Swingles swing into Bangor for vocal master class

Swingles. Picture by Nedim Nazerali


One of the world’s top classical vocal groups is heading to next month’s Bangor Music Festival.

The latest line-up of The Swingles, a group that has been pushing the boundaries of vocal music for more than half-a century, will perform a concert of their newly commissioned music in Bangor University’s Prichard-Jones Hall on the evening of Saturday, March 7.

And earlier during the day the talented vocalists will lead a master class passing on some important tips and vocal techniques to aspiring singers.

There will also be a hat-trick of world premieres and an opening concert on St David’s Day by Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Cȏr Glanaethwy.

The music of Welsh female composers will take centre stage during and the festival will include a performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, featuring soloist soprano Ruby Hughes, in a concert of music penned by Welsh women, which will include three world premieres.

There will also be the European premiere of The Open Field, a work by the renowned Welsh born composer Hilary Tann who was inspired by the dramatic events of Tiananmen Square in China just over a quarter of a century ago.

Other highlights include concerts featuring distinguished soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, experimental music by the Bangor New Music Ensemble and oriental improvisation by The Fusion Ensemble, the acclaimed Russian pianist Xenia Pestova who’ll be joined by Electroacoustic Wales, along with a gig by Welsh indie band Sŵnami.

High tenor Oliver Griffiths, who has been with the Swingles since 2010, says the seven strong group are looking forward to performing at the festival.

He said: “Appearing at the Bangor Music Festival is the start of a very intense few months for us as it leads into a tour of Taiwan, mainland China and the United States and Canada so we are going to be away from our London base for quite a few months.”

“We are looking forward to Bangor so much as we really enjoy the chance to work with young vocalists during master classes. We all enjoy educational projects it’s a chance to inspire, equip and enrich people especially young and up and coming talent.

“Vocalists should feel free to improvise and experiment with music as part of a playful and joyous process.”

The Swingles were originally formed in Paris in 1962 by American vocalist and jazz musician Ward Swingle.

The French group disbanded in 1973 and Ward Swingle moved to London where he recruited new singers and launched Swingles II before changing the name to The Swingles.

Olive Griffiths said: “We are just in the process of recruiting a new second tenor and Bangor Music Festival will be the first concert of our new, latest line-up. This is the first change we have had in several years.

“We are well aware that we have an important legacy to protect. There is a sense of responsibility that comes with being a Swingle, there is a rich history behind everything we do.

“We will always perform what the audience would expect of a Swingles concert. Bach and Debussy will always be an important part of any of our concerts. However, we are enjoying spending time writing and arranging our own music.

And The Swingles continue to spend time in the recording studio and released two new albums of work last year.

Oliver said: “There have been more than 50 Swingles recordings released and the group, in all its forms, has won five Grammy awards over the years.

“We have also been fortunate to have appeared on numerous soundtracks including Sex and the City, Glee, Grey’s Anatomy and Milk.”

He added: “I’m not sure what our programme will be for the Bangor Music Festival but it will be varied and, although there will be Bach and Debussy and plenty of our own new work, there will be some Beatles, Annie Lennox and some other surprises too.

“We love performing for knowledgeable Welsh audiences and I’m sure we are going to have a wonderful evening performing in Bangor. It’s going to be intimate, joyous and above all a celebration of wonderful music. We look forward to seeing you there!”

For more information about Bangor Music Festival and tickets please visit www.bangormusicfestival.org.uk / 01248 382181