Top soprano Elin swaps royal wedding for St Asaph Cathedral

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A top soprano who wowed a global television audience of two billion people with a stunning performance at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is heading for North Wales.

Elin Manahan Thomas will have a starring role at the North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral in a concert on Friday, September 28.

The festival, which runs from Saturday, September 15, to Sunday, September 30, is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Tŷ Cerdd.

Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and pianist Jocelyn Freeman. Picture by Matthew Thistlewood.
Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and pianist Jocelyn Freeman. Picture by Matthew Thistlewood.

The memories of singing at the Royal Wedding in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle are still vivid for Elin.

She recalled: “It was lovely being invited to perform at Meghan and Prince Harry’s wedding. I had a call, out of the blue, some months before from the Master of Music at St George’s Chapel who I have worked with in the past. I was delighted, obviously.

“The ceremony itself was beautiful. I had a brief chat with Prince Harry before the service. He wished me luck which was lovely. I said the same to him and he replied that he would need it! I also had a brief conversation with Prince William too.

“Then when Meghan came near me she gave me this wonderful smile, it was a magical day. And what made it better for me was that all mobile phones had to be surrendered before the ceremony started.

“That meant people were actually watching and weren’t filming everything on mobile phones.”

“I sang Handel’s Eternal Source of Light Divine which I also performed at the opening ceremony of the 2012 Paralympics in London.

“I think I was chosen for the Royal Wedding as it’s a piece I’m known for. It has some really high notes which I’m particularly known for and Eternal Source of Light Divine is all about those very high notes.”

At the festival Elin, who was born in Swansea and studied at Cambridge after winning a choral scholarship, will be joined by pianist Jocelyn Freeman for a concert entitled Reflections to honour the work of two female Welsh composers.

Prolific composer Morfydd Llwyn Owen died in Swansea aged just 27 in 1918 while composer and accompanist Dilys Elwyn Edwards was born in Dolgellau in 1918 and taught piano at Bangor University.

She said: “To perform works by Owen and Edwards, two amazing Welsh women composers, is wonderful and we know the St Asaph audience will really appreciate the work and understand the music.”

“Jocelyn is a wonderful pianist. I met her at the National Eisteddfod in 2009 which was held at Bala.

“I thought she was wonderful, a fantastic young pianist. I kept in touch and began working with her. She really understands the music and can interpret the composer’s work in the way it should be.

“It’s going to be a lovely concert and I’m really excited about performing for the St Asaph audience once again.”

North Wales International Music Festival artistic director Ann Atkinson is looking forward to welcoming Elin and Jocelyn to St Asaph and this year’s festival.

She said: “It’s always a pleasure to hear Elin perform. She has the most amazing soprano voice and performs in a way which really brings out the emotion in any piece of work.

“And the fact she is being accompanied by Jocelyn Freeman is a musical match made in heaven.

“I’m really excited they are performing the works of Morfydd Llwyn Owen and Dilys Elwyn Edwards, two inspirational Welsh composers. The theme this year is Reflections as we wanted to look back on the centenary of the end of the Great War.

“But that fits in with the centenary of the birth of Dilys Elwyn Evans and the tragically young death of Morfydd Llwyn Owen.”

The concert will also include the group Family Affair made up of composer and pianist Brian Hughes, clarinettist Daniel Brian Hughes and flautist Miriam Hughes.

Artistic director Ann Atkinson added: “I’m delighted with the line-up for this year’s festival. We launch the 2018 festival on Saturday, September 15th with the world premiere of a new piece by Professor Paul Mealor based on the Kipling poem My Boy Jack.

“We have a concert called Hymn to the Fallen, a programme of remembrance to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice featuring the popular Voces8.
“International pianist Freddy Kempf will perform a concert of music by Chopin and will also perform Ravel’s Le Tombeau de Couperin, which was written in 1917 and is dedicated to friends that perished in the Great War.

“Our Festival community chorus will perform with Welsh National Opera and we have another world premiere, Materna Requiem, by composer Rebecca Dale.

“Classical guitarist Craig Ogden will join forces with jazz superstar Jacqui Dankworth for an intimate concert which will include songs by everyone from Paul Simon and James Taylor to Henry Mancini and Michel Legrand.

“And on the Saturday evening we will have the Smile, Smile, Smile performance with NEW Sinfonia and the workshop students as well as the Elgar cello concerto with celebrated cellist Raphael Wallfisch.

“Smile, Smile, Smile is based on the wartime song Pack up your Troubles which was written by two St Asaph-born young men, George and Felix Powell. George sang in the choir at St Asaph Cathedral while Felix played the organ.

“The festival will close on the Sunday with a concert reflecting on the centenary of the end of the Great War with performances by Trelawnyd and Bro Glyndŵr Male Voice Choirs, Côr Cytgan Clwyd and A5 Brass Quintet from NEW Sinfonia.

“The programme will include a selection of wartime songs and works by Barber, Kamen and Karl Jenkins.”

She added: “It’s going to be a very special festival this year. I’d encourage anyone who likes classical and contemporary music to get their tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

Tickets are available online, from Theatr Clwyd, Mold – 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames, 28 High Street, St Asaph – 01745 582929. To find out more about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com.