World class harpist returns to Mid-Wales for concert in aid of mental health charity

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A renowned international harpist is returning to his Mid-Wales roots to perform a solo concert in aid of a charity which helps prevent serious mental illness in young people.

Ieuan Jones, who has played for royalty and audiences across the globe during his a glittering professional career, will be presenting selections from his latest album which features his world-first adaption of Schubert’s piano compositions for the harp.

And he hopes to be playing a new harp being made especially for him in Italy.

Ieuan, who used to live in the area before moving his base to London, will be back in the picturesque Powys village of Berriew, near Welshpool, on the evening of Friday June 17 for the concert to raise money for locally-based charity Rekindle.

Founded in 1998 by Ieuan’s lifelong friends Jenny and Neville Thomas, Rekindle supports young people and adults suffering from or at risk of mental illness.

From its headquarters in Newtown, it provides a planned recovery programme tailored to individual needs and aimed at the development of life skills, the restoration of self-respect and the resumption of meaningful activities.

The concert, to be staged in the glorious setting of Berriew’s historic Grade II listed parish church of St Beuno’s, will specifically support the charity’s pioneering Small Steps service which is unique in Wales and specialises in preventing serious mental illness developing in vulnerable 16-25 year olds.

After that he will be performing at a return concert at the Isle of Man Festival with the baritone Benjamin Appl on Sunday June 19.

Ieuan, a farmer’s son from Mathrafal near Meifod, began his love affair with the harp at the age of six and at just 13 became the youngest member of the National Youth Orchestra of Wales.

While still a student at the famous Royal College of Music in London he was head-hunted to become resident harpist at the House of Commons in London – a position he held for 13 years – and has gone on to give concerto appearances with some of the world’s finest orchestras.

Fresh out of college he was invited to give a private performance of the harp for the late Queen Mother at her Windsor home and the royal connection continued earlier this year when he was presented with a Fellowship of the Royal College, of which he has been Professor of Harp since 1997, by the Prince of Wales.

During his illustrious professional career Ieuan has played in over 25 countries, including Argentina, Australia and Hong Kong, and appeared with some of the world’s leading orchestras.

He has also made many home appearances at venues such as the Royal Albert Hall in London, the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester and St David’s Hall in Cardiff, with programmes that include works rarely played on the harp and often with other instruments like the flute and violin and as part of harp and string quartets.

He is also a member of the Associated Board of the Royal School of Music’s board of diploma examiners, and regularly appears on international competition panels worldwide.

His audiences have included royalty, ambassadors and prime ministers.

Now based in Battersea, London, he has made half a dozen albums and his latest includes nine tracks of Franz Schubert’s works for the piano which he has personally transcribed for the harp to showcase his instrument’s versatility to a wider audience and is a world first for a solo harpist.

He said: “I’ll be playing selections from the new album when I present my solo concert in aid of Rekindle in Berriew on June 17.

“I recorded it because I like to do something different. The harp is a small world and has a limited original repertoire. Since I left college I have been trying to push the boundaries and play the sort of music you wouldn’t expect from a harp.

“It wasn’t easy to do but I’ve transcribed nine pieces by Schubert originally written for the piano and this is a world first for a solo harpist.

“Performing the Schubert pieces will also be the perfect chance to present my music to the many people I know in the area where I used to live before my career took me to London.

“I recently ordered my first new harp in over 30 years which is being specially made for me in Italy.

“It cost many tens of thousands of pounds and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be delivered in time for the concert when I’ll also be playing a few traditional Welsh pieces which are always very popular.”

He added: “I’m very much looking forward to being back in Mid-Wales for the concert to benefit this very special charity founded by Jenny and Neville Thomas who I have known since I was very young.

“It will also be good to be back in my home area for a concert as the last one I did at Berriew Church for Rekindle was quite a few years ago.”

Jenny Thomas, who served as High Sherriff of Powys in 2010/2011, said: “Ieuan is very kindly putting on this concert for us at St Bueno’s.

“I have known him since he was a boy and didn’t live very far away from me in Berriew and followed his career with interest.

“He has inspired a lot of young harpists in the area and everyone will be very glad to see him again.

“His last concert for Rekindle was in the same church about 10 years ago and was hugely successful. The church is capable of holding up to 180 people and we’re hoping to fill it once again.

“It’s also very exciting that he may be using his new harp for the first time at our concert, which is preceded by wine and canapes at 6pm with the music beginning at 7.30pm.”

Jenny added: “It’s fantastic that money raised at the concert will specifically support our Small Steps project, which has so far been unbelievably successful.

“Between them, our two project workers now have over 100 clients and referrals are coming in thick and fast.

“We believe there is a huge gap in services for young people with mental health problems in north Powys and, we’re filling that.

“Our charity receives no statutory funding so we rely completely on donations and charitable trusts.

“Rekindle was founded by myself, my husband Neville and the former MP for Montgomeryshire, Alex Carlile, who became Lord Carlile of Berriew and is now our Patron.”

Ieuan’s new album, Schubert by Ieuan Jones, is on the Claudio label, catalogue number CR60322.

Tickets for the concert, at £15, are available from: Christine Cookson 01686 640244, Beryl Vaughan  01938 820775, Jenny Thomas 01686 951515, or Meriel Thomas 07834 834085.