One of the UK’s most talented orchestra conductors has launched a search to find young virtuosos from North Wales to follow in his footsteps at a top festival.
Robert Guy who founded the NEW Sinfonia orchestra with his brother Jonathan is spearheading the search for recruits to a youth masterclass at the North Wales International Music Festival where they started out.
NEW Sinfonia is now the resident orchestra at the festival which starts at St Asaph Cathedral on Saturday, September 16, and ends on Saturday, September 30, and is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and the Colwinston Charitable Trust.
Among Robert’s claims to fame was working on a hit Sony PlayStation 4 advertisement watched by millions.
He conducted the world famous Manchester Camerata orchestra when it recorded the haunting theme tune for Sony PlayStation 4.
Dubbed The King, the gripping TV and cinema advertisement brought his conducting skills to the ears of computer gamers all around the globe. A You Tube posting of the dramatic commercial has had four million views.
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 North Wales International Music 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.
The festival is running the Strings Alive project with the assistance of the Thomas Howell’s Education Fund for North Wales and organisers are looking for at least 30 young musicians of all ages and abilities to take part.
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.
This is the second year it will feature events taking place over 14 days, which will see dazzling musical concerts in the historic setting of St Asaph Cathedral where the acoustics have been hailed as being ‘better than Sydney Opera House’.
Among the stars of this year will be singers from Welsh National Opera, vocal group VOCES8, Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, baroque instrumentalists Red Priest, composer Robat Arwyn, tenor Rhys Meirion, Ensemble Cymru, the National Youth Brass Band of Wales, violinist Ye-Eun Choi and Italian pianist Federico Colli.
A key highlight will be the free Strings Alive workshop led by Robert and fellow members of NEW Sinfonia, along with string tutors from the Denbighshire Music Co-operative.
The project will culminate in around 30 eager young string instrument players performing in the glittering finale concert at the cathedral alongside their tutors and NEW Sinfonia, playing exactly the same piece performed by the young Robert at the end of his own masterclass 12 years ago.
Robert, who apart from his role conducting NEW Sinfonia is also head of the choral programme and tutor in conducting at the University of Manchester, said: “This will be the first time that the festival has run a workshop for young musicians working on this specific piece of music since the one I memorably took part in when I was 16 years old, so it’s marvellous to see things coming full circle this year.
“At the time I became involved I was a pupil at Darland High School in Rossett and playing the viola with the school orchestra. I had also played with Wrexham County Youth Orchestra, the Four Counties Youth Orchestra, which included young musicians from Wrexham, Flintshire, Denbighshire and Conwy, and the National Youth Orchestra of Wales.
“I was one of about 20 taking part in the masterclass and remember that we were coached by members of the Orchestra of the Swan, who were playing at the festival, and after a morning’s rehearsal we played a 20-minute piece, Vaughan Williams’s Concerto Grosso, at the finale concert.
“This was my first experience playing with professional musicians and to me it was a highly inspirational event. It was such an enriching experience that it gave me a taste to become a professional musician myself.
“I also recall that the orchestra members who worked with us were really kind and supportive to us and gave us plenty of constructive feedback on how we should play and perform. That is exactly what we intend to do with the Strings Alive workshop this year.”
Robert added: “The workshop will be held between 10am and 4pm on Sunday, September 17, at Ysgol Brynhyfryd in Ruthin.
“We’re looking for young players of the violin, viola, cello and double bass from primary or secondary school age from right across North Wales to take part. The piece they will be practising and performing has been chosen because it was especially composed by Vaughan Williams for every level of ability and age, including beginners.
“There will be a full day of coaching by myself and other string players from NEW Sinfonia at the school. Then, on Saturday September 30, there will be a final rehearsal before the young musicians take part in the finale evening concert playing the piece they have learned.
“The concert is entitled A Journey from East to West and will also feature music by Bruch, Copland, Marquez and Mathias.
“A violinist of international reputation, Ye-Eun Choi, will be our guest artiste. Her colourful, expressive lyricism and virtuosity has earned her acclaim for her engagements as both a soloist and a chamber musician.
“It promises to be a truly amazing evening and it’s a real privilege for me to be involved in reaching out in this way to the next generation of professional musicians. Hopefully, as many people as possible will sign up to take part in this very special workshop which means so much to me personally.”
The festival’s Musical Director Ann Atkinson is herself an acclaimed mezzo soprano who during an illustrious musical career also directed the world famous Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir during the period when it shot to international stardom.
She said: “It’s wonderful to see the educational work we do as part of the festival coming to fruition in such a lovely way.
“This will be the first time we’ve held a music workshop involving the Vaughan Williams Concerto Grosso piece since the one Robert took part in 12 years ago and which inspired him to become the world-class conductor he is today.
“I remember well him taking part in that workshop in 2005 and it’s marvellous to see things coming full circle for him and the festival now.
“I’m delighted to say we’ve already signed up a number of people from various parts of North Wales but are still looking for many more and would like them to register as soon as possible.
“This is a unique opportunity to gain top-class tuition and perform in the finale concert of a prestigious music festival also featuring South Korean violinist Ye-Eun Choi, an artist of international acclaim.”
Anyone interested in joining Strings Alive can obtain more information by calling the festival office on 01745 584508, 07919 621933, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the festival please visit www.nwimf.com.