Musical coup as orchestra signs up world renowned pianist Llyr Williams

Llyr Williams. Photo by John Ferro Sims.

An orchestra is celebrating a musical coup after signing up a world renowned pianist to play with them at a concert in Wrexham.

Llŷr Williams will be swapping the likes of Carnegie Hall in New York for a mid-summer concert with NEW Sinfonia at St Giles’ Church, Wrexham, on June 18.

The event is set to be one of the biggest crowd-pullers yet for the award-winning ensemble which is fast achieving its ambition to become the flagship orchestra of the region.

The chance to play alongside Llŷr is a huge boost for the multi-piece orchestra say its founders, Wrexham brothers, Robert and Jonathan Guy.

Llŷr, who also grew up in the Wrexham area, will be back on home turf after a high profile spring programme encompassing concerts in Michigan, USA, and Salzburg, Austria.

He said: “Appearing with the NEW Sinfonia will be a great thrill. I’ve seen them play and watched them progress into an orchestra North Wales can truly be proud of.”

Robert and his brother, clarinetist, Jonathan, founded the NEW Sinfonia in 2011, to create performance opportunities for professional young musicians from across North Wales.

The orchestra depends on grants and donations to finance its performances and has recently received a sponsorship boost from Ruthin-based Clifford Jones Timber to help it stage the June concert.

Robert said: “Any amount of sponsorship is a huge help to us. We can’t thank the company enough for its support and belief in the value of our orchestra.”

Richard Jones, of Clifford Jones Timber, said: “I am delighted to be helping NEW Sinfonia. The way it brings young North Wales musicians together to perform is excellent. Many of these budding young talents work in other parts of the UK and would not get the chance to perform together with other North Wales instrumentalists were it not for the NEW Sinfonia. They are a credit to music and a delight to go and listen to.”

Robert, who is a tutor in conducting at Huddersfield University, said: “Other regions have resident orchestras; Manchester has its famous Halle, Liverpool the Philharmonic, Newcastle has the Northern Sinfonia. We wanted to create an orchestra for our own region. There are so many outstanding musicians from North Wales that we wanted to give them an opportunity to play together in their own musical home. That’s how the NEW Sinfonia was born.”

In just a few short years since its formation the orchestra has grown from being new kids on the block to promising young contenders on the international stage.

Artistic director Robert said the concert at St Giles’ Church will be another major stepping stone along their route to even wider musical acclaim.

He said: “I’m a huge admirer of Llŷr. His musicianship is beyond compare and for us to get the chance to appear alongside him is a terrific honour. This will be one of our biggest concerts to date.”

Llŷr, 39, a former pupil of Ysgol Morgan Llwyd, Wrexham, now travels widely but never forgets his North Wales roots. His parents Gwynn and Christine live in Pentrebychan, and Llŷr, who is a regular at Wigmore Hall, London, and has graced the spotlight at New York’s Carnegie Hall, is the current artist in resident at Galeri Caernafon. He is also a judge for BBC4’s Young Musician of the Year.

His classical fanbase stretches across Europe and America, and in 2017 he will tour the USA west coast. This year he will be playing at the Gilmore Keyboard Festival in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on May 6. Following that, on May 10, he will be at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, with violin maestro Alexander Janiczek.

Llŷr is also currently undertaking a marathon Beethoven piano sonata cycle which has been spread over three seasons from 2014-2017.

“There has been a lot of Beethoven in my repertoire lately,” he laughed. “It’s been Beethoven, Beethoven, Beethoven, so it will be nice to play something different when I’m back home in June. I’ve chosen Chopin’s piano concerto number one for the St Giles concert. The last time I was there I played Chopin’s number two concerto, so I thought it would be good to give audiences the chance to hear the first one as well.”

Also on the programme will be Dvorak’s symphony number 9, From the New World, to be performed by NEW Sinfonia.

It is also hoped that audiences will be treated to an innovative debut in collaboration with the Your Space group based at Black Park Chapel, Halton, near Chirk.

Your Space provides activities and a social club for children and young people on The Autistic Spectrum, and supports their families and carers.

Robert explained: “We’ve applied for a small grant from the Arts Council for Wales to fund a project enabling us to work with Your Space in the run up to June. We would conduct childrens’ musical workshops and help them get to a stage where they could perform a chosen piece at the start of the St Giles concert.

“As an orchestra one of our goals is to interact with local communities across North Wales, to support musical education and involve people of all ages and abilities in live performances. That’s why we hope to forge this valuable link with Your space. We’ve submitted our application to the Arts Council and have yet to hear whether it will be granted. But it’s in the pipeline and all things being well we are very hopeful it will be approved. It would give an added dimension to the concert which we’re confident everyone will enjoy, whether watching or performing!”

In what will be a whirlwind week for Robert, the morning after the concert he jets off to South Korea after accepting an invitation to be Conductor in Residence at the Inspire Arts Festival held in Jeju, the main island of Jeju province in the Korea Strait. Then just a few days later he will be back in UK for a performance with Huddersfield Philharmonic Orchestra for which he is principal conductor.

* Llyr Williams will perform with NEW Sinfonia Orchestra at St Giles Church, Wrexham, on June 18, at 7.30pm. For further details visit: