A top chamber orchestra from North Wales has linked up with a Swiss choir to launch a new international cultural exchange programme.
As part of the project, Ensemble Cymru will jointly commission a new choral work with orchestra that will be sung in Welsh and Romansch which is a minority language in Switzerland.
They will be working with the Vokalensemble Incantanti choir which comes from a part of Switzerland where the people speak Romansch, one of four official languages in the country along with German, Italian and French.
The exchange programme was unveiled at a special fundraising gala evening staged in the sumptuous setting of the Tre-Ysgawen Hall Country House Hotel and Spa, near Llangefni on Anglesey.
Among the special guests was The Honorary Swiss Consul in Wales, Ruth Thomas-Lehmann and 15 specially invited members of the Swiss community from across North Wales.
Other VIPs included Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, Ensemble Cymru’s Honorary President, the Lord Lieutenant for Gwynedd, Edmund Seymour Bailey, and the Vice Chancellor of Bangor University, Professor John Hughes.
Ensemble Cyrmu was founded in 2001 by its Artistic Director, Peryn Clement-Evans, to champion the cause of chamber music in Wales and beyond.
Over the past few years Ensemble Cymru has reached over 20,000 in Wales alone through its national tours, television broadcasts and a CD. It is also Resident Ensemble at Bangor University and Venue Cymru in Llandudno.
It performs in groups of between one and 20 musicians and as a registered charity puts any surplus from its appearances across Wales straight back into work experience schemes and workshops for schools.
These visits have included visits to Ysgol Cymerau in Pwllheli, Ysgol Hafod Lon a school for children and young people with special education needs and Galeri Caernarfon where it held a training session for music teachers and performers.
As part of its vision to support schools and organisations through music and the arts, the ensemble set itself a goal back in 2009 to work with musical groups and young people in countries across mainland Europe by 2020.
Guests at the launch of the cultural exchange programme learned that the ensemble’s first official link has been forged with Vokalensemble Incantani from the canton of Grisons in Switzerland.
Peryn explained that Vokalensemble Incantani was chosen as the ensemble is particularly interested in forming friendships with other minority language communities in countries similar to Wales.
He said: “Its conductor, Christian Klucker, is due to visit us in North Wales at the end of this month and one of the first things we plan to do as part of our new partnership with the choir is to work with him on our appearance in Bachfest.
“This is part of the global Bach in the Subways music festival celebrating the life of J S Bach and will see the ensemble giving a series of free performances on March 20 and 21 across Bangor and Llandudno, including a really special event when it will be conducted by Christian Klucker.
“During Christian’s visit to Wales we will also begin preparations for the ensemble’s co-production with the choir which will involve tours in both Wales and Switzerland in 2016.
“At the same time we are looking to work with Vokalensemble Incantanti to commission a new piece of chamber music using the Welsh and Romansch languages that can be toured across the world.”
The ensemble’s new Swiss connection was also strengthened during a series of concerts staged during the run-up to the launch event by the ensemble in venues such as Pwellheli, Llandudno, Holyhead and Cilcain when Swiss-British violinist Naomi Burrell joined the ensemble perform performing music by the Swiss composer Frank Martin.”
Peryn added: “Establishing this first link with Switzerland is of major importance to our vision of promoting international understanding through music and comes as the fulfilment of a dream that goes all the way back to 2009.”
“After working closely with Vokalensemble Incantanti we intend to seek out further European partners in Ireland, the Netherlands, Brittany and elsewhere and work with other chamber ensembles, including choirs, on projects that will take music into schools and communities.
“The launch evening at Tre Ysgawen Hall was highly successful and enjoyable and I would like to thank the hotel, which has a link to Switzerland, for the support they have provided to make it possible.”
“I know they our share our passion for how important it is to have an international dimension through which to enable children in Wales to have contact with cultures and traditions not just in their own country but across the world.”
The Swiss ambassador in the UK, Dominik Furgler, said: “It was with great interest that I learned about the initiative to create a cultural exchange between North Wales and other countries.”
“I send you my thanks for this initiative and I hope that it will enable the development of new projects, especially if they are representative of the cultural diversity of our two countries.”
Urs Cadruvi, director of Lia Rumantscha, the Swiss-based organisations which promotes the Romansch language, also hailed the new cultural exchange link, saying: “Asserting identity and ensuring visibility are crucial for any linguistic minority.”
“We are delighted to share with you our music, language and culture and we are looking forward to learning more about Wales.”
Neil Rowlands, chief executive officer of the Tre Ysgawen Hall Country House Hotel and Spa, said: “We were delighted to both host and sponsor the very successful launch event, and with our long standing links with Switzerland and it was especially nice that a choir from that Romansch region of the country has been in at the start of the exchange programme.
“We are also pleased to support the whole programme as it is our strong belief that working with children through music and the arts helps bring down international barriers. We wish it every success.
“Playing host to the launch was also part of our long term vision to welcome more cultural events of this type to Tre-Ysgawen Hall in the future.”