AFTER a two-year hiatus, the Conwy Classical Music Festival returns from July 23-30.
With a range of orchestral, instrumental, choral and vocal music to choose from, the event, which is one of the largest in Wales with no admission charge, will offer music spanning 900 years.
From medieval songs to some of the UK’s greatest contemporary composers, the event will once again be free, relying simply on the generosity of spectators, who can contribute to a fundraiser at the end of each concert, and on the sponsorship of local businesses and individuals.
Kicking off the week will be a candlelit performance by The Telling, fresh from their appearance on Radio 3’s ‘In Tune’ the previous day.
Their production, “Vision”, chronicles the life and work of the visionary 12th century Abbess Hildegard of Bingen.
Hildegard, played by actress Teresa Banham, revisits and relives significant episodes of her life, further enhanced by her own haunting and distinctive singing.
The group has appeared at many early music festivals and received rave reviews in the music press for their recordings.
Old music reappears later in the week with the return of award-winning singers from the Marian Consort, who have performed at the Proms on several occasions.
They will perform a contrasting program of stagings of texts dedicated to the Virgin Mary from the 16th century to the present day.
Some of Wales’ brightest and best young singers will take part in the festival, including English National Opera Harwood performer Elgan Llyr Thomas, from Llandudno who recently made his Covent Garden debut.
The winner of the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at the Llangollen Eisteddfod in 2019, Erin Gwyn Rossington, will be joined by Angharad Rowlands, Robert Lewis and John Ieuan Jones to perform a program of operatic highlights.
Between them, the four have landed appearances at many prestigious opera festivals, including Glyndebourne.
One of North Wales’ most popular singers, Sioned Terry, will also take the stage, accompanied by distinguished pianist Iwan Llewelyn Jones, to present a program exploring the rich repertoire of songs by North Wales composers.
The festival always makes it a point to encourage singers at the start of their career and this year there will be the opportunity to hear Rhys Meilyr, Owain Rowlands and Florence Kaiser perform.
One of the highlights of the week will undoubtedly be the concert by the Festival Orchestra.
The orchestra, made up of members from some of the greatest orchestras in the North-West, will present a program beginning with Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro Overture.
This will be followed by Beethoven’s Triple Concerto, in which the soloists will be Eva Thorarinsdottir, Hannah Roberts and Benjamin Powell.
The concert will end with a performance of Mendelssohn’s Joyful Italian Symphony, a work with particular resonance in Conwy when Mendelssohn visited the town in 1829 and made a detailed sketch of the newly built castle, church and suspension bridge.
Chamber music will be well represented with concerts by the Fitzsimmon Ensemble, the Manchester Ensemble, the Ensemble of North Wales Camerata and the internationally renowned Dante Quartet. Among the composers whose works will be performed are Beethoven, Mozart, Britten, Franz Krommer, Poulenc, Elgar and Dvorak.
The piano will be featured with solo recitals by Ellis Thomas and Richard Ormrod, both of whom will present varied programs showing the full range of the instrument’s capabilities.
Conwy’s own concert pianist, Christina Mason-Scheuermann, will also perform at two morning concerts, which she will be joined by some of her musician friends – cellist Hazel Sturt and Gudela Hufschmidt.
The festival is run by Chris Roberts, who has been involved in organizing concerts at St. Mary’s Church, Conwy since 1981, and founded the festival in 2005.
He is supported in running the festival by a large group of volunteers who give freely of their time and talents to help make the week-long event a success.
The festival’s work in promoting local talent and developing the cultural life of North Wales has won praise from music celebrities such as Sir Bryn Terfel and composer royal Paul Mealor.
Chris Roberts said: “I am delighted that after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic, the festival is back with a varied program with something to please everyone.
“The past two years have been a really tough time for all of us, especially professional musicians, and so this will be a great opportunity to celebrate the return of live music in all its glory.”
The concerts take place in the historic St. Mary’s Church in the center of Conwy town.
The full program can be found at www.conwyclassicalmusic.co.uk.