Music lovers attending a top festival will be treated to 18 world premieres of new works – along with a yoga and a foot massage session.
The two-day Bangor Music Festival that’s being held at Pontio arts centre, Bangor on Friday and Saturday, February 14 and 15, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a packed programme based on the theme of Music, Health and Wellbeing.
The yoga sessions will be led by yoga teacher and author Leisa Mererid from nearby Felinheli, who has recently published a book on the subject.
The festival was the brainchild of Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, senior lecturer and head of composition at the School of Music and Media, Bangor University.
According to Dr Puw, the theme was particularly timely because a new study into the therapeutic benefits of music has recommended listening to a minimum of 78 minutes of music a day, in order to maintain a healthy mind and body.
The study was conducted by the British Academy of Sound Therapy and music streaming platform Deezer.
More than 7,500 people were studied and almost half of respondents saw music as a way of overcoming sadness while a third of participants found music enhanced their levels of concentration.
The study found that the therapeutic benefits of music became evident after 11 minutes of listening and, in the case of happiness, listeners needed only to wait five minutes to reap the emotional rewards of a song.
Classical music was said to be the most relaxing and the best for concentration.
Dr Puw said the findings were also borne out by his own experience.
He said: “We are celebrating a major milestone this year with our 20th anniversary and we felt the theme was wholly appropriate because it underlines the positive power of music.
“What we want to show and I think we have something for everyone in the packed festival programme, is that music can benefit someone’s mental health and physical wellbeing. It can make us feel better about ourselves.
“I want our audiences to not only have a sense of well-being but appreciate who they are and where they are in life.
“The festival kicks off with a concert by UPROAR and Electroacoustic Wales on the Friday evening, February 14 at Pontio arts centre, where six new pieces by young Welsh composers will be featured.
“The Saturday afternoon concert will also see two world premieres of new works for piano and electronics by composers Juan Pablo Barrios and Tim Sissons.
“The concert will explore ‘loneliness’. Juan Pablo Barrios and Tim Sissons jointly won the William Mathias Composition Prize at last year’s festival and as part of the prize we commissioned them both to compose new short pieces for this year’s festival.
“I’m really excited and looking forward to what they have come up with. It’s always thrilling to hear new works premiered knowing we are listening to something special for the very first time.
“The concert will also feature a recent work by Michel van der Aa entitled ‘Transit’ which examines the concept of loneliness in old age and will be accompanied by a video projection. There will also be a new work by Joanna Bailie called ‘Roll Call’ which is inspired by nostalgic memories of old photos.
“The Saturday evening concert, entitled ‘Returning’, will combine new musical commissions by Katherine Betteridge, Sioned Eleri Roberts and sound artist Duncan Chapman.
“It will be a truly unique concert exploring human connectivity with nature through Celtic legends connected to the sea. The concert will include musicians, actors, a dancer, lighting and video projection. It’s a concert I am really excited about and looking forward to.”
“With the theme being Music, Health and Wellbeing, we wanted to offer something more than just music so people attending the festival can experience a foot massage by Troedio while listening to music and take part in one of the yoga sessions running throughout the afternoon with Leisa Mererid.
“During January and early February, alongside other projects, we will be working with schools on several educational projects. Tim Sissons will be working with Key Stage 2 pupils of Ysgol Bro Lleu, creating a new composition based around ‘loneliness’.
“Katherine Betteridge will be working with pupils of Ysgol y Graig on the same themes as the ‘Returning’ concert, and will be performed later in the month at the school.”
Dr Puw added: “A group of us founded the Bangor Music Festival two decades ago as I wanted to provide people of all ages with that special opportunity to become immersed in new cultural experiences through new music, educational workshops as well as live performances of the highest standard.
“I think we have achieved what we set out to do and this year will be no exception. With leading artists from Wales and the UK we will be working closely with the local community through our imaginative outreach projects and by collaborating closely with students from the School of Music and Media at Bangor University. We continue to strive to offer the most creative, innovative and diverse programme of contemporary music as we possibly can.
“It’s going to be an amazing festival and I’d encourage families and music lovers of all ages to come along and see what we have to offer.
“We really do have something for everyone whether you are a 6 month toddler or pensioner! I want to see families enjoying the programme and perhaps, as the theme suggests, to improve their general well-being.”
To find out more about the Bangor Music Festival or for tickets please visit www.bangormusicfestival.org.uk