An international harp festival being held in North Wales has been given a major boost.
The World Music competition at the Wales International Harp Festival, which will be staged for the fifth time at Galeri Caernarfon from April 5-11 is being supported by the arts-loving care organisation, Pendine Park.
Organised by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (William Mathias Music Centre), the festival will feature concerts, masterclasses, workshops and lecture recitals.
Pendine, which runs the Bryn Seiont Newydd care home in Caernarfon and other homes in Wrexham, will sponsor the competition to the tune of £3,500 from the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT) which supports cultural and community initiatives across Wales.
Festival director Elinor Bennett expects more than 100 harpists and musicians at the festival this year.
She said: “Pendine Park have provided very substantial sponsorship for this competition and we are very grateful for their support.
“The prospects for the festival this year are very good indeed and we look forward to an inspiring and uplifting event after the difficulties musicians have faced world-wide since the last Wales International Harp Festival was staged five years ago.”
Pendine Park proprietor Mario Kreft MBE said he and his wife, Gill, were pleased to support the Wales International Harp Festival this year.
He said: “The festival is truly one of Wales’s cultural gems and is putting our nation on the international stage.
“It is a great fit because our cultural heritage and the arts generally also play and important part in daily life at all our homes because it enriches the lives of our staff and residents alike.”
Nia Davies Williams, Pendine Park’s musician in residence, added: “The harp is one of the instruments we use at Bryn Seiont Newydd to enrich the lives of the residents. We have regular sing-alongs with the residents to piano and harp accompaniment.
“As well as a pedal harp I have a smaller Celtic harp which I can take around Bryn Seiont Newydd. I have been able to take the harp into residents rooms and place it on their knees for them to touch the strings and so on,” she said.
Nia herself will be taking part in the festival this year giving a talk about her work at Bryn Seiont Newydd and taking part in a workshop with folk singer Arfon Wyn.
The Anglesey-based musician was headteacher of Ysgol Hafod Lon in Y Ffôr near Pwllheli and pioneered the use of music with pupils with additional learning needs.
Elinor Bennett said the World Music competition features performances based on folk and traditional music from any country or tradition.
She said soloists, or a group of up to five members, can include any instrument or voices but must include at least one harp of any kind.
“In the first stage of the competition the entrants present a programme of their own choice of music that is no longer than 15 minutes.
“This will be held on Easter Sunday, April 9 from 9am and the following day, at 2pm, the entrants present a 20-minute programme.
“The first prize in this competition is £2,000 with a second prize of £1,000 and third prize of £500,” she said.
Elinor Bennett said entries for the World Music Competition are being accepted until 23:59pm on March 12, 2023.
Eminent harpist Dr Osian Ellis CBE, who died during the Covid-19 pandemic, was the festival’s Honorary President and all the prizes in the blue riband Chief Musician or Pencerdd competition are awarded in his memory.
Money for the Osian Ellis Prizes has been donated in memory of the great harpist.
The winner will receive a cash prize of £5,000, the competitor in second place will receive £2,000 while the one in third place will get £1,000.
Competitions for Junior and Youth harpists are also being staged at the festival.
In addition to the competitions the festival also features an extensive programme of concerts and recitals.
The festival’s opening concert features the premiere of a brand new work, Llechi, composed by talented young composer Math Roberts, with words by a twice crowned National Eisteddfod bard and former National poet, Ifor ap Glyn. The concert also features Côr Godre’r Aran, the well known choir from Llanuwchllyn near Bala.
Nicknamed the “hip-hop harpist” Deborah Henson-Conant, is one of the USA’s most popular and flamboyant performers of the electric harp and she pays a return visit to Caernarfon on April 6. She delighted audiences in 2006 and 2010 with her mix of music described as “cross-genre”. Concert Harp Classics including music by Debussy, Tournier and J S Bach will feature in a recital by the phenomenal French harpist, Isabelle Moretti, on April 7.
The following evening’s concert will bring two continents together by combining the Llanera harps of Latin America with harp music from Wales and Europe.
Former Royal harpist Catrin Finch, who has created wonderful musical partnerships with performers on many different styles of harps from many cultures, will share the stage with Colombian harpist Edmar Castaneda who the New York Times described as “almost a world unto himself”.
Renowned harpist Sioned Williams, who is originally from Flintshire, will present the story of Queen Victoria’s harpist John Thomas.
The final concert on Monday, April 10, will feature Pedair, a group which draws on the talents of four of Wales’ most prominent folk musicians – Gwenan Gibbard, Gwyneth Glyn, Meinir Gwilym and Siân James. Their fresh interpretations of the Welsh folk tradition emerged during lockdown and gained instant popularity.
The festival will conclude on April 11 with an opportunity to listen to the performances of the three finalists in the Pencerdd (Chief Musician) competition with recitals of their chosen music.
The winner of the competition will scoop a £5,000 cash prize and become the first holder of the Osian Ellis Prize.
Eminent harpist Dr Osian Ellis CBE, who died during the Covid-19 pandemic, was the festival’s Honorary President and the Chief Musician is being awarded in his memory.
Elinor Bennett added contributions towards the Prizes are invited from anyone who wishes to recognise Osian Ellis as one of the great harpists of our time.
“By supporting young harpists, Osian’s friends, colleagues and followers can show their appreciation of his work, and ensure that future generations will remember his great contribution to music internationally,” said Elinor Bennett.
Contributions can be made online at the Wales Harp Festival website at https://bit.ly/3HzoYD0 or cheques can be sent, made payable to CGWM, to Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias ar Galeri, Caernarfon, LL55 1SQ.