Top music festival boasts quintet of world premieres

The Fidelio Trio. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

The Fidelio Trio. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

A new work by one of Europe’s most talented young composers will be among a a quintet of world premieres at a top music festival.

Cardiff-born Gareth Olubunmi Hughes says he’s thrilled to have been commissioned to write the piece for Bangor Music Festival on Saturday, February 18.

Earlier this year Gareth won the prestigious Musician’s Medal at the National Eisteddfod for a second time.

As a rising star, his work is in great demand and has already been performed by the likes of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, former royal harpist Catrin Finch and the acclaimed flautist Fiona Slominska.

The theme for this year’s festival is Architectures/Urban Landscapes that has been inspired by the new landmark venue, the Pontio centre which is establishing itself as a major player in the cultural life of Wales.

For a change, all the concerts and workshops will be held on one day instead of being spread over a week as in previous years. Tickets go on sale on Friday, November 25.

Gareth, 37, said: “My new composition, Amber on Black 3, is part of a cycle of pieces I have written based on poems by poet Stephen Boon, who I knew from Cardiff University. The first piece explores the colour amber from the sparks of a speeding train’s wheel against the black of the night.

“The second describes the amber light cast from street lights against the black of the night sky and this new third piece relates to the amber lights seen through an aircraft window looking back at the earth during a night flight.

“Amber on Black 3 is a piece for a solo flute and a soprano. In Bangor the flautist will be Richard Craig and the soprano Juliet Fraser. I have worked with both before and Juliet has an amazing voice. I have worked with her during workshops at Cardiff University.

Among the other highlights will be music inspired by images and videos of bridges, with the films being shown in the Pontio cinema, accompanied by music that has been composed by Bangor University student composers and performed by the Bangor Session Orchestra.

Around teatime, the building will be filled with music by the Bangor New Music Ensemble in an event that will also feature world premieres of pieces by Claire Victoria Roberts and Jonathan Roberts, amongst other student composers.

The final concert will star the internationally-acclaimed Fidelio Trio, performing a selection of compositions inspired by buildings and architecture. It will also feature world premieres of new works by Sarah Lianne Lewis and Roger Marsh, both of which have been commissioned by the festival.

The festival’s artistic director, Guto Pryderi Puw, said: “Holding the festival in a day and at a weekend means there’s more potential for audiences to look at what’s on offer and plan ahead. Also, in terms of artistic content, concerts will be shorter and individually more appealing.

“For example the ElectroacousticWALES concert, that will be held in Studio Pontio and will include the new Olubunmi Hughes commission, will only be around an hour in length.

“It means we can truly inspire the audience, it’s more of a taster if you like with the aim of leaving the listeners wanting more.

“Festival goers can potentially approach the event in two different ways, either attend every concert and sample all the genres, or pick and chose what they might enjoy without having to come back on another day.

According to Guto Pryderi Puw, the evening concert, ‘The Towers of Silence’, will involve compositions based on iconic buildings, which will accompany images of a selection.

He added: “Work by composer Gavin Higgins, entitled ‘Ruins of Detroit’, will examine architectures that have fallen into disrepair in the American city while the main piece, Rolf Hind’s Tower of Silence, looks at a particular type of burial ground in the Far East.

“There will also be a number of projects involving local schools as we really want to continue inspiring school children.

“Throughout January and February, in the lead up to the festival, various composers and artists will be running a series of educational workshops in local primary and secondary schools.

“Compositions by school pupils will be performed in each of the main concerts and earlier in Pontio’s Bar Ffynnon there will be a fantastic Lego event where the general public can take part.

“Visitors will be able to assemble structures from Lego while the Bangor New Music Ensemble will improvise on their instruments to set those structures to music. This will be a fun and challenging event that’s aimed at all ages, not just children, so come along to build your own iconic building!

“I’m really excited about the up-coming festival and particularly delighted we will be using the wonderful Pontio Arts Centre as the main venue for the first time.

“It’s this incredible and beautiful building that sparked the idea to have ‘architectures’ and ‘urban landscapes’ as the festival’s theme in the first place!”


Syrian refugee crisis inspires Gwynedd pupils to compose new musical work


The unfolding tragedy in Syria has inspired schoolchildren in Gwynedd to write a piece of music that will be performed as part of a top music festival

The pupils from Ysgol Gynradd Talysarn and Ysgol Brynaerau, in Pontllyfni, are being helped by talented harpist and composer Mared Emlyn.

The educational project is part of the outreach programme of Bangor Music Festival.

Their brief is to create a new group composition focusing on the Syrian civil war and the consequent refugee crisis in Europe.

They will be performing the new work on Bangor High Street on Friday, March 4, before attending a concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at the university.

The festival will also feature a hat-trick of world premieres and concerts by Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Cȏr Glanaethwy and the critically acclaimed vocal ensemble, The Swingles

The music of Welsh female composers will take centre stage during and the festival will include a performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, featuring soloist soprano Ruby Hughes, in a concert of music penned by Welsh women, which will include three world premieres.

Other highlights include concerts featuring distinguished soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, experimental music by the Bangor New Music Ensemble and oriental improvisation by The Fusion Ensemble, the acclaimed Russian pianist Xenia Pestova who’ll be joined by Electroacoustic Wales,  along with a gig by Welsh indie band Sŵnami.

Mared, 27, from Eglwys Bach, in the Conwy Valley, who studied composition and performance at Bangor University, where she gained a Phd in 2014, was excited to have been asked to lead the project which will used some instruments as well as the children’s voices.

She said: “We are taking the work of composer, Hilary Tann, who wrote a piece called The Open Field which was inspired by the student uprising and the events in Tiananmen Square as a base and developing our own ideas to describe the terrible events and the tragedy of the Syrian civil war.

“I hope we can describe, musically, the plight of the refugees and their journey to a better place.”

“It’s so important children learn to create music inspired by current events and hopefully, we will encourage them to look at what is happening in the world so the project isn’t just about music.

“This is just one of a number of Bangor Music Festival educational projects which I think are really important and inspire young people to make new music, learn new instruments and learn how to use their own voices.

“This year’s Bangor Music festival has a voice/voices theme and I intend to get the children to really work with their voices to make new sounds and music.

“It’s so exciting working together and creating new music and sounds and I’m sure the children are going to come up with a wonderful new composition that people will really enjoy.”

According to Glenda Evans, head teacher of both Ysgol Gynradd Talysarn and Ysgol Brynaerau, this is the fifth year her schools have been involved in Bangor Music Festival educational projects.

She said: “It’s an amazing opportunity for our children to work with professional musicians and composers and to be able to perform what they write and learn.

“I have seen with past projects how important is for children to get the chance to perform their own work. It really is a massive boost to their confidence and self esteem. And children and their parents are encouraged to attend Bangor Music Festival concerts.

She added: “The subject matter for the composition, being based on the Syrian Civil War and the refugee crisis, may seem a little serious and deep but I’m never surprised how easily they cope and it’s great to get them thinking about the world in which they are growing up.”

Ysgol Gynradd Talysarn pupils Osian Williams, nine and Elan Williams, 10, were really looking forward to completing their composition and performing it in Bangor.

Osian said: “It’s great learning about different instruments and I like singing a lot. It’s amazing we are working together to write a whole new piece of music. I’m really enjoying it.”

Elan added: “It’s going to be amazing and something we will remember for a long time. I also like working with the composer to make new and different sounds.”

Ysgol Brynaerau pupils Grisial Morus  and Dafydd Jones, both nine, are equally excited about the project.

Grisial said: “I play the tenor horn and have been learning for more than two years so I’m hoping I can play my instrument in the music we compose.

“It’s fantastic being involved and I’m also really looking forward to performing in Bangor and seeing the orchestra in concert.”

Dafydd said: “I love being involved and am really looking forward to going to Bangor to perform with all the other children. It’s going to be amazing.”


Hat-trick of world premieres at Bangor Music Festival


A top music festival will be unveiling a hat-trick of world premieres.

The Bangor Music Festival kicks off with a St David’s Day concert by Britain’s Got Talent finalists, Cȏr Glanaethwy, and will also star the internationally renowned singing ensemble, The Swingles.

The Swingles - Photo by Nedim Nazerali

The Swingles (Photo by Nedim Nazerali)

The music of Welsh female composers will take centre stage during six days of concerts, workshops and master classes.

The festival will include a performance by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, featuring soloist soprano Ruby Hughes, in a concert of music penned by Welsh women, which will include three world premieres.

There will also be the European premiere of The Open Field, a work by the renowned Welsh born composer Hilary Tann who was inspired by the dramatic events of Tiananmen Square in China just over a quarter of a century ago.

This year’s event from March 1 to March 6 has a theme of Voice/Voices and has something for everyone to enjoy as well as educational projects designed to inspire school pupils and young musicians from across the region.

The opening concert with Côr Glanaethwy will include a performance of Ieuan Wyn’s Cariad as well as other challenging pieces from the choir’s repertoire. 

The second night will feature a concert of experimental music by the Bangor New Music Ensemble and oriental improvisation by The Fusion Ensemble and the following night there will be a concert with distinguished soprano Elin Manahan Thomas along with a gig by Welsh indie band Sŵnami.

The concert of music by Welsh women composers performed by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales will be on the Friday while The Swingles will be singing on the Saturday night.

The week will be rounded off on Sunday, March 6, with a concert by the acclaimed Russian pianist Xenia Pestova who’ll be joined by Electroacoustic Wales.

Artistic director Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, a Senior Lecturer and Head of Composition at Bangor University’s School of Music, said: “I’m really excited about this year’s festival and pleased with the way it continues to grow.

“This year we have more days of music, workshops, and master classes than ever before.

“The educational projects that will run both before and during the festival are simply inspirational and will involve children and young people from a number of schools across the region.”

He added: “In addition to Cȏr Glanaethwy and The Swingles, we have our resident artist and distinguished soprano Elin Manahan Thomas who will perform a festival commission by National Eisteddfod winner Meirion Wynn Jones, as well as the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with their soloist Ruby Hughes.

“I’m particularly looking forward to hearing The Swingles perform as they have recently moved in a new direction and are now composing their own original music. They are doing some interesting things with the voices, for example using a vocal rhythmic beat as a backing sound to their close harmonies.”

“This year we have, for our Women’s Day event, on Friday, March 4, the world premieres of three new pieces, Porthor (Whistling Sands) by Mared Emlyn, Is There No Seeker of Dreams That Were by Sarah Lianne Lewis and Catching Shadows by Lynne Plowman, all in one concert.

“And we also have the European premiere of Hilary Tann’s The Open Field, which was inspired by the events of the student uprising in China’s Tiananmen Square.

“This wonderful, sensitive work has been performed more than 20 times across the United States of America but has never yet been performed anywhere in Europe

“As part of one of our educational projects children will use The Open Field as a stimulus to compose their own piece that reflects a similar theme of people raising against the authorities or escaping conflicts, such as the current crisis of refugees fleeing Syria and the Middle East.”

He added: “The idea that has resulted in us having three world premiers of compositions and a European premier at the festival came about after discussions I had with the BBC Welsh National Orchestra.

“We wanted to feature the work of contemporary female Welsh composers and the festival approached Mared Emlyn to compose an orchestral work. Mared is a former Phd student who studied both composition and performance at Bangor University.

“She now lives in Eglwys Bach in the Conwy Valley and has written a number of solo and ensemble piece, and the commissioning of Porthor (Whistling Sands) will be her first major orchestral work, which will be performed by the orchestra and that demonstrates the festival’s commitment to supporting young and emerging composers.

Mared Emlyn

Mared Emlyn

“Porthor is a beach on the Llŷn Peninsula. The sands there are unique and known as the Whistling Sands due to the sound produced when people walk along the beach.

“Mared is a wonderful harpist and has been teaching harp at the university on a freelance basis but her composition is for a full orchestra and is a very moving and engaging piece.”

He added: “The National Orchestra of Wales already had the work of Sarah Lianne Lewis and Lynne Plowman in mind and both works have never been publicly performed before.

“Sarah is a talented composer who now lives in South Wales and Lynne Plowman is a more established composer who has already created some noticeable works.

“We are very fortunate to have the opportunity to have not one but three world premieres performed at the Bangor Music Festival by a wonderful orchestra such as the BBC national Orchestra of Wales.”


Pupils turn trash into musical treasure for top music festival


Recycling Project

Schoolchildren from Anglesey are using recycled rubbish including plastic bottles and cans to create a special symphony for a top music festival.

The pupils from Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni and Ysgol y Graig are taking part in an educational project on the theme of recycling, organised by Bangor Music Festival, which starts on March 4.

The idea behind the workshops, that are led by music lecturer Dr Ed Wright from Bangor University, is to compose a piece of music by using recorded sounds of recyclable materials such as plastic bottles, old tins and cellophane.
After turning their trash into musical treasure, their composition will be accompanied by renowned clarinettist Heather Roche.

Dr Wright said: “The workshops are an extension of the Bangor Music Festival project held in 2014.

He said: “It’s not just a case of looking at how we can make sounds from recyclable material but how we can recycle those sounds by altering them electronically to make new sounds that we can use in our composition.

“The pupils are learning how we can stretch sounds or alter their pitch or tone and how they can be then put together to form a melody. We record sounds such as tapping on a tin box or blowing across the top of a plastic bottle we can then put those sounds together into a piece of music.”

“It’s fun and interesting and gives them a different insight into music and what can be achieved. And if it helps them to think about the environment and the need to recycle then that has to be a good thing too.”

Gavin Saynor, the head of music and assistant head teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni, believes the partnership with the festival is extremely valuable.

He said: “Pupils clearly enjoy working with each other and Dr Ed Wright to make and record these sounds and then compose a piece of descriptive music on the theme of recycling.”

It was a sentiment echoed by Ysgol y Graig teacher Elen Hughes.

She said: “It’s a great way to teach pupils new ideas and gives them the chance to get involved in a really good project.

“Electronically recorded sounds using bits of old recyclable material and turning those sounds into music is a great way to show them something different and also teaches them other key skills such as team work.”

Nadine Conway, a Year 7 pupil at Ysgol Gyfun Llangefni, enjoyed making and recording different sounds.

She said: “It’s clever making sounds using old bottles and other things and turning it into music. I think recycling is very important, I know my mum recycles at home and I’m very excited about making music from rubbish.”

Ysgol y Graig pupils Jac Davies, 11, and Nathan MacDonald, 10, were excited to be involved in the project for the first time.

Jac explained: “It’s really good and I like the way we can record sounds and then change them on a computer so they come out totally different. I’m really looking forward to hearing what music we make.”

Nathan added: “I’m excited about it and looking forward to hearing the music. I never thought you could make music out of rubbish!”

Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, the festival’s artistic director, said: “Our outreach educational work like this project is an important part of our mission to enthuse a new generation of musicians and composers. I am delighted to be able to feature their work at this year’s closing concert with Rees/Roche Pestova on Sunday 8 March, alongside pieces by world-renowned electroacoustic composers Pierre Alexandre Tremblay and Simon Emmerson. It promises to be a memorable event.”

The life and work of music legend Frank Zappa will be celebrated at the event where fans can talk to his widow, Gail, via a live link from California.

The iconic American bandleader, songwriter, composer and film director will be remembered in a series of events.
The theme this year is ‘Crossover and Multimedia’ with each concert having a connected educational project that will involve a number of local schools as well as the city’s university students.

The Apollo Saxophone Quartet will open the festival with a concert of crossover music influenced by jazz and minimalism together with the quartet’s own scores to short silent films in Reichel, Ffriddoedd Road, Bangor.

The festival will close with the awarding of the William Mathias Composition Prize for a piece for flute, clarinet, piano and electronics during the Rees/Roche/Pestova evening concert on Sunday, March 8.


Premiere of new work by tv and film composer with X-Factor


NW Camerata

A new work by a talented composer who orchestrated the music used in a trailer for the latest Hobbit movie blockbuster will be unveiled at a top music festival.

Owain Llwyd, 30, who’s also composed for the X-Factor, Top Gear and Big Brother, is looking forward to the premiere at Bangor Music Festival, which starts on March 4.

He’s “really excited” about the commission which he has written specifically for North Wales Camerata – an ensemble of more than 20 young musicians, under the direction of Patrick Rimes.

The concert will be at Capel Penrallt, Bangor on Saturday, March 7, at 7:30pm.

Owain, a Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol lecturer at Bangor University, said: “It’s quite a change from what I would normally compose. It’s based upon a traditional Welsh tune called Y Deryn Pur but in my piece you don’t hear the full melody until the last few bars. Before that the melody is stretched.

“The whole piece, which is in three movements, is quite a change for me as a composer.

“I wrote the first and last movements over Christmas and the work is quite spiritual. I think it happened subconsciously but I lost four or five good friends and acquaintances, all of whom had strong North Wales connections, during that time.

“The result is Gentle Dove which is a piece for strings and trumpet. The first and last movements are almost in a memorial style while the second movement is more joyful and celebrates life.”

Owain, who’s post is funded at Bangor University by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, which works with universities across Wales to develop Welsh language medium opportunities for students, says as soon as he heard North Wales Camerata play he knew he wanted to write something specifically with them in mind.

He said: “That’s why I was so delighted to be commissioned by the Arts Council of Wales in conjunction with Tryfan School. As soon as I saw the Camerata play I was excited about the prospect.

“Gentle Dove is a piece for strings and trumpet. Gwyn Owen will play the trumpet but all the musicians have connections to North Wales and all are studying at UK music colleges.

Owain hails from Glyndyfrdwy, between Llangollen and Corwen, and attended Llangollen’s Ysgol Dinas Bran before completing his sixth form studies at Ysgol Y Berwyn, Bala. He studied music at Bangor University.

During the course of his three years as an undergraduate he won all five eisteddfod composition medals in both the Urdd National Eisteddfod and the National Eisteddfod of Wales – the only composer to have ever achieved this.

He then completed his PhD in composition writing music for film and TV at Bangor before becoming a Welsh-medium music lecturer under the auspices of the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

As well as lecturing in music at Bangor University and composing his own music, Owain is kept busy orchestrating the work of other composers.

He said: “I do a lot of orchestration work for the British composer Tom Player. Basically I notate the score for his music. Tom specialises in writing music for film trailers and TV adverts.

“It’s very common he will write the music and I score it up for the orchestra. Orchestration is an important part of the writing process. It has meant I have worked on some wonderful projects such as the last Hobbit film and TV adverts for companies such as Ikea.

“And I have also composed my own original music that has been included on such programmes as The X-Factor, Top Gear, the US Open, Masterchef and Big Brother to name just a few.”

Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, the festival’s artistic director and a renowned composer in his own right, is thrilled to have been able to feature a new work by Owain Llwyd within the 5 day long festival.

He said: “Owain’s reputation as a fine composer is growing very fast, not only in the film and TV industries but also within the concert halls. His music is direct and often full of rhythmic energy and will be greatly anticipated as part of a thrilling programme during the Saturday evening concert.”

The life and work of music legend Frank Zappa will be celebrated at the festival where fans can talk to his widow, Gail, via a live link from California.

The iconic American bandleader, songwriter, composer and film director will be remembered in a series of events.
The theme this year is ‘Crossover and Multimedia’ with each concert having a connected educational project that will involve a number of local schools as well as the city’s university students.

The Apollo Saxophone Quartet will open the festival with a concert of crossover music influenced by jazz and minimalism together with the quartet’s own scores to short silent films in Reichel, Ffriddoedd Road, Bangor.

The festival will close with the awarding of the William Mathias Composition Prize for a piece for flute, clarinet, piano and electronics during the Rees/Roche/Pestova evening concert on Sunday, March 8.


Ping Pong Ding Dong at Top Music Festival


Receive and Return

Shoppers will be able to make a ding dong playing ping pong at a top music festival – thanks to an art installation which features a table tennis table.

The interactive installation at the Deiniol Shopping Centre in Bangor has been created by artists Christine Mills and Carlos Pinatti.

As part of the project organised by Bangor Music Festival, schoolchildren from Ysgol Talysarn, near Penygroes will also be composing a piece of music to highlight environmental issues.

The work of art, called Receive and Return, will be on show at the shopping centre for a month leading up to the festival which starts on March 4.

The centrepiece is a full-size table tennis table with map of the world printed on it. The project will culminate with a concert at the centre on March 6, which will premiere the music composed by the pupils of Ysgol Talysarn.

Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, the festival’s artistic director, said: “In addition the event will include the premieres of works by Katherine Betterbridge, Ellie Davies, Sioned Eleri Roberts, who won the composer’s medal at the national eisteddfod, Dan Song, a Chinese composer who is studying at Bangor, and Hedd Thomas.

“The concert is part of the festival’s Fragile Earth educational project which will see Katherine Betteridge, who is a Phd student studying composition and Eleanor Lighton, a Phd student studying performance, going out to Ysgol Talysarn for a series of composition and performance workshops.

“The aim is for children to compose music inspired by Receive and Return, and their own art work, based on the earth’s fragile environment such as the melting ice caps, deforestation and so forth.”

Christine Mills. from Llanerfyl in Powys hire, collaborated with Cardiff-based artist Carlos Pinatti to produce the installation.

She said: “Receive and Return is about cross-over and getting our message over the net. We are trying to show that what we put into the environment we get back.

“The table itself, seen as a green platform on where we perform, is printed with digital imagery of the world. The map represents the world with no country, borders or continents, which conveys the idea that we are all in this together.

“And moulds of individual tiles made from clay and plaster cast put together suggest we need to work collaboratively to make the single, bigger picture.”

In the weeks leading up to the festival Receive and Return can be viewed through the main window while the sound recording will be played through speakers and heard outside the unit. Then during the week of the festival volunteers will staff the unit so members of the public will be able to get a closer look and play a game of Receive and Return on the table.


Zany Zappa brought to new generation at Bangor Music Festival


jazz-from-hell-lrThe life and work of music legend Frank Zappa will be celebrated at a music festival in North Wales, which will also showcase the work of young composers.

The iconic American bandleader, songwriter, composer and film director will be remembered in a series of events at the Bangor Music Festival which starts on March 4.

According to the organisers of the contemporary music festival, they want to bring a sense of the “zany, irreverent genius” of Zappa to today’s audience.

The Festival, now in its 15th year, will also feature premieres of works by five young composers, Katherine Betteridge, Ellie Davies, Sioned Eleri Roberts, Dan Song and Hedd Thomas, together with new pieces by established composers, Pwyll ap Siôn and Owain Llwyd.

The theme this year is ‘Crossover and Multimedia’ with each concert having a connected educational project that will involve a number of local schools as well as the city’s university students.

Artistic Director Dr Guto Pryderi Puw, a university lecturer and renowned composer in his own right, says the aim is to provide the public with the opportunity to experience and learn about contemporary music.

He said: “It’s important to allow school pupils of all ages, students and the public to taste some of the most exciting new music being composed today.

“Every year we endeavour to present the latest developments and trends in contemporary composition with a particular emphasis on chamber music, mixed media events, electroacoustic and experimental music.

“We are also commissioning several new pieces of work from composers of various nationalities.”

The revered Apollo Saxophone Quartet will open the festival with a performance of music from Graham Fitkin, Django Bates, Keith Tippett, Kenny Wheller and members of the quartet in Reichel Hall, Ffriddoedd Road, Bangor.

“This year, Thursday, March 5, has been set aside as a day to remember the genius of Frank Zappa. There will be a performance of a transcript of Zappa’s 1975 UK trial, directed by Theatr Bara Caws before a screening of a film entitled ‘Summer ’82’ on Frank Zappa’s life and music.

“That will be followed by a concert by Decibel, featuring three arrangements of Zappa’s work, along with pieces by Ed Bennett, Joe Cutler and Graham Fitkin and a festival commission by Pwyll ap Siôn that has been inspired by the music of Zappa.”

An art installation, entitled Receive and Return by Christine Mills and Carlos Pinatti will be housed in Bangor’s Deiniol Shopping Centre for a month prior to the start of the Festival.

Dr Puw added: “To accompany the installation there will be five new compositions by young composers, Katherine Betteridge, Ellie Davies, Dan Song, Hedd Thomas and the winner of the 2014 National Eisteddfod Musician’s Trophy, Sioned Eleri Roberts, with the concert taking place during lunchtime on Friday, March 6, which fits nicely with the multimedia theme of the festival.

“The evening will conclude with a jazz performance featuring the Bourne Davis Duo at the Blue Sky Cafe, Bangor.”

But it’s the inclusion of its educational projects that sets Bangor Music Festival apart according to Dr Puw.

He said: “The activities will involve primary school pupils of Ysgol y Graig in Llangefni and Ysgol Talysarn in Dyffryn Nantlle, also the secondary school pupils of Ysgol David Hughes in Menai Bridge, Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor and Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen, Bethesda.

“Saturday, March 7, will see a performance at Capel Penrallt, Bangor by the North Wales Camerata, which consists of student performers from various universities.”

They will work with conductor Gareth Jones and local young musician and conductor Patrick Rimes and put together a performance of crossover music and a new trumpet concerto written by Owain Llwyd, again commissioned by BMF.

The Festival will close with the awarding of the William Mathias Composition Prize for a piece for flute, clarinet, piano and electronics during the Rees/Roche/Pestova evening concert on Sunday, March 8.

“The whole Bangor Music Festival 2015 programme is an exciting one from the energy of Frank Zappa’s music to some relaxing jazz with a wide variety of crossover music in between.

“I’m pleased the Festival will once again work with, and inspire school pupils and the public. The Festival is growing year on year and I hope we reach as many members of the public as we can by introducing them to all kinds of different genres of music. Come and enjoy!”


Wales Arts Review: Pestova/Meyer perform Stockhausen’s Mantra at BNMF


Powis Hall, Bangor University, 15 March 2014

Xenia Pestova, Pascal Meyer – pianos, percussion, electronics
Jan Panis – electronics

A joint enterprise between Bangor New Music Festival and INTER/actions festival-symposium of electroacoustic music. The original review was posted here:

Karlheinz Stockhausen was – and has remained since his death in 2007 – a hugely influential figure in postwar European music. Brilliant, charismatic and controversial to the point of divisiveness, he and the arch polemicist, Pierre Boulez, more or less dominated a generation of composers who, together, formed what Luigi Nono described in 1958 as the ‘Darmstadt School’: a reference to the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music at which many composers from all over the world continue to gather each year. However, it is the period between the early ‘50s and early ‘60s to which Darmstadt’s reputation as a cauldron of musical revolution largely pertains, with Stockhausen as primary magus.

At this time in Darmstadt – in a Germany struggling to come to terms with the reality of the horrific war machine it had so recently unleashed – a diverse collection of young and understandably angry avant-gardists determined to sweep away the past. With Stockhausen and Boulez at the helm, they explored new techniques and electronic technology (Stockhausen was also based at the public broadcasting studio NWDR in Cologne from 1953), adopting radical new stylistic and ideological approaches to composition. Counter-intuitively perhaps, the more strictly controlled the compositional processes they devised,* the wilder and more exhilaratingly free their music seemed to sound. But personal clashes between the composers could be fierce; especially with those who dared to espouse an (apparently) opposing aesthetic to the Stockhausen/Boulez paradigm, such as John Cage and Morton Feldman, who visited Darmstadt from the USA.

Eventually, musical differences pulled the Darmstadt School apart. But Stockhausen continued to explore new worlds of technique and expression, and he remained in the vanguard of the younger generation of central European composers; not only one of the most talented, but perhaps the most uncompromising, not to mention – either wondrously or infuriatingly depending on your point of view – one of the most egocentric and, frankly, one of the most bonkers (for example, he later insisted that he originated from Sirius). Many have hailed Stockhausen as a genius but others, far from seeing him as having broken with pre-war modernist traditions, have blamed him and others of the Darmstadt School for taking European ‘art’ music (for want of a better term) further down an already esoteric and intellectual path in defiance of public understanding. Today, composers of all stylistic stripes still have to overcome enormous scepticism, and often antipathy, from the mainstream in order to get their music performed in anything other than tiny, niche settings – if it gets performed at all. This applies especially, of course, to composers who write in more dissonant or experimental idioms.

However, fashions come and go – and one would think that audiences would be used to dissonant music by now in our ‘post-postmodern’, movie-loving age. But, whilst Stockhausen’s precursor, Arnold Schoenberg (via Schoenberg’s pupil Anton Webern), currently seems in some circles to be blamed for everything that’s wrong in life bar the price of milk, performances of Stockhausen’s opera Mittwoch aus Licht by the Birmingham Opera Company attracted huge interest in 2012. Cynics might say with some justification that that interest was more to do with Stockhausen’s expensive ‘stunt’ of incorporating a Helikopter-Streichquartett; one helicopter for each member of a string quartet performing and transmitting live midair to the audience in the auditorium below. But, whatever his faults and eccentricities, like Schoenberg, Stockhausen was a fantastically innovative and – yes – highly musical composer, who wrote many iconic works, of which Mantra is a prime example. Indeed, those of us present at Powis Hall in Bangor on March 15th were doubly lucky for, not only is this amazing piece very rarely programmed, but the piano duo of Xenia Pestova and Pascal Meyer, together with Jan Panis (Stockhausen’s former assistant), who realised the electronics, performed it outstandingly well.

Stockhausen wrote Mantra in 1970. It was his first piece to utilise full, conventional music notation since Mikrophonie I and Mixtur of 1964, after a period exploring chance procedures and graphic scores. Indeed, Mantra opened the door to what turned out to be a crucial phase in Stockhausen’s compositional development, based on what became dubbed his ‘Formula’ technique, and leading ultimately to that gargantuan seven-opera cycle, Licht, of which the aforementioned Mittwoch is a part. Lasting around seventy minutes, Mantra is altogether more modest in resources, yet is hugely demanding to play in terms of instrumental virtuosity, intensity of concentration and sheer physical stamina. All three aspects were impressively evident in the Bangor performance.

Mantra was conceived on a journey by car from Madison, Connecticut to Boston during which Stockhausen ‘heard this melody … I had the idea of one single musical figure or formula that would be expanded over a very long period of time … I wrote this idea down on an envelope.’ Structurally, the piece is fairly simple at root, although its unwinding is immensely rich and imaginative. Without ‘blinding with science’ in describing Stockhausen’s pitch techniques, it is cast in thirteen sections, each of which repeats and stretches in various extraordinary ways a 13-note melody, which comprises the ‘Mantra’ of the title. To quote from Andrew Lewis’ excellent programme note: ‘Each note of the mantra has its own duration, dynamic and – crucially – it’s own musical characteristic. It is these thirteen characteristics which grow to become the defining materials of the work.’**

In addition to an enormous number of notes – which, as Pestova and Meyer demonstrated so beautifully in Bangor, have to be performed with absolute precision in order to realise the multi-layered temporal processes at work – the two pianists each play a woodblock and crotales, and vocalise a variety of sounds at points in the work. Moreover, each pianist controls a ring modulator, which alters their piano’s sound to create a dense palette of colours and sonic possibilities. The acoustic sounds intertwine with these treated sounds, which are diffused through loudspeakers via a mixing desk. Of course, with changing technology, the analogue equipment Stockhausen originally specified has been difficult to source for some time, so, with the composer’s permission, Panis devised a digital means of realising the electronic element. It is thanks to Panis, therefore, that modern-day performances of Mantra such as that here in Bangor are possible.

Not only did the electronics work superbly well, but the piano duo did clear justice to Stockhausen’s athletic piano writing and creative daring; including, I would argue, the composer’s desire to capture the correct ‘vibration beyond the idea’ so to speak, in a piece which reflects his 1960′s exploration of the relationship between sound and the mystical or spiritual. Mantra also contains an important and highly visual theatrical element, as the pianists literally face each other down at various points, with challenges and counter challenges which range from the profound to the genuinely funny. Pestova and Meyer’s performance radiated excitement, a taut dramatic sense and good humour in equal measure. Their understanding of the score has clearly deepened over years of performing and recording it together, and they held the audience spellbound from start to finish in one of my concert highlights of 2014 so far.

In 1972, Roger Smalley wrote that, ‘with its rich textures and formal power I believe that in Mantra Stockhausen has produced the finest chamber work since Schoenberg’s String Trio of 1946’ – itself one of the finest works of the twentieth century. Based on this stunning performance of Mantra, I find it hard to disagree with him.


*  through so-called ‘total serialism’, for example, in which all musical parameters – not just pitch but dynamics, timbre, rhythm etc. – are composed according to systematic procedures.

**  published as a CD liner-note to Pestova and Meyer’s recording of Mantra, available on Naxos records.


by Steph Power


Bangor festival hosts rarely performed concert work


The celebrated piano duo Pestova/Meyer will perform the masterpiece MANTRA (1970) by one of the most significant pioneers of the Twentieth Century, Karlheinz Stockhausen on Saturday 15th March, 8.00pm.

As a finale to Bangor New Music Festival 2014 (12th-15th March), and as part of the two-day INTER/actions conference, the concert will showcase the rarely performed virtuosic piece for two grand pianos and live electronic processing at Powis Hall, Bangor University.

The pianos will be processed electronically in real-time to create “super-instruments which explore extended piano performance and the sound worlds of the prepared piano of John Cage.

Xenia Pestova, concert pianist and head of performance at Bangor University, comments that, “we have to be almost super-pianists to concentrate for a full 65 minutes, and also play percussion and use our voices!”

MANTRA requires the pianists to play chromatic crotales (antique cymbals), woodblocks and use their voices to produce the melody formula known as the mantra. Additionally, short-wave radios will create mysterious morse-code signals in a marvellous concert performance.

Andrew Clements, writing in The Guardian, stated that, “This is a highly accomplished presentation of one of the landmark pieces in the second half of the 20th century.”

Pestova/Meyer’s approach to this piece is original due to the fact that they are using digital technology for the electronic processing, resulting in a contemporary reinterpretation of a classic piece on the verge of technological obsolescence with a simple set-up and superior sound quality.

Pestova remarks that, “people can expect to have a different experience, as this is a piece you don’t hear performed live so often”.

International pianist Pascal Meyer adds, “It’s indeed a real journey for us and the audience and an exceptional happening for Bangor!”

Journalist for The Sunday Times, Paul Driver describes the work on 26 September 2010 as being, “…highly colourful (electronics make the music often seem to come from underwater), theatrical, humorous … and wise. Captivating.”

ⓒ Sanja Harris

The piano duo’s recording of MANTRA was released on NAXOS in 2010 and has received rave reviews.

Made possible with funding from the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture and the Creative New Zealand Arts Council, Pestova/Meyers’ performance of MANTRA was featured at the Philharmonie Luxembourg, Festival Archipel Geneva (Switzerland), Live@CIRMMT concert series in Montreal (Canada), Festival Musikhost (Denmark), Voix Nouvelles in Royaumont (France), Ireland and New Zealand.

The INTER/actions conference, in which the concert is in collaboration, is a symposium and mini-festival focusing on performance and interaction in electronic music on 15th-16th March.

Other highlights during Bangor New Music Festival include performances by violin virtuoso Madeleine Mitchell, electroacoustic composer Natasha Barrett, jazz musician Asaf Sirkis and Orchestra of the Swan; as well as a number of workshops, masterclasses and talks with renowned artists.

Adult tickets for MANTRA cost £20 (concession £15, student £5) and are available to purchase through the website ( or from Palas Print, High Street, Bangor. Season tickets for the entire festival are also available, ranging from £15 – £50).


Virtuoso’s premiere joy at top music festival


An internationally renowned violinist will be performing a series of world premieres at a top music festival in Gwynedd.

Madeleine Mitchell will be one of the star attractions at the Bangor New Music Festival that opens on Wednesday, March 12.

She will be taking centre stage at two major concerts and as this year’s artiste in residence will also conduct a master class with students.

The critically acclaimed virtuoso, who has wowed audiences in 40 different countries,  said: “I’m so looking forward to the festival and I’m absolutely delighted to be in residence. I enjoy master classes and look forward to meeting and working with students.”

The festival, now in its 14th year, runs over four days and has established itself as one of the most exciting events on the UK’s classical music calendar.

Organisers say the line-up this year is one of the best ever and it also promises to be a memorable occasion for PhD music student Mared Emlyn, 25 (pictured), whose own composition will be one of the pieces premiered.

Among the highlights will be a jazz workshop conducted by Israeli- born drummer, Asaf Sirkis, followed by a late evening concert of his jazz quartet at Greeks Taverna in Upper Bangor.

There will also be open air lunchtime concert performed by Bangor New Music Ensemble at the Deiniol Shopping Centre.

The festival opens with a concert on the theme of Night and Day in which Madeleine Mitchell will perform an imaginative programme of new and previously recorded pieces of music.

Speaking from her London home, Madeleine, who says she is proud of her Welsh roots said: “I’m delighted to be returning to Bangor to perform at the New Music Festival. It will be my first appearance at the festival although I have played at Bangor University in the past.

“The opening concert, Night and Day, will be a concert I have put together for violin and piano and I will be performing the world première of a new piece of music composed by young Welsh composer, Mared Emlyn, which I’m particularly looking forward to.”

Artistic Director Guto Pryderi Puw is considered to be one of Wales’s finest composers and is also a lecturer at Bangor University.

Guto said: “I’m really excited about the sheer volume of new and previously unheard work that will be performed during this year’s festival.

“We are trying to promote new music to a wider audience and the idea is very much about exposing people to music that they may not normally listen to.

“We aim to increase the festival’s outreach activities, with one concert, a tribute to Shakespeare, taking place at the Deiniol Shopping Centre in Bangor on the Friday afternoon.

“The idea is to engage with the shoppers and passers-by and hopefully to increase the interest in other events during the festival.”

“Madeleine Mitchell is a renowned violinist and central to the NIght and Day concert is a selection of short contrasting pieces  of music, which will awaken the senses and lead the listener on a journey from darkness to light.

“These short pieces are supported by recent works by leading British composers in addition to a new work that has been commissioned by Tŷ Cerdd by the promising young composer, Mared Emlyn.”

To bring the festival’s Friday Shakespeare’s Day to a close a special concert will take place in Bangor University’s Pritchard-Jones Hall as a tribute to the poet and playwright in his 450th anniversary year.

Guto said: “The Orchestra of the Swan, conducted by David Curtis, will perform alongside featured soloists, Madeleine Mitchell and trumpeter, Simon Desbruslais.

“The concert will feature two pieces of music commissioned for the occasion that includes Antic Rounds, a new work by the winner of the 2013 William Mathias Composition Prize, Tom Coult, in addition to my own violin concerto composed specifically for Madeleine, entitled Soft Stillness and commissioned by Tŷ Cerdd.

“Antic Rounds is inspired by a quotation from Macbeth’s witches scene, while each movement of my violin concerto is a direct response to lines from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

“Robert Saxon’s Shakespeare Scenes is a series of five musical interpretations from various plays and other pieces in the programme draw upon the orchestra’s strong commitment of commissioning new works with recent pieces by Tansy Davies and Huw Watkins.”

He added: “The final day of the festival promises to be particularly exciting as we will have a performance of the rarely performed Karlheinz Stockhausen masterpiece, Mantra, an exciting work for two pianos and electronics that calls for some unconventional piano playing. The celebrated piano duo Xenia Pestova and Pascal Meyer will perform the piece in conjunction with the INTER/actions Conference on the Saturday.”

Among those who can’t wait for the festival is Mared Emlyn, from Llangernyw, near Abergele, who has just completed her PhD in harp performance and composition at Bangor University.

She was commissioned to write a piece of music that will be performed for the first time as part of Madeleine Mitchell’s Night and Day concert.

Mared said: “It’s wonderful, although I admit I’m a bit nervous. The festival is a fantastic event but I never thought I’d get the chance to listen to established musicians, such as Madeleine Mitchell, interpret my music.

“My piece, Towards the North, follows the same theme of night and day and examines how light brings colour and meaning into the world. It will certainly be a proud day for me having my parents in the audience.”

Mared added: “The Bangor New Music Festival is a great opportunity for young composers to showcase their work. And the programme is very varied with everything from classical to jazz and electronically produced new music.”


The Sun Shines for BNMF at Caernarfon Castle


Throughout January and February, Welsh children’s poet laureate, Eurig Salisbury, and percussionist, Dewi Ellis Jones, worked alongside the pupils of Ysgol Gynradd, Llanberis and Ysgol Gynradd Hendre, Caernarfon to create poetry and music inspired by castles as part of the Bangor New Music Festival 2013.

On Sunday 3 March, the series of workshops culminated in a dramatic pre-festival performance of the children’s works at Caernarfon Castle. The concert was a great success with the children especially enjoying the opportunity to perform their  works of art in a building that provided the inspiration for their compositions. Preservers of Welsh heritage, Cadw, were thrilled to have local school pupils involved in their buildings and commented on the great atmosphere.

Monday 11 March will showcase the children’s works once more in a consortium of Welsh history, culture and literature at Penrallt Chapel, Bangor. Commencing at 7:30pm, the concert will also feature new poetry and music by Eurig Salisbury, Dewi Ellis Jones and Hao Dai.

Welsh laureate, Eurig Salisbury says, “The workshops were a great opportunity for me to work with the children over an extended period of time, developing ideas and crafting new poems. The focus on both Caernarfon and Dolbadarn castles enabled me to explore a range of themes, most specifically the relationship between Welsh people today and their history. The contrast between the histories of the two castles lead to a discussion of the importance of recapturing the sites as modern Welsh strongholds.”


BNMF welcomes International Harpist Catrin Finch in a series of workshops, masterclasses and concerts


World renowned harpist Catrin Finch and award-winning Welsh composer, Owain Llwyd have been working with AS and A level pupils to create folk arrangements and original compositions based on a combination of Welsh folk melodies and jazz. A series of workshops held at Ysgol David Hughes on Anglesey and Bangor University during January and February, have taught these young composers to think of the harp in a new context, by listening to traditional Welsh and Scottish harp music. The process has stimulated pupils to think openly about their compositions, resulting in one work inspired by Thai folk, for example.

With Finch leading the workshops, pupils from the Anglesey Music Consortium were able to learn about harp technique. They were introduced, for the first time, to the electric harp and the possibilities it provides for looping melodies in minimalist music. Techniques studied by the pupils have already enhanced their own compositions.

Bangor New Music Festival provides a wonderful opportunity for pupils to hear their own compositions performed by Catrin Finch and Band on Saturday 9 March at Powis Hall, Bangor University, as a climax to this pioneering series of workshops. Two talented musicians from Ysgol David Hughes, a cellist and violinist will also be given the opportunity to perform alongside Finch on the Saturday night. The concert will officially open the Bangor New Music Festival and features works from Finch’s 2011 album Annwn – inspired by ancient Welsh mythology – in an cabaret-style setting.

On Sunday 10 March, 2pm, Catrin Finch will be leading a masterclass at Powis Hall, providing an excellent opportunity for other composers and musicians to learn about harp technique. It will be followed by an evening concert with Finch and pupils of Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias at 7pm, at Powis Hall, Bangor University.

Owain Llwyd says, “I would have loved to have had these workshops when I was studying. It’s an incredible opportunity for A level students to get a recording of their work and to explore new techniques alongside a professional, world renowned artist. The students have really taken to the workshops and have been producing some great, original work.”


Bangor New Music Festival Puts Folktunes, Poetry and Children in the Spotlight


Throughout January and February, Welsh Children’s Laureate Eurig Salisbury and percussionist Dewi Ellis Jones are working alongside the pupils of Ysgol Gynradd, Llanberis and Ysgol Gynradd Hendre, Caernarfon to create poetry and music as part of the Bangor New Music Festival 2013.

With a goal to encourage creativity amongst school children, workshops led by Salisbury provide the a history of the castles in North Wales as a stimulus for poetic writings. These works are to be accompanied by music composed by the children in workshops with percussionist Dewi Ellis Jones.

On Sunday 3 March, the series of workshops will culminate in a dramatic pre-festival performance of the children’s works at 2pm in Caernarfon Castle. The unique location will provide a superb backdrop to the pieces inspired by castles. Monday 11 March will showcase the children’s works once more in a consortium of Welsh history, culture and literature at Penrallt Chapel, Bangor. Commencing at 7:30pm, the concert will also feature new poetry and music by Eurig Salisbury, Dewi Ellis Jones and Hao Dai.

Festival Director, Guto Puw says, “It has been a very exciting few months preparing for these workshops. The Bangor New Music Festival always aims to bring school children closer to classical and contemporary music but the castles project is really special. It promises to be a celebration of Welsh culture and youthful artistry.”


BNMF Announces This Year’s Events


In its thirteenth year of promoting artists of the highest musical calibre, Bangor New Music Festival 2013 promises once again to enliven and delight audiences as it celebrates both contemporary folk music and works inspired by childhood games.

World-renowned Harpist Catrin Finch and band open the festival on Saturday 9 March with a Cabaret evening, performing pieces to evoke images of ancient mythology at Powis Hall, Bangor University. This will be followed on Sunday by a masterclass and an evening concert led by Finch, featuring works composed by pupils of Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias.

Folktunes, poetry and castles take prominence as the festival honours its Welsh heritage on Monday 11 March in a collaboration between school pupils, contemporary percussionist Dewi Ellis Jones and celebrated Welsh Children’s Laureate Eurig Salisbury at Penrallt Chapel in upper-Bangor. The concert will be a dramatic climax to a series of workshops led by the artists.

The festival’s theme of childhood games is introduced on Tuesday 12 March  when the Bangor New Music Ensemble offers a unique and light-hearted lunchtime performance featuring a giant chess board and audience involvement in the Deiniol shopping centre on Bangor High Street. This is succeeded by a playful evening concert combining new music, timeless games and creativity at Powis Hall.

Wednesday 13 March invites audiences to experience sonic art in entirely surround-sound as Electroacoustic Wales welcomes Peiman Khosravi and postgraduate composers of Bangor University.

Finally, contemporary music ensemble Psappha bring the festival to a climatic conclusion on Thursday 14 March. The concert features music by Bangor University’s resident composers and local school children in homage of the Italian composer, Luciano Berio.

Festival Director, Guto Puw says, “I am hugely excited by this year’s groundbreaking series of concerts. I feel privileged to be involved in a festival offering such a variety of performances and esteemed artists, and this year the scope of the Festival has been greatly enhanced by a substantial increase in Arts Council support. The festival aims to promote contemporary music amongst schoolchildren but this year especially I think we’ve really excelled, with over 20 workshops for pupils across North Wales and many of this year’s concerts will feature works by young artists.”


Happy 10th Birthday Bangor New Music Festival!


In March 2010 Bangor New Music Festival celebrated its tenth anniversary. Building upon the success of previous years the festival this year ran over a two week period, culminating in a concert given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales featuring three premieres by three Welsh composers. Favourably reviewed in the Guardian which said “no concert signalled the event’s energy and range better than the one given by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and featuring three firsts.”

The festival also held a successful community event, this year with a difference… “Music For Babies” was a series of workshops aimed at pre-school aged children. Inspired by this, the event also featured a brand new work specially written by Artistic Director Guto Puw, “Music For Prams” in which the acoustic possibilities of a pram were explored.

As ever plans are already for Bangor New Music Festival 2011 with artists to be announced here soon…