Blog by Peryn Clement-Evans, Ensemble Cymru’s Artistic Director.
“After two years of talking about how Ensemble Cymru might be able to work with Chinese musicians and composers, I’m delighted to say we’re now finally taking our first concrete step towards realising it…
Starting on February 18th, Ensemble Cymru will be part of a week-long Welsh Government trade and cultural mission to China. We’re joining an eclectic mix of colleagues from BBC NOW, Hijinx Theatre, National Theatre of Wales and Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru along with interesting mix of exponents of art forms including illustrator, artist among others.
The Ensemble has already had some success in developing international links through its international cultural exchange programme with Switzerland over the last two years. We’re looking to extend this model of exchange visits and performances to China. We hope in time to create opportunities for performers and composers in Wales in China and in doing so generate an interest in Wales’ rich musical heritage and contemporary culture among people in China.
While preparing for this trip, I’ve been struck by how many links there are already between Shanghai, Hong Kong and Wales. Many students of Shanghai Normal University study at Bangor University’s School of Music, where Ensemble Cymru’s office is based. I’ve appreciated the helping hand of the Confucius Institute in Bangor, as well as the help of the folks of Llangollen’s wonderful International Music Eisteddfod who have put us in touch with some of their friends in Hong Kong. Also many of our supporters have friends and family out in Hong Kong and Shanghai and everyone’s enthusiasm has been fantastic.
A final thought – Shanghai, which we’ll be visiting first, has a population roughly equivalent to seven times that of Wales and a third of the UK. Our second and final stop Hong Kong has a population over twice that of Wales…That’s a lot of people to say ‘Ni Hao’ to!”
With thanks to Emma Lancastle for the following blog.
During their February Tour, Ensemble Cymru, are examining a varied programme of chamber music for Clarinet, Violin and Piano. Some of the greatest classical music has been created in times of grief and hardship, and the programme presented by the Bangor-based company explores the works of some famous names, and some lesser-known composers, towards the end of their lives.
As the concert in Cardiff looms nearer, we examine the hardships endured by the composers during their lives, and what journeys they undertook across Europe and the Americas at the time the works were created.
Schumann – Märchenerzählungen
The programme opens with Schumann’s Märchenerzählungen (or Fairy Tales in English). This set of miniatures was completed in 1853, just 3 years before his death. By the time Schumann was composing the “Fairy Tales”, he was struggling to manage the symptoms of his deteriorating mental health, and had lost his post as a conductor and musical director at Dusseldorf.
Schumann had always sought solace from his illness with explorations of the fantastical, although Schumann’s love of tying literature to his chamber music may not be as innocuous as presumed. Even some 20 years earlier, Schumann had began to use the alter-egos “Florestan” and “Eusebius” in order to describe the two contrasting halves of his personality, using fictional characters to narrate his mood-swings. By the end of his life in 1856, Schumann’s mental health had deteriorated significantly, and he feared for his life and the safety of his loved ones. Hearing songs of the angels and voices late at night, perhaps there is a reason why there are so few clues to the actual inspiration of his “Fairytales”.
Poulenc – Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in B-Flat
Whilst Schumann’s work depicts the inner turmoil of mental health issues, Poulenc’s difficulties were more political. A member of Les Six (a group of French composers), Poulenc and many of his contemporaries were forced to remain in Paris during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. For Poulenc, as a gay man, this was a period in which his life was in obvious jeopardy. Some years later, difficulties which prevented the publication of his opera, coupled with the serious illness of his partner, eventually caused Poulenc a nervous breakdown in 1954. One year later, his partner died. Nevertheless, Poulenc recovered from his grief to find love again, and took to travelling America where he showcased his latest vocal works and operas. Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in B-Flat was composed in comparatively happier times. Commissioned by the renowned clarinettist, Benny Goodman, the real tragedy is that Poulenc, after surviving Nazi occupation of France, occupational challenges and many personal bereavements, died suddenly of a heart-attack before the sonata was premiered in 1963.
Mozart – Sonata for Violin and PIano in B-Flat Major K.375
Although Mozart is primarily known for his prodigious talents, his life was not without difficulty either. The young Mozart travelled to Mannheim and Paris 1778 in an unfruitful attempt to seek employment, and whilst in paris took to pawning his valuables to survive. It was during this time that Mozart’s mother fell ill, and she died; it is believed that Mozart himself held himself responsible for the death of his mother, in part due to the lack of funds which caused the delay in a doctor being called.
Reluctantly taking work found by his father in Salzburg in 1779, it is here it is thought Mozart composed the Sonata in Bb major K. 378 , although the “Sonatas pour le Clavecin ou Pianoforte avec L’accompagnement d’un Violon” weren’t actually published until 1781. Mozart had moved to Vienna, where he stayed under employment of Archbishop Colloredo. With grandiose dreams of befriending the emperor, which luckily soon happened, Mozart began this stage of his professional life dining with valets and cooks in the Mansion of the Archbishop, as a musical servant to the elite.
Milhaud – Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano Op.157b
Darius Milhaud , like Poulenc, was a member of Les Six, although unlike his friend, Milhaud had no choice but to leave France during the Nazi occupation due to his Jewish background. Having already travelled extensively to the Americas, Milhaud emigrated with his family to the US during the war, and spent the remainder of his life balancing teaching positions in both California and Paris.
In 1936, when the Suite for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, Op. 157b was composed, Milhaud was already suffering with rheumatoid arthritis. Despite the continued worsening of his illness, which eventually lead him to be bound to a wheelchair, Milhaud continued to travel and compose extensively, producing a vast number of works and earning a name as one of the most prolific composers of the 20th Century.
Ensemble Cymru are performing at Chapter on Wednesday 15th February, 7pm.
Tickets are £10, £8 for concessions, and £3 for students. To book tickets call 029 2030 4400 or visit www.chapter.org
As part of our International Cultural Exchange Ensemble Cymru has been invited to perform on the final day of the 11th Welsh Alpine Championships in Champéry in the Canton of Valais (Wallis) in Switzerland.
Photo caption: (L to R) Sara Lian Owen, Peryn Clement-Evans, Anne Denholm (photo credit Timothy Ellis)
The programme will be a broad range of music from Wales including music of Grace Williams in the 40th year since her death.
Valais has a shared Celtic history with Wales and apparently the names Valais (Wallis) and Wales come from the same word.
Anne Denholm –Harp (our new principal harpist and official harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales)
Sara Lian Owen – Soprano (originally from Bangor in North Wales)
Peryn Clement-Evans – Clarinet
Ahead of the trip to Switzerland, Ensemble Cymru’s Artistic Director and principal clarienttist, Peryn Clement-Evans said:
“We’re excited to be invited to perform at the Welsh Alpine Championships and to be making new friends in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. We were approached some time ago by Ray Pritchard, a Welshman living in Switzerland and we’re hugely grateful to him and the community of Champéry for making our visit possible.”
Chamber music virtuosi, Ensemble Cymru, are set to embark on their first tour of 2017 – with dates planned across Wales.
Award-winning musicians including violinist Florence Cooke, pianist Richard Ormrod and Ensemble Cymru’s Artistic Director and Principal Clarinettist, Peryn Clement-Evans, make up the trio for the February tour which promises to showcase a discerning programme of chamber music.
One of classical music’s most prolific and influential composers, Mozart, and his Sonata in Bb major will feature in Ensemble Cymru’s upcoming concerts. The chamber trio will also perform an energetic suite written by the highly original 20th Century French composer, Darius Milhaud, plus Béla Bartók’s Eastern European folk-inspired Contrasts will feature in this diverse and exciting February programme.
Talking ahead of the tour, Ensemble Cymru’s Artistic Director and clarinettist for the concerts said:
“We’re all on a bit of high after our Big Give Campaign in December which raised an amazing £12,000. On behalf of all at Ensemble Cymru I just want to thank everyone who donated so generously. It’s really given us boost for our upcoming tour of Wales in February. Music I’m really looking forward to playing as the clarinettist is a piece which the great jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman asking his friend Bela Bartok to compose. There’s a lot of folk traditions and dances from Hungary and Rumania and something to watch out for is when the music asks our violinist Florence to re-tune two strings of her violin enabling her to create a really exciting Eastern European folk sound!”
The tour starts on February 1st and tickets are currently on sale at venues across North Wales including Venue Cymru, Llandudno (2&4 February) Holyhead’s Ucheldre Centre (1 February) Galeri, Caernarfon (3 February) Pontio, Bangor (5 February) Neuadd Dwyfor in Pwllheli (6 February) and Capel Gad in Cilcain near Mold (7 February) plus Aberystwyth Arts Centre (12 February) and Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff (15 February). Please see our events page for a full schedule of venues plus dates and concert times. Booking is advised.
Chamber music charity, Ensemble Cymru, are celebrating 15 years of bringing high quality chamber music performances to communities across north Wales and to mark this special occasion, they’re asking you to play your part in their Big Give Christmas Challenge.
The Bangor based classical music group has been chosen from thousands of other charities to take part in the UK’s largest online match funding campaign, the Big Give, which doubles donations which are made during a 72 hour window next week.
A pledge pot of £5,000 has already been raised by Ensemble Cymru but this money can only be unlocked through online donations made via the Big Give website www.thebiggive.org.uk from 12pm on Tuesday 29th November through until 12pm on Friday 2nd December. So for every pound that is donated, another £1 is unlocked from the pledge pot – doubling the original donation.
But money isn’t the only thing that will be unlocked through online donations; Ensemble Cymru’s star musicians, including Royal Harpist Anne Denholm, have recorded special personal messages and performances which will be released on the charity’s Facebook and Twitter pages as donations targets are reached.
In addition to the online music, Ensemble Cymru will also be holding a drop-in session at:
- Venue Cymru in Llandudno on Tuesday 29th November 11:30am – 1pm
- Wednesday 30th November, 10:30am -12pm at Pontio in Bangor
There will be ‘donations stations’ set-up where supporters can give online, plus music from Ensemble Cymru musicians.
Speaking about Ensemble Cymru’s plans for the future, its Artistic Director, Peryn Clement-Evans, said:
“Throughout the past 15 years, we’ve always been spurred on by the generosity of the public. With it, tens of thousands of people of all ages in Wales have been able to experience live performances of really inspiring music. For the next 15 years we want to raise the bar with an aim to unlock this music for hundreds of thousands more people of all ages in all parts of Wales, whoever and wherever they are be they in a community, a shopping centre, a chapel, a school hall or a concert hall. On behalf of all of us I’d just like to thank everybody so much for whatever they’re able to give to help us as we begin the task of realising that dream.”
If you are able to support Ensemble Cymru’s Big Give campaign, please visit our Big Give webpage for more information, or contact Angharad Hywel, Ensemble Cymru’s Development Officer on 01248 719 503 or email Angharad@ensemble.cymru.
Ahead of Ensemble Cymru’s new season launch at the end of October, the Ensemble’s newly appointed principal harpist, Anne Denholm, gives us an insight into her role as Royal Harpist, her love of chamber music and how growing up in Wales helped nurture her ambitions to pursue the harp as a career.
Originally from Carmarthenshire in South West Wales and of Scottish heritage, Anne was first introduced to the idea of learning the harp at school as it was one of the instruments that her primary school offered as part of their instrumental lesson scheme – something which is “definitely more likely to happen in a Welsh school!” according to Anne.
As an eleven-year-old, Anne was a member of the National Children’s Orchestra and already beginning to consider a career in music. And by thirteen, she remembers that her mind was set on a musical career and she was, in her own words, “determined to give it my best shot!”
And this determination more than paid off. Anne went on to receive her Master’s from the Royal Academy of Music (RAM) in London with distinction, graduating with the Renata Scheffel-Stein Harp Prize, the Sir Reginald Thatcher prize and a Regency Award for notable achievement.
Anne soon began earning a reputation as one of the UK’s leading young harpists and it wasn’t long before she received the invitation to take up one of the highest profile positions in the country, as the Official Harpist to HRH The Prince of Wales.
The post of Royal Harpist was reinstated in 2000 by HRH The Prince of Wales with three aims: to promote the harp as an instrument, to promote Welsh culture, and to support young artists. The process of being appointed Royal Harpist comprises nomination, application, audition and interview. In July 2015, Anne was appointed to the role and remembers feeling “incredibly honoured and elated”, before adding, “my first few months in the post were a time of great excitement and development.”
Amidst other duties, the role of Royal Harpist enables Anne to promote the harp to audiences and composers alike, something which she feels strongly about: “The harp community is greatly indebted to The Prince for reinstating this role that allows the harp to be known and experienced by a wider audience, and the post certainly helps to promote the harp in the world of classical music.”
Anne is passionate about taking classical music to the wider community. Since 2015, Anne has been performing under ‘Live Music Now’, an organisation that offers musical experiences and accessible concerts for everyone, including children and the elderly. Anne also works with ‘Bach to Baby’, a project specifically geared towards providing quality concerts to children of all ages.
It is fortunate, then, that Anne is principal harpist to Ensemble Cymru; a North Wales-based company that shares much of Anne’s spirit for sharing classical music with as wide an audience as possible. As part of Ensemble Cymru’s upcoming tour this October and November, Anne, along with another three ensemble members, will be taking chamber music to communities throughout Wales with performances in hospitals and schools, in addition to the main touring circuit of concert venues.
Not only does working with Ensemble Cymru ensure Anne continues her work taking music to communities, but it also helps to further promote the harp and its repertoire, a chance which Anne relishes:
“Any opportunity to include the harp in chamber music is a valuable chance to demonstrate the incredible versatility and power of this instrument”, said Anne. “It is fantastic that an established group such as Ensemble Cymru have decided to feature the harp in their programmes, and I am absolutely delighted to be a part of this initiative!”
Take a glance at Anne’s previous work projects and it’s clear to see she has a passion for chamber music, something which can be traced back to her upbringing in Wales where performances with other young musicians were a regular occurrence; “I was extremely lucky to be a part of a group of families who encouraged their children to play in small ensembles. From an early stage I played regularly with other people my age and we were also fortunate to be in the vicinity of excellent music festivals and competitions (such as the AFYM, Eisteddfodau and the Gwyl Cerdd Dant) where we could perform publicly and receive constructive feedback. I owe a great deal to these early formative experiences.”
It is with this enthusiasm for chamber music and the harp that Anne, alongside Artistic Director Peryn Clement-Evans, co-created the programmes for Ensemble Cymru’s 2016-2017 concerts. Staged in three parts, both the Autumn and Spring tours take a diverse approach to music for the harp. On the one hand, the company will be examining 20th century music for a variety of ensembles; on the other, the musicians have taken examples from the more traditional classical repertoire and arranged the works so that they include the harp. Paring CPE Bach with Dialogues by Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch, will surely demonstrate the range of capabilities and expression the harp has to offer.
Talking about co-curating the new season programme for Ensemble Cymru, Anne said, “Our goal was to show a variety of instrumental combinations featuring the harp (the Autumn programme is for harp and woodwind, and in May we explore the more traditional combination of flute, harp and viola), and to create programmes that are diverse, entertaining, and sometimes challenging – there is something for everyone!”
Ensemble Cymru’s new season launches at Pontio Bangor on 30th October followed by Neuadd Dwyfor Pwllhelli on October 31st, Capel Gad Cilcain on November 1st, The Ucheldre Centre Holyhead on November 2nd, Venue Cymru Llandudno on November 3rd and 5th, Galeri Caernarfon on November 4th and Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 27th November. See our events page for full details.
Anne is the first recipient of the Gaynor Cemlyn-Jones International Chair for Harp.
Chamber music champions, Ensemble Cymru, will welcome a very special guest as part of the launch of their brand new 2016-17 Concert Series. Anne Denholm, official harpist to HRH the Prince of Wales will be performing as part of the quartet for the first of Ensemble Cymru’s concerts taking place in venues across Wales this October and November.
Launching at Bangor’s Pontio on Sunday 30th October, Ensemble Cymru will go on to tour venues across Wales including Venue Cymru, Llandudno, Galeri in Caernarfon, Neuadd Dwyfor in Pwllheli, Holyhead’s Ucheldre Centre, Capel Gad in Cilcain near Mold, and finishing in Aberystwyth Arts Centre on 27th November.
As part of the Ensemble’s mission to showcase the finest chamber music from Wales and across the world, the programme for the October and November tour features an exciting international mix of pieces including sonatas from the Baroque and early Classical periods by Vivaldi and C.P.E Bach. Also included in this programme will be the lively Capriccio by Franz Poenitz and Deialogau (Dialogues) by the treasured Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch.
Speaking ahead of the tour, Anne, originally from Carmarthenshire in West Wales said:
“It is always a joy to travel and perform in Wales – it still feels like home! I have had an exciting and inspiring time working with Ensemble Cymru so far, and I am really looking forward to rehearsing and performing the varied programme we have curated for this Autumn’s series of concerts across Wales – there is something for everyone!”
Ensemble Cymru’s principal clarinettist and Artistic Director, Peryn Clement-Evans will be performing as part of the quartet this autumn alongside harpist Anne Denholm, also Johnathan Rimmer on flute and Pwllheli-born bassoonist, Llinos Elin Owen.
For full details of the tour dates please visit our Events Page. Tickets are on sale now at each of the venues.
Artistic Director, Peryn Clement-Evans, invites you to join us for a cuppa and a chat.
The 2016/2017 Season is about to start and Ensemble Cymru want to get to know you, our supporters, better. We thought a cuppa and chat was a good place to start.
Over the next six months, we will be organising informal ‘cuppa and a chat’ drop-ins in venues across Wales. The purpose, is to get to know you better; to find out what’s important to you and how you would like to see the Ensemble make a difference. In addition, we would like to know your ideas on how to develop the Friends of Ensemble Cymru.
Details for the first of these events are as follows:
Venue Cymru Café, Llandudno
Monday 10 October 2016 at 2.30pm
Cilcain Shop and Post Office
Tuesday 11 October 2016 at 10.30am
Mold Garden Centre and Woodworks Café
Tuesday 11 October 2016 at 2.30pm
Please do let us know if you are able to join us by sending an email to Angharad@ensemble.cymru
Ensemble Cymru’s final offering in their Coffee Concert series will see the harp take centre stage in a programme of stunning chamber music performed by a seven-piece ensemble, featuring a string quartet and an awarding winning harpist from Switzerland.
The North Wales based chamber music group’s May tour will draw together music from French and Welsh composers performed by top flight instrumentalists from Wales, and further afield.
Elisa Netzer, a rising star on the harp in her native Switzerland, will join some of the Ensemble’s home grown talent including violist Sara Roberts from Anglesey, and the Ensemble’s Artistic Director, Peryn Clement-Evans who lives in Bangor.
Speaking ahead of her debut in Wales with the Ensemble, Elisa said:
“As I prepare to travel to Wales for this tour, I can’t help but think what a privilege it is to get to perform a programme I love, in a country that loves my instrument so much. I can’t wait to explore again the great power of chamber music: complete strangers coming together and understanding each other perfectly through music.”
The programme presents an evocative mix of music including one of the most stunningly beautiful pieces ever written, Introduction and Allegro by Ravel, which perfectly demonstrates the expressive range of the harp. Music by Debussy and Jean Francaix will also be showcased alongside pieces by Welsh composers such as Port Talbot-born Christopher Painter and John Metcalf, the founder of the Vale of Glamorgan Festival.
The Wales-wide tour will be calling at the venues in Aberystwyth, Cardiff, Mold, Caernarfon, Llandudno, Holyhead and Pwllheli this May. Full listing below and for more information please visit our events page.