Search is on for community choristers to sing with opera stars at iconic music festival

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A search has been launched to find singers to join a new community chorus to share the stage with world class soloists at an international music festival.

Artistic Director Ann Atkinson

The first performance of the Festival Chorus will be a highlight of this year’s North Wales International Music Festival, which has firmly established itself as one of the highlights in the UK’s cultural calendar since being founded in 1972.

They will be performing with stars of Welsh National Opera (WNO) during a memorable evening of classical music in the glorious setting of St Asaph Cathedral on Sunday, September 24.

This is the second year that the festival will feature concerts spanning three weekends, starting on Saturday, September 16, and continuing until Saturday, September 30.

All the dazzling musical events will take place in the historic cathedral where the acoustics have been hailed as “better than Sydney Opera House”.

Recent past festival performers have included superstar cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber, celebrity pianist Llyr Williams and the official harpist to the Prince of Wales Hannah Stone.

Organisers are currently recruiting male and female singers of all voice types for the Festival Chorus, which will sing alongside four highly accomplished WNO soloists during the spectacular Magnificat Concert.

The festival’s Musical Director is Ann Atkinson, herself an acclaimed mezzo soprano who during an illustrious musical career also directed the world famous Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir when it shot to international stardom and now conducts two other male voice choirs, Cȏr Meibion Bro Glyndwr and Cȏr Meibion Trelawnyd.

She said: “The festival’s ethos is to bring the very best classical musicians to North Wales and this year we have the exciting prospect of collaborating with the WNO, which is one of the finest musical organisations in Wales.

“This is the first time we have worked with the WNO and especially for the Magnificat Concert at 7pm on September 24 we are recruiting members for a Festival Chorus which will also be known as the WNO Community Chorus North.

“We’re looking for men and women from the age of 18 upwards of all voice types – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – to sing alongside soloists from WNO on two of the pieces during the concert. These will be Magnificats by Bach in D and Oliver Tarney, a young and accomplished choral composer who is Head of Composition and Singing at Winchester College in Hampshire.

“This will be the Welsh premiere for his Magnificat and also the Magnificat by the Royal and Welsh composer Paul Mealor which will also be included in the evening’s repertoire along with the Magnificat composed by William Mathias, who was the festival’s founder.

“The concert conductor will be Robert Guy, who leads the festival’s orchestra in residence NEW Sinfonia.”

Ann added: “It would certainly help if people who apply to join our Festival Chorus have some previous singing experience although we won’t turn them away if they haven’t. No audition is required

“The first rehearsal for the chorus will be held at Venue Cymru in Llandudno between 5.30pm and 8pm on Sunday May 14 and there will be further rehearsals at the same place and times on 16 further Sundays throughout May, June, July, August and September until the performance towards the end of that month.

“We are hoping to recruit in excess of 100 singers and if we get that number I’ll be very happy as there’s a great team of people working on this project.

“In the past I have organised a number of similar chorus groups, such as the one performed at the National Eisteddfod in Wrexham in 2011. The most exciting part about it is involving the community in classical music. It’s nice to give people the opportunity to sing different repertoire and to feel they are such an important part of the festival.

“The Magnificat Concert at which the Festival Chorus will perform promises to be a lovely evening of music in the cathedral, which is a wonderful venue with brilliant acoustics.”

Ruth Evans, WNO Youth and Community Producer, said: “Welsh National Opera’s roots lie in members of the community coming together driven by their love of song.

“WNO Community Chorus welcomes adult amateur singers of all ages and backgrounds from across Wales – and over the border – to come and take part in operatic experiences with WNO and be part of our community.

“It’s fantastic to be working in collaboration with the North Wales International Music Festival which has become an iconic annual event and our soloists are very much looking forward to singing alongside the Festival Chorus.

“In partnership with NWIMF we are delighted to be presenting two Welsh premieres by two contemporary and very talented composers Oliver Tarney and Paul Mealor. The Magnifcat is the Song of Mary and through these different settings of the text we will take the singers and the audience through a journey of styles from plainsong to operatic.

“There will be no audition for the WNO Community Chorus North but members will be required to commit to and attend a series of rehearsals starting in May. Rehearsals will be led by WNO Community North Chorus team, including Annette Bryn Parri, Jenny Pearson and Huw Llywelyn.

“The cost to be part of this WNO Community Chorus North is £30 per singer. Details of how to pay will be confirmed post application.”

More information about how to apply for a place in the chorus, by the deadline date of Sunday April 30, is available at www.wno.org.uk/community-chorus  or via the festival website at www.nwimf.com. A hard copy version of the application form is available by calling the North Wales International Music Festival office on 01745 584508 or emailing sioned.foulkes@wno.org.uk.

The festival launch concert, featuring a Welsh National Opera soloist, NEW Sinfonia quartet and special guests, will be on Wednesday June 28 at 7.30pm in St Asaph Cathedral, after which tickets for the other festival concerts will go on sale.

For more information about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com or email caroline@nwimf.com.