World premiere of “masterpiece” at music festival hailed as a triumph


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A new symphony by royal composer Paul Mealor has been hailed as a “masterpiece” after its world premiere at a top music festival.

Professor Mealor dedicated his Symphony No. 2 Sacred Places to the vice chair of the North Wales International Music Festival, Sue Last, and her husband, John, who were deeply touched by the occasion.

It was performed by the event’s new resident orchestra NEW Sinfonia at a sell-out concert which brought down the curtain on this year’s festival which for the first time was stretched over three weekends.

The concert, which also featured a stunning performance by virtuoso violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, was sponsored by the arts-loving care organisation Pendine Park along with Aldie and Avril Robarts, from Denbigh.

Once again, the festival was held with the support of the Arts Council of Wales and also Tŷ Cerdd.

According to Sue, from St Asaph, it was a huge honour to have the symphony dedicated to them.

She said: “The premiere was mind-blowing and Sacred Places is a masterpiece. It is fantastic.

“Paul is a very spiritual guy and his music has a very spiritual quality to it. Frankly I’m so humbled that he should dedicate the symphony to John and I. And I do think of it as an honour, not just for us but for the festival as a whole.”

Prof John Last, a retired director of Littlewoods and later United Utilities as well as being a former chair of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, added: “It really was an unexpected honour and really overwhelming.”

The St Asaph-born composer, Professor of Composition at Aberdeen University, shot to global fame after he was commissioned to write Ubi caritas et amor by Prince William for his April 2011 marriage to Catherine Middleton.

He began his education in music as a young choirboy at St Asaph Cathedral and was delighted to be back on home turf.

Prof Mealor, 40, decided to dedicate the work to Sue and John Last as a way of honouring the amazing work done by the Lasts in support of the North Wales International Music Festival.

He said: “It seemed fitting to dedicate my Symphony Number 2 to Sue and John. I have known them for many years and they have become very firm friends.

“Sue and John work tirelessly to ensure the North Wales International Music Festival, which I am a huge supporter of, remains a success.

Prof Mealor was the first classical composer to hold both the classical and pop chart No 1s at the same time.

In December 2011 he secured the UK Christmas No 1 with Wherever You Are, his piece for The Military Wives Choir conducted by Gareth Malone.

He added: “The North Wales International Music Festival is really important. There are not too many places in the region where you can go and listen to the very best classical music. It’s a festival we must protect and ensure it goes from strength to strength.”

Ann Atkinson, the festival’s artistic director, is already planning for next year.

She said: “The decision to structure the festival in a different way so there were concerts over three weekends has certainly paid dividends and the appointment of NEW Sinfonia as our resident orchestra was a huge success. They have been brilliant.

“It’s been a year that’s included some fantastic highlights and the world premiere of Paul Mealor’s new symphony, Sacred Places, was an absolute triumph which provided us with a perfect climax.

“We are blessed to have such a stellar talent here in Wales and musically he is a fitting heir to the festival’s founder, Prof William Mathias.

“As a composer, Paul has many years ahead of him so we are at the beginning of an exciting musical journey.”

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