One of the stars of the opera world returns to his Anglesey roots during this year’s Eisteddfod, as Gwyn Hughes Jones steps onto the Pavilion stage to perform in a special gala concert on Saturday 5 August at 20:00.
The original concept came from Gwyn himself, who is a fervent admirer of Welsh songs, and wanted to showcase some of the songs commissioned by the Eisteddfod, or are winning songs from the festival over the years in a concert. The festival’s visit to his his home county was a great opportunity to bring the idea to the stage. The concert is supported by the William Park-Jones Fund.
With a combination of old favourites and some brand new songs, this concert is sure to appeal to those who enjoy watching and listening to the competing in the Eisteddfod. Many of the ‘Hen Ganiadau’ are included in the concert, and it is a chance to enjoy Gwyn, who is famous across the world, perform with a small ensemble and a piano on our national stage.
Included in the repertoire are songs such as Arafa Don, Bugail Aberdyfi and Elen Fwyn – all Welsh classics and Eisteddfod favourites – by composers like RS Hughes, Idris Lewis, Dilys Elwyn-Edwards and many others. Songs which have been close to our hearts as individual test pieces for many generations brought together to create an emotional and memorable evening.
Eisteddfod Organiser, Elen Elis, says, “Here in Wales, we love the ‘Hen Ganiadau’ These are the airs and songs which are important to us as a nation. They are full of romance, anger, drama, and of course the one thing which cannot be translated into any other language – hiraeth.
“This is Gwyn Hughes Jones’ interpretation of the songs – his chance to put his own unique stamp on the songs and airs which are so beloved by us all. A new take on old favourites, and a chance to listen, and understand once more why they are so close to our hearts, with the wonderful piano accompaniment of Rhiannon Pritchard and the Rhys Taylor Chamber Ensemble.
“The Eisteddfod has an important tradition of commissioning songs and music. Many composers have also won prizes for their songs at the festival. This has created a rich catalogue of songs, and this concert is a chance to pull them together for everyone’s enjoyment. But this concert is not only a chance to celebrate the past, it’s also an opportunity to look to the future with a medley of songs performed for the first time on the night.
“These songs were composed specifically for Gwyn Hughes Jones by Gareth Glyn and Eleri Cwyfan, two who have lived on Anglesey for many years, and the medley itself is inspired by three of the small islands on the shores of Anglesey, Ynys Cwyfan, Ynys Moelfre and Ynys Llanddwyn. And although this is a medley of songs, the styles are very different.
“I am confident that everyone will enjoy hearing these songs for the first time, and I very much hope that they will grasp people’s imagination and will be used as test pieces and concert solos in the future. It’s also been great to have Gareth Glyn as the concert’s musical director.
Gwyn is joined by four young soloists on stage, each of them embarking on a bright career in the music world. The four, Llio Evans, Steffan Lloyd Owen, Meilir Jones and Meinir Wyn Roberts, are winners of one of the Eisteddfod’s most notable competitions, the Osborne Roberts Memorial Prize, the Blue Ribband for those aged between 19 and 25, a prize which is sure to give any soloists a boost at the start of their career.
With the concert an opportunity for Gwyn to return to his childhood home, it’s natural that the soloists are also local to the Eisteddfod. Llio Evans originally hails from Llanfairpwll, and over the past few years she has performed with a number of companies, including the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales, Garsington Opera, and Music Theatre Wales, and has been touring South Korea performing in Music Theatre Wales’ production The Golden Dragon, and will tour the UK in the same production in the autumn.
Meilir Jones is from Llangefni and is currently studying a post-graduate course at London’s Royal Academy of Music. He has performed the role of Zaretsky in Opra Cymru’s touring production of Eugene Onegin and was the understudy for the role of Anwar in Pwyll ap Siôn’s opera, Gair ar Gnawd with the WNO.
The other two soloists, Steffan Lloyd Owen and Meinir Wyn Roberts, will be seen on the big screen and S4C later this year as part of Marc Evans’ operatic film, Hedd Wyn. Steffan plays the young soldier-poet and Meinir plays his girlfriend. Originally from Caernarfon, Meinir won Llangollen International Eisteddfod’s prize for ‘Voice of the Future’ in 2015, the same year as she won the W Towyn Roberts and William Park-Jones scholarships at the National Eisteddfod.
Steffan, from Holland Arms, Anglesey, won the Osborne Roberts Memorial Prize at last year’s Eisteddfod in Abergavenny. Currently studying at the Royal Northern in Manchester, he is making a name for himself on the classical stage, having won the Kathleen Ferrier Prize for students from all over the UK in 2015.
The four are more than comfortable competing on the Pavilion stage, and on the evening they will be joined by another soloists well-known to the Eisteddfod crowd, pianist, Iwan Llewelyn Jones, who will be performing a medley of our favourite Welsh tunes. Also originally from Anglesey, his work has taken him across the world, in cities like Leipzig, Paris and London, but he has now returned to Wales and is working as an accompanist and lecturer at Bangor University.