To close their Anniversary Season, Wales’s leading chamber music ensemble, Ensemble Cymru, is embarking on its most ambitious concert tour to date featuring nine top flight musicians and music from Handel to Debussy, as well as a brand new commission by Welsh composer, Gareth Glyn.
As we get ready to join the superb Mid Wales Opera in their touring production of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin this Spring, MWO’s Music Director Jonathan Lyness shares his thoughts on Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin as a piece, and his experiences of the work as a conductor. Jon introduces Tchaikovsky’s “beguiling, sensuous, beautiful and hypnotic” opera in his own words below. Continue reading Introducing Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’…
Thank you to everyone who supported our Big Give Christmas Campaign 2016. This is how your generosity has helped Ensemble Cymru’s work so far. Continue reading Big Give Update
We speak to Ensemble Cymru’s Principal Harpist, and current Royal Harpist, Anne Denholm in the run-up to the May Tour to find out how working with Ensemble Cymru helps promote something very important to her. Continue reading Harpist, Anne Denholm talks new music and Ensemble Cymru ahead of the May Tour
Ensemble Cymru will bring their sublime 2016-17 Concert Series to a joyful conclusion with their Wales-wide tour this May. Showcasing the finest chamber music from Wales and across the world, including music by Welsh composer Hilary Tann and the famous Mozart Flute Quartet, this tour is a must-see for music lovers!
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.
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.
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.