A review of the 2011 Festival (which has just taken place) will be posted here very shortly.
The Festival Launch Concert is now well established but this year saw the Children’s Festival Chorus take centre stage for the first time for the opening night to celebrate 20 years of education at Treginnis Farm. The choir was made up of 124 children from Cardiff and Swansea as well as local schools in Pembrokeshire and the St Davids Cathedral Choristers and Boys’ Choir. Rehearsals had been taking place separately in schools since March but came together for the first time on the afternoon of the concert. The Children’s Festival Chorus sang a range of world, folk and pop songs, as well as music by Welsh composer, Karl Jenkins to a packed Cathedral. All of the children involved enjoyed tea at Treginnis between the rehearsal and the concert. Following the concert there was a reception to celebrate further the life and work of Treginnis and to launch the Cathedral Choir’s latest CD.
The Cathedral Choir concert returned this year to the first Saturday of the Festival, again accompanied by the Corelli Orchestra. We were treated to a sublime interpretation of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and the choir was on top form for Bach’s Cantata 147. The following night Andrew Lumsden gave a popular organ recital which included Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm, magnificently played.
Grammy Award winning King’s Singers gave an entertaining Bank Holiday Monday concert to an appreciative packed house and pianist Leon McCawley was in scintillating form on the Tuesday night. The Academy of Ancient Music concert with Elin Manahan Thomas was a triumph of programming with arias by Purcell and Handel juxtaposed with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The string playing had amazing vitality and was really uplifting. The highlight of the Festival was the concert by Gramophone winners Stile Antico which was a most polished performance and an incredible display of balance, blend and intonation. The BBC National Orchestra of Wales concert was excellent as ever and David Goode’s performance of the Mathias Organ Concerto was the second highlight of the week. It’s a work that is hardly known but deserves a much wider audience. The Festival Chorus returned to its traditional slot closing out the Festival on the final night for an absolutely stunning concert. We were joined by a splendid team of soloists with Natalie Clifton-Griffith, I think, stealing the show in ‘Et incarnatus est’.
The first of the lunchtime concerts was given by the exceptionally talented young harpist and winner of Young Musician of Dyfed, Anne Denholm. Sadly Edward Dean who was to play the Young Organist’s Recital was indisposed due to family circumstances, so the Artistic Director gamely stepped in and performed some party pieces. The highlight of the lunchtime series was a performance of Dichterliebe by acclaimed tenor James Gilchrist and pianist Anna Tilbrook. Unfortunately Claire Jones was unable to give her morning concert but we were lucky to secure the services of another delightful harpist Eleanor Turner.
The coffee concerts in the refectory ran much more smoothly this year with an earlier start time of 10am followed by coffee. The first exhibited our three talented choral scholars and the second was given by the promising young violinist Lily Whitehurst and her accompanist Seimon Morris.
Last year demand for the Boys’ Choir coffee concert was such that we decided to move the concert to a larger venue, so this year the Boys performed to a sell-out audience at Llanrhian Church in a tea-time concert. The Boys sang a full-length programme coping admirably with the dry acoustics and a fine tea was enjoyed by all in the hall afterwards.
There were just two late-night concerts this year which began at the earlier time of 9.45pm. The Vicars Choral and Choral Scholars were on entertaining form and we were only sorry to be denied a second airing of ‘There’s nothing like a Dame’ as the encore! Caryl Parry Jones filled the folk slot this year and was a delight on a musical and personal level. I’m sure we will see her back here again.
As well as the concerts there were exhibitions by Treginnis and Richard Hellon as well as a talk with Clive Hicks-Jenkins and Sally Moss at the Deanery which were of great interest and enjoyed by many.
The Cathedral Choir’s singing of the services continued the high standard they have shown all year. The first Sunday featured the premiere of this year’s Festival Commission, David Bednall’s anthem O lux beata Trinitas. The Choir underlined its status as the premier Welsh Cathedral Choir with their annual broadcast of Choral Evensong on Radio 3 and judging by the comments, this was extremely well received. They gave a terrific second airing of the Bednall and it’s very much to the credit of St Davids that for the last two years we have presented newly commissioned music on Radio 3.
2010 has been another successful and extremely memorable Festival. We are fortunate that St Davids Cathedral is a magnet for visitors and with a programme of concerts from such high calibre artists, glorious sunshine and first-class hospitality in the Festival Marquee we were able to attract, yet again, fantastic audiences for all events for what has proved to be one of the finest Festivals here in memory.
This review was written by the Festival’s Artistic Director, Alexander Mason.
Photographs on this page taken by Philip Clarke. For further photographs of this year's festival please refer to the Photo Archive 2010.