West End star heads for Wales


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West End singer and actress Maggie Preece is to star at this year’s North Wales International Music Festival.

The soprano found worldwide fame for her stunning performance as the Mother Abbess in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s lavish West End production of The Sound of Music and has taken centre stage in hit musicals all around the globe, including in China, Egypt and Dubai.

Now she can’t wait to sing at St Asaph Cathedral which hosts the 44th North Wales International Music Festival – held with the support of the Arts Council of Wales and Tŷ Cerdd – from September 17 – October 1.

Maggie’s passionate rendition of Climb Every Mountain in The Sound of Music has moved audiences to tears and will be among a repertoire of Rodgers and Hammerstein classics which she will perform in St Asaph.

She said: “The music of Richard Rodgers has always been especially close to my heart, all my life, having played one of the Snow children in Carousel as a little girl, at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

“While I was performing at The Palladium, in London, with the help of the Rodgers and Hammerstein organisation in New York, I produced a CD of 16 original and exciting arrangements of Richard Rodgers’s wonderful songs – arranged by the talented conductor Kevin Amos – written with his two main collaborators, Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein.

“I wrote a cabaret evening based around the extraordinary working relationship Rodgers had with both lyricists and the incredible body of everlasting songs and shows that were produced as a result. Our evening for the festival on September 24 in St Asaph Cathedral, is largely based around this.”

Maggie is a longtime friend of the festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, who she met while they were working on a cruise ship together.

She will be performing with the NEW Sinfonia orchestra, established by Wrexham brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy, which has just been appointed the festival’s 2016 Orchestra in Residence. Also joining them for part of the evening will be the boys of the Hogiau Cytgan Clwyd choir, of Ruthin.

Festival artistic director Ann Atkinson said tickets for the concert are expected to be snapped up and she advised audiences to book quickly.

She said: “Maggie is a big draw wherever she plays as her voice is so enchanting and exceptionally moving. One minute she can tug at our heartstrings with numbers like Climb Every Mountain, then delightfully take us to the land of whimsy with Isn’t it Romantic. I can’t wait to see her again and to take my seat for her performance.”

It has been a busy year for Maggie who reprised her role as the Mother Abbess when The Sound of Music was taken to Dubai. Following that she toured China, playing Mrs Higgins in an American production of My Fair Lady, from where she has just returned.

She trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the National Opera Studio and went on to perform leading roles with acclaimed companies including the English National Opera, Scottish Opera, Opera North and English Touring Opera.

She is also a familiar face in musical theatre and as an actress, having taken on numerous non singing roles.

She was famously Carlotta for 18 months in The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London.

In addition she sang the entire role for Minnie Driver in Joel Schumacher’s feature film of the musical in 2005, in which Maggie was also cast as The Confidante. In 2011 she played Jean in the UK tour of Victoria Wood’s Dinner Ladies – Second Helpings.

For much of last year she joined the repertory company of The Pitlochry Festival Theatre, playing a number of different roles, including Mam in Alan Bennett’s The Lady in the Van and Lady Bracknell in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

She said: “I trained as an opera singer and have sung many wonderful leading roles with major opera companies in the UK and abroad, but I have always also had a great love of musical theatre and I love acting too.

“I naturally enjoy seeing so many people come to watch us perform on the great stages of the world, but I also like the intimacy of a smaller venue which is why I am so looking forward to St Asaph Cathedral”

Maggie will perform a celebration of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein at North Wales International Music Festival, St Asaph Cathedral, on Saturday, September 24 at 7.30pm. She will also lead a vocal masterclass on Friday, September 23 at 10.00am.

The festival’s opening night, Saturday, September 17, will see the festival’s Orchestra in Residence, NEW Sinfonia, perform with the Festival Choir, in a celebration of the work of composer John Hosking, including the world premiere of his Missa pro defunctis.

“The festival finale on Saturday, October 1, will see NEW Sinfonia joined by violin virtuoso Tamsin Waley-Cohen with a programme to include the world premiere of Paul Mealor’s Sacred Places.

The two-week festival programme also includes concerts by Miloš Karadaglić, Janina Fialkowska, Vale of Clwyd Singers, and Ex Cathedra.

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

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