*Status Quo, Rick Parfitt and Francis Rossi.
Thousands of people from around the world will again descend on the little town of Llangollen next week as it celebrates the 68th annual International Musical Eisteddfod.
The event where Wales welcomes the world and which began as a festival of peace in the aftermath of the Second World War has grown into one of Europe’s premier music and dance events.
It is one of Wales’s cultural star attractions and has brought international icons like Dylan Thomas and the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to a quiet corner of the Dee Valley.
Pavarotti, in fact, began his international career as a member of a choir from Modena at Llangollen in 1955 when he and his father stayed with a family in Froncysylte.
In recent years artists of the stature of Jools Holland, Katherine Jenkins, Kiri Te Kanawa, James Galway and Montserrat Caballe have performed at the final Sunday Evening Gala Concert.
And this year the standard remains as high as ever with the curtain-raiser for the main event on Monday, July 7, seeing the great Welsh operatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel returning to Llangollen to lead a star-studded cast in a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway smash hit Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
It is the first time Bryn Terfel has appeared at Llangollen since 2006 and he’s excited at the prospect: “I’m absolutely thrilled I’m able to appear,” he said.
“I’m a proud Welshman and the Eisteddfod is unique, the atmosphere, the colour, the audience, even the flowers, it really is a very, very special event.
“Being offered the opportunity to return to the International Eisteddfod is an honour and I look forward to seeing everyone at Llangollen which, without a doubt, for me, will be a highlight of 2014.
“The International Eisteddfod committee and team of volunteers who work so incredibly hard really do put together something very special, year after year and they are to be applauded.”
Terfel will be joined on stage in Sweeney Todd by three unknown young singers he has hand-picked for starring roles, tenor Berwyn Pearce, soprano Lauren Morris and 14-year-old Dewi Wykes.
Berwyn, 26, from Cilfynydd, near Pontypridd, is the great-nephew of another opera legend, Sir Geraint Evans, while Lauren, 21, is from Solihull and Dewi from Llangynhafal, near Ruthin, in Denbighshire.
They were chosen from over 80 young singers at auditions in Cardiff and Llangollen and Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “It’s one of our roles at the Eisteddfod, to provide chances for young talent to flourish and there can be no bigger opportunity than to sing alongside a legend like Bryn Terfel.
“Berwyn is a class act who will bring a special presence to the role, Lauren has a real magic about her and to find a 14-year-old with the talent Dewi has was just amazing.
“We’ve found three young up and coming stars of the future and we at Llangollen can give them that first stage on which to shine.”
He is also thrilled Bryn Terfel will appear at the 2014 festival. He said: “Bryn Terfel is Wales’ brightest musical star and the Eisteddfod is always a richer event when he is able to honour us with his presence.
“It has been difficult finding space in his every busy concert diary and I’m just grateful we have been able to arrange, what will be the opening event of the 2014 festival.”
The Eisteddfod continues through a vibrant six days of concerts which will feature Dutch jazz diva Caro Emerald, American tenor Noah Stewart, a new work by acclaimed Welsh composer Karl Jenkins for his 70th birthday, an appearance by the chart-topping singing brothers, Richard and Adam Johnson, from Holywell, in Flintshire, and star artists from China, South Africa, Venezuela and Latvia.
|* Caro Emerald.|
What’s more the curtain will come down on this summer’s Eisteddfod with an appearance by legendary British rockers Status Quo who will perform on the Sunday night, July 13.
Most importantly the competitions have continued to attract entrants from all over the world – this year they will be here from Australia, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Madagascar, Morocco, Nepal, Trinidad, the USA and Zimbabwe as well as from all over Europe and the UK.
The blue riband of those competitions is the Choir of the World for the Pavarotti Trophy which takes place on Saturday night in the Royal International Pavilion and there will also be a competition to find the dance champions of 2014 and to top the evening off Richard and Adam, who shot to fame on Britain’s Got Talent, will appear as special guests.
This year’s event runs from Tuesday, July 8, when the colourful traditional procession through the town will be led by Eisteddfod Patron Terry Waite, through six days of competitions and concerts to Sunday’s spectacular fireworks extravaganza.
On the Tuesday night at the Eisteddfod there will be a galaxy of international talent at the Carnival of Nations concert.
Outside the Royal International Pavilion on the field colourful competitors from around the world join thousands of visitors who can enjoy live music from the S4C Stage, join in with dance workshops or just soak up the heady atmosphere and world-class competition.
For more details on the 2014 festival go to the website at www.international-eisteddfod.