A top music festival got off to a “truly exhilarating” start with a concert starring talented young musicians from across Wales.
The National Youth Brass Band of Wales (NYBBW) wowed the audience at the North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral on Saturday night, under the baton of conductor Ian Porthouse.
The acclaimed festival, which continues until Saturday, September 30, has now established itself as one of the highlights of the cultural calendar in the UK.
It is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and the Colwinston Charitable Trust.
Artistic director Ann Atkinson was on a high after the opening concert.
She said: “It really was a fantastic night with an excellent audience.
“The youngsters, aged between 12 and 22, came from all over Wales and played with such maturity and skill.
“They performed a wonderful repertoire and, in the cathedral acoustic, the sound was so exciting and truly exhilarating.
“Dewi Griffiths was the outstanding soloist for the Gregson Cornet Concerto and we were so pleased to welcome the composers Rhian Samuel and Professor Edward Gregson.”
Among the other stars of the festival will be Italian pianist Federico Colli, Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, South Korean violinist Ye-Eun Choi, early music group Red Priest, vocal group VOCES8, soloists from Welsh National Opera with the festival community chorus, composer Robat Arwyn and tenor Rhys Meirion.
The resident orchestra again this year is 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 Robert has run a very similar young musicians’ course as part of this year’s festival and the participants will be performing with NEW Sinfonia during the final concert on Saturday, 30 September.
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.
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 added: “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 www.nwimf.com. Tickets are available online and from Theatr Clwyd on 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames in St Asaph on 01745 582929.