A digital concert starring a group of “sensational young singers” from Denbighshire will launch this year’s virtual Urdd Eisteddfod.
The spectacular showcase has been put together by serial festival winner Steffan Hughes, a multi-talented musician, singer and choir master, who hails from Llangwyfan in the Vale of Clwyd.
The Urdd National Eisteddfod had been due to take place down the road in Denbigh last year but it’s now been pushed back until 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year the Urdd instead held a virtual event, Eisteddfod T, which proved to be a huge success with 6,000 competitors taking part.
It’s back again this year and the show, Steffan Rhys Hughes a Thalentau Sir Ddinbych (Steffan Rhys Hughes and Talents from Denbighshire), is the curtain raiser for the week-long festival of competitions, concerts and other online activities which will be broadcast on S4C, Radio Cymru and on social media.
The Denbighshire showcase that’s being held at 7pm on Sunday, May 30, is being sponsored by the iconic firm, Ifor Williams Trailers, long-standing supporters of the Urdd who have factories in Corwen, Cynwyd, Sandycroft and on Deeside Industrial Estate.
The hour-long gig spotlights talented young musicians and singers, some already making names for themselves in the West End.
It was pre-recorded at Theatr Clwyd, Mold, and will be broadcast online by S4C for the first time on Sunday, May 30, at 7pm.
Performers include singer-songwriter Mared Williams, currently appearing in Les Miserables in London, along with Catherine Zeta Jones-scholarship winner Celyn Cartwright who will be duetting with Arwel Lloyd.
Steffan, a member of the Classical Brit-award winning group Only Men Aloud, will be performing and presenting the concert.E-tickets, priced at £15, are available from the Urdd Eisteddfod website, www.urdd.cymru/eisteddfod and all proceeds will go towards the Denbighshire Urdd Eisteddfod. Anyone who buys a ticket will be sent a link before the event which will enable them to view the concert on any digital device including a phone, tablet or television.
It will be available to watch for 48 hours after the May 30 premiere.
Steffan, 25, said: “It puts Denbighshire’s wealth of young singing stars centre stage and pays tribute to the fact that many of them honed their craft by competing in past Urdd Eisteddfod competitions.”
“It’s fantastic of Ifor Williams Trailers to sponsor the concert and it was just fabulous to be able to record it at Theatr Clwyd which every one of us has such deep affection for.
“I was thrilled to be asked to present it as it pays homage to my cultural roots. We got together a group of performers who are basically all friends and most of whom I went to school with. Since then, they’ve gone on to forge promising careers.
“We all feel it is so important to get behind the Urdd and the Welsh tradition of eisteddfod especially during these difficult times. So many of our most prominent musicians, writers and artists learned their skills through the culture of eisteddfod. All of us who perform in this concert have competed at the Urdd and we know firsthand how valuable it is to promote quality music in Wales.”
Steffan, now based in Cardiff, performs regularly on S4C and presents his own radio show, Sioeau Cerdd Steffan Rhys Hughes (Steffan Rhys Hughes Musicals), on BBC Radio Cymru.
He was delighted his old friend Mared Williams was able to take part. She squeezed in recording of the concert between preparing for her appearances as part of the ensemble in Les Miserables at the Sondheim Theatre, London.
Mared, originally from Llannefydd, was the winner of the International Voice of Musical Theatre at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 2018. She has performed overseas and recently released her debut solo album of original music.
The programme also features folk duet Prion, comprising Celyn Cartwright, from Denbigh, and Arwel Jones.
Singer-songwriter Arwel – also sometimes known by his stage name Gildas – is from Llansannan and well known for collaborating with the Al Lewis band.
He said: “To be able to support Eisteddfod T is also a great thing to do. I’ve always been involved with the Urdd Eisteddfod, as a child competing, gigging, or the various competitions with the schoolchildren now as a teacher.”
A classical quartet has also come together for the concert, featuring Sion Eilir Roberts, of Ruthin, Elis Jones, of Efenechtyd and sisters Ruth Erin Roberts and Ceri Haf Roberts of Henllan.
They perform a piece by local composer Robat Arwyn, called Adre Nol (Home Again).
Sion, 26, said: “All the performers are like an extended family, friends who just love to make music and entertain. We’ve really missed performing and producing live music together during the pandemic and lockdowns. It’s been hard for everyone on the local music and arts scene.
“Originally we were due to perform at Denbigh Urdd Eisteddfod last year and had helped form a choir Aelwyd Dyffryn Clwyd, who were due to compete. There was understandable disappointment when it was postponed though we all understand why.
Rob Small, Head of Sales with Ifor Williams Trailers, said: “This year it is especially important to support the careers of young musicians and singers across the region.
“The Urdd has done so much to cement the reputation of Wales as the land of song, and concerts like this guarantee we do not lose our love of music and cultural roots no matter how big a crisis we are facing.
“This concert spotlights some of the best voices of Denbighshire and gives youngsters a goal to strive for. They are sensational young singers and it will, I am sure, be a truly memorable concert.”
Sian Eirian, the Acting Director of the Urdd Eisteddfod, said: “We are hugely grateful to Steffan and Ifor Williams Trailers who are long-standing and greatly valued supporters of the Urdd Eisteddfod.
“It’s been a tough year and more for everybody because of Covid and it’s at times like this that you find out who your true friends are.
“I am sure that the opening concert on May 30 will be a joy to watch and that it will herald a wonderful week online with Eisteddfod T.”