GREGYNOG FESTIVAL 2019: VISION29 / 05 / 2019
22-30 June 2019
Aberystwyth takes centre stage as Gregynog Festival celebrates the vision of Gwendoline, Margaret and David Davies for a better world rooted in culture and peace following the First World War. The season is inspired by two centenaries – the appointment of Henry Walford Davies as first Gregynog Professor of Music at Aberystwyth University and the foundation of the Department of International Politics – all funded by the Davies family in 1919.
The opening and closing concerts also take place in Aberystwyth with chamber-folk band VRȉ playing at the National Library of Wales (22 June, 7.30pm), while Meirion Wynn Jones gives a recital on the fine Frederick Rothwell organ at Bethel Chapel in Baker Street (30 June, 2.30pm).
VRȉ (Patrick Rimes, Jordan Price Williams and Aneirin Jones) have become the hottest property in Welsh music since their début CD Tŷ Ein Tadau won Best Album and Best Traditional Welsh Song at the first Wales Folk Awards in April (“a magic chemistry that is absolutely bewildering, mesmerising and thoroughly addictive”, FolkWales). For Gregynog Festival, they showcase the album in the context of two remarkable 19th-century portraits interpreted by Peter Lord as well as introducing a new set of tunes drawn from the collection of Dr Meredydd Evans (Merêd) and Phyllis Kinney at the National Library (see https://blog.library.wales/searching-for-welsh-folk-songs/).
Meirion’s programme includes music by composers with Aberystwyth connections such as William Mathias, David de Lloyd and Walford Davies himself. Walford gave the inaugural recital on Bethel’s organ in 1924, while de Lloyd’s composition ‘Er Cof’ was written for the service to dedicate the instrument to the memory of Chapel members killed in the First World War.
Dr Rhian Davies, Gregynog Festival’s Artistic Director, is an Aberystwyth alumna who returned to live here last year. “I love being back in Aber,” she said, “and it’s been great to create this Festival on the spot. It was so exciting to trace the manuscript of ‘Er Cof’ to the University Archives and then to discover Mathias’ ‘Prelude, Elegy and Toccata’ in the National Library. It’s an early work that Mathias wrote when he used to play at Bethel as a student, and it was premièred at Gregynog by the famous Aberystwyth organist Charles Clements, so it’s perfect to hear it during this year’s Festival. Meirion will also be playing a piece called ‘Aria’ by Firmin Swinnen, a Belgian refugee who gave recitals at several Aberystwyth chapels in 1915 before emigrating to make a celebrity career in the USA.”
Festival events at Gregynog include the Odysseus Piano Trio (28 June, 7.30pm) whose repertoire pays tribute to the Aberystwyth Trio appointed by Walford Davies in 1919 as the first resident chamber ensemble at any university in the world. They even shared the platform with Béla Bartók when he made his UK début in Aberystwyth in 1922.
The Davies family’s interests are also explored in an afternoon of talks by Dr Jan Ruzicka (29 June, 2.30pm) and Craig Owen (29 June, 4.00pm). Jan is Director of the David Davies Memorial Institute at Aberystwyth’s Department of International Politics, while Craig is Head of Wales for Peace at the Temple of Peace and Health in Cardiff. To close the day, the outstanding French Baroque ensemble, A Nocte Temporis, directed by Reinoud Van Mechelen, make their Wales début with a beautiful programme of Bach arias for tenor, flute, viola da gamba and harpsichord (29 June, 7.30pm).
There’s another chance to catch VRȉ and Peter Lord in Llangadfan (23 June, 2.30pm) with a delicious afternoon tea at Cwpan Pinc to follow. Rhian Davies also speaks about Walford Davies’ visionary schemes for music in Wales, including the Aberystwyth and Cardiganshire Festivals, at the Drwm (28 June, 1.00pm) and Gregynog (28 June, 6.00pm).
Tickets and full programme details are available from gregynogfestival.org and 01686 207100.