Five world premieres at top music festival

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A top music festival will be going virtual for the first time this year when the audiences will be treated to a quintet of world premieres.

While focusing mainly on contemporary music, the Bangor Music Festival has been a cultural highlight on the city’s calendar for more than 20 years and it is due to go ahead on March 12-13.

This year the series of concerts under the theme of ‘the environment’ will be streamed online, with organisers committed to ensuring those watching and listening can still enjoy the festival’s repertoire of musical delights, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

One of the highlights will be a tribute concert on the first evening to acclaimed Welsh composer John Metcalf, featuring his new string quartet.

There will also be new works by festival’s artistic director Guto Pryderi Puw, who hails from Parc, near Bala, and Bangor University graduate Thomas Whitcombe and emerging British-Malaysian composer Jasmin Kent Rodgman.

John Metcalf’s Harp Scrapbook will be performed during the lunchtime concert by the widely-admired Welsh harpist and composer Mared Emlyn from Eglwysbach in the Conwy Valley, who will also be unveiling her latest composition.

The Bangor University graduate, whose past achievements include winning the Urdd National Eisteddfod’s Chief Composition Medal in 2011 and receiving a number of high profile commissions, said: “I am currently working on the composition and look forward to sharing it during the festival.

“I have performed previously at the Bangor Music Festival and it is an event I have always enjoyed. Guto has always commissioned young people and given them the opportunity to be involved in the festival. It is a really good thing.”

Mared, 32, is full of praise for the way organisers have ensured the festival could proceed this year.

“It is a shame we cannot perform live to the audience but we are managing to adapt,” said Mared.

“I wish to congratulate Guto on the fact this is happening under the circumstances. I am delighted that there is still an opportunity to perform.”

The second day of the festival will feature a number of stellar names, with the award-winning soprano Caryl Hughes, baritone Paul Carey Jones and pianist Wyn Davies joining forces to provide an enchanting celebration of John Metcalf’s songs and opera arias.

There will also be a chance for the next generation to showcase their talents, crowned by performances of music by emerging composers by the Bangor New Music Ensemble and friends.

Bringing the curtain down on the festival will be the innovative Electroacoustic Wales, with their concert featuring music by the acclaimed Canadian composer Hildegard Westerkamp and Bangor resident Andrew Lewis.

Guto, who has been involved with the festival since it was launched in 2000, is currently working on his own composition titled String Quartet #1 – Your paths overflow with plenty and putting the final touches to the festival plans.

“Considering the restrictions that we face I was adamant the festival should be going ahead this year,” said Guto, who works as a music lecturer at Bangor University’s School of Music, Drama and Performance.

Guto said: “Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the creative industries and we feel it’s so important that we are able to stage the festival and in doing so to continue to support musicians, composers, sound and recording technicians while also trying to fill the vacuum of music events that audiences are currently experiencing.

“As a festival, we have always believed in offering emerging talent the opportunity to be involved and that will happen again this year.”

The new compositions in the tribute concert will be performed by the exciting Solem Quartet, with all the works focusing on the festival’s theme of ‘the environment’.

“I believe John Metcalf’s contribution deserves to be celebrated in his 75th year,” added Guto. “Many will agree with me that he is regarded as the main Welsh composer of his generation and through his compositions and various involvement in directing music festivals over the years his contribution to the musical life within this country is invaluable.

John Metcalf, whose composition will be a preview of Towards Silence – Winter Journey ahead of it being officially premiered later this year, was appointed an MBE in 2012 for services to music.

His lengthy list of credits from a lifetime working in the industry includes composing seven operas and helping the next generation of musicians through leading composition workshops.

He is full of praise for the contribution Bangor Music Festival makes to helping talent thrive.

“I have great respect for the festival. I admire the opportunities it provides for young people and I appreciate the quality of their work,” said John, of Lampeter, Ceredigion.

“There are not enough platforms for new music in Wales and there is a lack of critical discussion around new music in Wales. This festival plays a really valuable role.

“I am delighted about what they are doing for me. It is very thoughtful and it means a lot that Guto has wanted to do this.”

Completing the line-up for the tribute concert will be an impressive new work composed by Jasmin Kent Rodgman, co-commissioned by Solem Quartet and the music festival.

Metcalf’s musical endeavours will be further celebrated on the opening day of the festival with the two-part Zoomposium – The Music of John Metcalf featuring online talks by renowned and respected academics, critics and performers.

Further information about the festival can be found at www.bangormusicfestival.org.uk

This year’s concerts can be viewed on the digital platform AM, which can be found at www.amam.cymru