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.
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.
We will be performing at the closing event of the competition in the presence of the British Deputy Head of Mission and Consul General in Switzerland, Richard Ridout, MBE.
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 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
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.
The highpoint was a performance of Gareth Glyn’s arrangement of the Welsh national anthem with the youth choirs of Graubünden’s Canton School. Our musicians performed a cross section of chamber music from Wales including music by William Mathias, Hilary Tann, music from Wales bardic tradition, Cerdd Dant (arr. Sioned Webb) and the well-known song Lisa Lan.
Discussion about living through Welsh and Rumantsch
Moderated by the presenter from Radio and Television Rumantscha, Victoria Haas, there was discussion sparked by searching questions from the young people concerning the support to the Welsh language, status of the Welsh language as one of the two official languages in Wales, bilingualism in Wales and comparing its status with that of Rumantsch as one of the four official languages in Switzerland.
Then to close, performances together (us and the choirs) of entrancing Rumantsch folk songs in special arrangements for the project by the composer and bassoonist Gion Andreas Casanova of music by his father, Gion Balzer Casanova.
Music at the Heart of Education.
Graubunden’s Canton School has a brilliant team of 7 music teachers including Christian Klucker, ambassador for our project and Gion Andreas all of whom work so hard with the young people through singing and music throughout the school. Speaking with the school’s Director, I came away with the strong impression of how important the school sees music in helping it and its staff to prepare its young people for life.
The music facilities for approximately 2,000 pupils in the school are fantastic. We suspect that at least one or two of the conservatoires and music faculties in Britian might be jealous of the number of the pianos and rooms dedicated to music.
Thanks to the Director, Gion Lechmann and Deputy Director, Philippe Benguerel of the Canton School for their support. Thanks to Werner Cariget and his pupils for their work preparing questions for the discussion and to Mike Evans for instant translation. Mike’s the only person we know who speaks Welsh and Rumantsch!
We must thank especially the ambassador for the project, Christian Klucker (conductor of Incantanti and Music Teacher at the School) who has worked so hard to ensure the success of the visit. We were especially thankful to him and Erica and their family and neighbours Beatrice and Andreas for the welcome, hospitality and for looking after us.
Working with Chur’s Young Musicians
With the assistance of our interpretors, Toni, Kurt and Karin, we had a lot of fun working with the young instrumentalists (Guitar, recorders, flute, saxophone, clarinet, violinis, violas, cello) from Musikschule Domat/Ems,Felsberg.
Ensemble Cymru’s musicians led on activities to warm up the body, to develop the sense of rhythm and to develop the ability to breathe well and to support the sound effectively. Then onwards to work on Gareth Glyn’s arrangement of Ar Hyd y Nos (All Through the Night) for the Ensemble and the young musicians. The conductor of the orchestra, Ursin Widmer joined us on the second day to conduct a performance at the close of the two days with the children and young people.
We were very grateful to Sibilla Stolz (the orchestra’s Coordinator) for driving us around in the bus (and her husband Rico) and for organising the 2 workshops. We are also thankful to Anita Jehli (head of the school) and her office for enabling us to work with the school’s students and to Kathrin von Cube (Head of Strings), Bettina Marugg (Head of Flute Ensemble) and to Ursin Widmer (Orchestra Director) for working with the children and young people in preparation.
Biggest thanks go on behalf of the Ensemble: Peryn(Clarinét), Sara (Soprano), Oliver (Viola), Jonathan (Flute) and Anne (Harp) to the children and young people for being such fun to work with.
After swapping planes and almost losing our baggage in Gatwick this is Jonathan Rimmer, Oliver Wilson, Sara Lian Owen and Anne Denholme just arrived in Zurich’s main Station on the way to Chur, Graubünden. This is an exciting project with a community that speaks Romansch one of Switzerland’s 4 official languages.
Our Chamber Music Academy was launched at Galeri Caernarfon Friday 09/11/2015 with a class by Ensemble Cymru musicians on the Clarinet Quintet by Mozart with pupils of Margaret Scourse and Nicola Pearce. Thanks to Margaret especially for all her help.