ course as part of this year’s festival, taking place on Sunday, September 17, at Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin.

Another stellar name who came through the ranks was royal composer Paul Mealor who was mentored by the festival’s founder, the late Professor William Mathias.

The festival has firmly established itself as one of the highlights in the UK’s cultural calendar since being launched in 1972.

On opening night he National Youth Brass Band of Wales (NYBBW) will perform at under the baton of conductor Ian Porthouse.

Among the other stars of the festival will be singers from Welsh National Opera with the festival community chorus, vocal group VOCES8, Italian pianist Federico Colli, early music group Red Priest, composer Robat Arwyn, tenor Rhys Meirion, resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia, Ensemble Cymru, violinist Ye-Eun Choi and the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet.

According to artistic director Ann Atkinson, a talented mezzo soprano in her own right, the cathedral has a “very special acoustic”.

She said “I have also performed in the concert hall at Sydney Opera House and, while it has a brilliant acoustic, I must say that St Asaph Cathedral is actually a much better venue acoustically.”

The theme of this year’s festival is Journeys and Ann Atkinson is confident the performers will deliver some remarkable performances.

She said: “We have the amazing South Korean violinist Ye-Eun Choi, who has also performed with some of the world’s very best orchestras, playing a concert with our resident NEW Sinfonia orchestra.

“Ye-Eun Choi’s journey from East to West in pursuit of violin excellence is a remarkable story in its own right and she will perform during what will be a wonderful and magical evening of classical music.

“We also have world class classical guitarists The Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, who will be performing a concert of music from around the world as well as concerts featuring Welsh National Opera soloists, a cappella group VOCES8 and Italian concert pianist Federico Colli, who will perform alongside NEW Sinfonia.

“It’s going to be a truly wonderful and amazing festival. The programme this year is so varied and there really is something there for everyone.

“I really would encourage lovers of classical music to visit our website and get tickets as soon as they can for what is going to be an amazing and joyful festival of music.”

To find out more about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit Tickets are available online and from Theatr Clwyd on 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames in St Asaph on 01745 582929.

Red Priest playing Vivaldi

Aquarelle Guitar Quartet


Resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia playing Andante Festivo by Sibelius at last year’s festival