The artistic director of an international music festival who also led the “world’s oldest boy band” to global fame has been awarded one of Wales’s top honours.
Ann Atkinson was presented with the Sir Geraint Evans Award for her “significant contribution to Welsh music” by the Welsh Music Guild’s president, Captain Sir Norman Edwards, at the Guild’s Awards Luncheon held at the Cardiff and County Club in the Welsh capital.
She’s currently putting the final touches to the North Wales International Music Festival which will be held at St Asaph Cathedral from Saturday, September 14, to Saturday, September 28, thanks to support from the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and Colwinston Charitable Trust.
This year marks the 16th anniversary of her appointment and she’s promising another series of “fantastic concerts” packed with world class musical talent.
Ann is also a hugely talented mezzo soprano and has frequently starred at the renowned Glyndebourne Festival Opera.
In addition, she is also the musical director of two male voice choirs, Côr Meibion Trelawnyd and Côr Meibion Bro Glyndwr, as well as being a vocal tutor to a new generation of future singing stars.
She previously conducted the Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir which was “discovered” by pop producer Daniel Glatman – who steered the boy band, Blue, to fame and chart success – after he heard them singing at a wedding reception.
As a result, he helped the choir, dubbed the world’s oldest boy band, sign a lucrative record deal and sold the rights to their story to a Hollywood producer.
Ann admits the experience was “unreal” at times – and something she could never have imagined when she started out in the music business.
She won a scholarship to train at the Royal Academy of Music, in London, and while she was there she won several other prestigious awards including the Leverhulme Scholarship.
On top of that, she has won a string of top competition prizes including firsts at the National Eisteddfod and the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
Ann went straight from the Royal Academy to Scottish Opera and rose to prominence at Glyndebourne.
She said: “I was at Glyndebourne for four years solid and I sang during the first night when they opened the new £33 million opera house, singing in The Marriage of Figaro.
“I have toured up and down the country with many opera companies and I played the MP Ann Clwyd in the opera about the story of the Tower Colliery which was saved by the miners’ co-operative.
“My career has given me the opportunity to travel. I’ve been to Vietnam, I’ve toured New Zealand, Australia, Europe and America.
“As a soloist, singing at the Sydney Opera House has been a definite highlight but, whisper it quietly, the acoustic was very disappointing in there.”
Ann, who lives in Corwen, added: “I was very proud to receive this prestigious award for doing something that I love, particularly as it was in the name of one of our true musical giants, Sir Geraint Evans.
“It’s always wonderful when a highly respected organisation like the Welsh Music Guild recognise what it is that you are trying to do and that your efforts are given attention.
“We’re only a small band of people at the North Wales International Music Festival but we have some wonderful sponsors and supporters and we’re so lucky to have them, along with the support of the Arts Council and the other grant making bodies.
“The festival was launched by Professor William Mathias in 1972 so we are not far away from our 50th anniversary.
“It’s a great legacy and one that I am proud to carry on.”
Tickets are available online, from Theatr Clwyd, Mold – 01352 344101 or Cathedral Frames, St Asaph – 01745 582929. For more information about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com