An internationally renowned vocal group named after a 16th century Italian aristocrat who brutally murdered his wife and her lover will be taking centre stage at a top music festival.
The Gesualdo Six will be among the star attractions at the North Wales International Music Festival when they perform at a concert at St Asaph Cathedral on Friday, September 20.
The festival will be on from Saturday, September 14, to Saturday, September 28, thanks to support from the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and Colwinston Charitable Trust.
Among the other highlights will be performances by Japanese pianist Yu Kosuge, rising piano star Luke Jones, the Only Boys Aloud choir, folk groups Awen Celtica and VRï and mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones, who will perform with the resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia.
NEW Sinfonia was established by brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy who were regulars at the festival’s masterclasses and workshops when they were younger.
The Gesualdo Six were named after Carlo Gesualdo, the Italian Prince of Venosa, Count of Conza and composer, who was pardoned because of his status as a nobleman after killing his errant wife and her lover when he found them in bed together.
Director Owain Park said: “It’s amazing; despite the fact he was composing works in the 16th century, Carlo Gesualdo’s works have a real modern feel to them.
“We will be performing Felice Primavera (Oh Happy Spring) which was written by Gesualdo as well as works by Claudio Monteverdi, Caspar Vincent, William Byrd and other 16th Century composers.
“But the concert won’t be all ancient works as the programme includes works from the 1950s, 1970s and 1990s too.
“After initially coming together as a group of friends to perform songs written by Gesualdo we have grown up as a group and now have a much wider repertoire.”
Owain Park, who was born in Cardiff but grew up in Bristol, says the original members of The Gesualdo Six all met at Cambridge University.
He said: “We all just loved the works of Gesualdo. We find it nice to come together and perform, with each singer, each voice, having a distinct role to play. A couple of original members left and have been replaced. But we have had an unchanged line-up for three years now.
“And we now enjoy a mix of old and contemporary works but essentially we are still a classical consort I suppose. We enjoy exploring new works and finding new songs to add to our repertoire.
“We perform all over Europe and have enjoyed a major tour of Canada. However, this is the first time we will have performed at the North Wales International Music Festival and it’s certainly a concert we are really looking forward to.”
The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, is delighted to be welcoming The Gesualdo Six to St Asaph and is very grateful to The Lord Thomas of Gresford OBE QC and The Baroness Walmsley for their sponsorship of the evening.
She said: “Their programme is so varied and includes some fantastic pieces of work. They will be performing a selection of folk song arrangements too. It’s going to be a magical evening of classical music sung in the sublime acoustics of St Asaph Cathedral.
“The vocalists that make up The Gesualdo Six are some of the very best young voices we have in the UK and they work together beautifully to produce a consort of voices that is, quite frankly, unrivalled.”
“I chose this year’s theme of Mother Earth as nature has provided an inspiration for so many composers. Beethoven, for example, often used nature as inspiration for his compositions and said, on more than one occasion, he preferred the company of a tree to that of a human being.
“The evening concert on Thursday, September 26 will feature our resident NEW Sinfonia orchestra performing Beethoven’s Symphony No 6, Pastorale. Each element of the symphony is inspired by nature. It’s a very special and famous piece of music.”
“We also have Welsh classical pianist Luke Jones, who hails from Wrexham, and the folk trios Awen Celtica and VRï, as part of our line-up this year.
As usual, there will be an educational programme running alongside the festival.
Ann added: “The educational programme is a vital part of the festival’s ethos. This year we are going to be decorating the cathedral’s pillars as trees to reflect the Mother Nature theme.
“Pupils from local primary schools will be involved in a cross-curricular project centred on the seasons.
“Music students of all standards will be working with NEW Sinfonia musicians as part of our instrumental project and will have the opportunity to perform, something they will always remember.”
“There is something for everyone at this year’s Festival including an evening of folk music and a chamber music morning concert with Ensemble Cymru. It’s going to be an amazing Festival featuring world class musicians.”
Tickets are available online, from Theatr Clwyd, Mold – 01352 344101 or Cathedral Frames, St Asaph – 01745 582929. For more information about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com