|* American singing sensation Noah Stewart.
The Harlem heartthrob has played the biggest opera houses in the world but says he will be at Cardiff because of what Llangollen means to him after he sang there for the first time last year.
He will be the main attraction at the Spirit of Llangollen concert at Cardiff’s iconic Tabernacle Chapel, in The Hayes, on Saturday, July 5, just two days before this year’s Llangollen spectacular kicks off.
Stewart, who will be at Llangollen again this year, will be joined at the chapel by a truly international lineup, including the Mizoram Synod Choir, from India, and Cardiff’s own Cor CF1, conducted by Eisteddfod Musical Director Eilir Owen Griffiths.
He was thrilled last year to follow in the footsteps of his hero, the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti in performing at Llangollen, and he enjoyed it so much he’s back again this year and is one of the event’s Day Presidents too.
Stewart will be taking part in Adiemus Colores as part of the 70th birthday celebrations of acclaimed Welsh composer Karl Jenkins at Llangollen on Wednesday, July 9, when he will be supported by classical accordionist Ksenija Sidorova, trumpet player Pacho Flores, the Karl Jenkins Singers and the Llangollen International Eisteddfod Orchestra.
He said: “The festival was so, so special. I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of the region. It’s a kind of paradise with such a wonderful landscape but the festival itself seemed to me to be a great place of peace.
“I was enthralled by the canal that runs alongside the Eisteddfod site but what really struck me was the sheer number of choirs there are in the area and, of course, in Wales as a whole.
“This is a nation that knows and understands music. People really do find time for music and it plays an important role in their lives. It’s unusual to feel quite so much love for the art of music, you could really feel it.
“The Llangollen audience allowed me to be myself and express my emotions through my music. And, even though I have performed around the world, you don’t always experience that feeling of freedom.
“I was received so well and I was blessed to have the opportunity to perform for such a knowledgeable audience. It reminded me why I chose classical music, so I could forge a partnership between myself and my audience.”
The 2013 Eisteddfod audience awarded Stewart a standing ovation after he sang Calon Lan, in Welsh, accompanied by harpist Claire Jones.
He said: “There only is one real language, the language of music. That’s the beauty of the art, it’s a language of peace and there are no boundaries.
“Singing in Welsh was a challenge, of course it was. It’s so important to get the pronunciation absolutely right otherwise the audience becomes aware and that makes it false and simply wrong.”
The first black musician to top the British classical charts, Noah, who has appeared on Desert Island Discs, is looking forward to returning to Wales.
He said: “Llangollen was special to Pavarotti; I know he had such an affinity with the Eisteddfod. Like Pavarotti I was in a choir and fell in love with classical music. And now, like him, I have fallen in love with Llangollen.”
Eilir Owen Griffiths is thrilled that Stewart is back to perform not just at Llangollen but also in Cardiff and he said: “Noah is a stellar talent and a worthy successor to the great Pavarotti.
“We wanted to bring the flavour of the Eisteddfod to Cardiff as well and it’s wonderful that we have been able to put together such a fantastic lineup for the concert at Tabernacle Chapel, right in the heart of the city.
“To have Noah Stewart there is wonderful and when I was over in India I heard the Mizoram Synod Choir and they’re terrific and I know that Wales with its tradition of choral music will really appreciate them.
“They will be at Llangollen too and this year’s lineup is truly amazing and we're absolutely thrilled that Noah has also agreed to be a Day President as well as performing.”
Noah, who was born to a single mum, Patricia, in Harlem, New York, says he is considering treating her to a trip to the Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod so she can experience the festival for herself.
He said: “I am hoping to be able to bring her to Llangollen. She’s now 70 and we will have to see what her health is like but I know she’d love the festival, its music, flowers and message of peace.
“I was thrilled when I was asked whether I’d consider being a Day President for the Eisteddfod and of course I didn’t have to think before accepting the invitation.
“I really hope I have a long and enduring association with Llangollen and, rest assured, I tell everyone who’s prepared to listen all about the festival and the incredible rich culture that is so evident everywhere you look.”
The curtain raiser for this year's Eisteddfod will mark the return of opera superstar Bryn Terfel to Llangollen.
The acclaimed bass baritone will be playing the lead in a production of Stephen Sondheim's Broadway smash hit Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street on Monday evening, July 7.
This year's Eisteddfod will also feature concerts by Dutch jazz sensation Caro Emerald and veteran British rockers Status Quo who will close the festival with a Sunday night concert.
Tickets for the concert at Tabernacle Chapel are £16 for adults and £5 for children and are available from the Eisteddfod box office and from members of COR CF1. For more information about the Eisteddfod go to www.international-eisteddfod.