The piece, entitled A Welsh Prayer, was hailed as a “masterpiece” after it was performed for the first time at the North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral.
It was composed by Professor Paul Mealor, who was born in St Asaph, while the words were written by Dr Grahame Davies, assistant private secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who hails for Coedpoeth, near Wrexham.
It was written specifically for a choir accompanied by two harpists, the Prince’s first official harpist, international star Catrin Finch, and the current royal harpist, Swansea’s Hannah Stone, with Hannah playing the Prince’s golden harp. Both accompanied the choir from Aberdeen University where Profession Mealor works.
The piece was jointly commissioned by the festival, which is supported by the Welsh Arts Council, and London-based Holywell Music, leading suppliers of Salvi and Lyon and Healy harps.
The premiere was one of many highlights at the year’s festival which boasts a stellar line-up that also includes the Swingle Singers, virtuoso pianist Peter Donohoe, historical performance ensemble, La Serenissima and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
Speaking before the premiere, Professor Mealor, who received international acclaim after composing the music for the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011 and who also wrote the music for the chart-topping Military Wives’ Choir, admitted to being a little nervous.
He said: “It’s always a little nerve-wracking when your music is heard for the first time and this evening is even more difficult for me as I have my family here and many close friends and I’m also conducting the piece.
“However, it’s unbelievable and I have to say I’m so honoured, to have two of the world’s very best harpists here at the festival to play for us.
“And what a privileged that the Prince of Wales allowed his own personal harp to be brought to St Asaph so Hannah could perform using it.
“Normally the Prince’s golden harp is kept in the Garden Room at Clarence House and for His Royal Highness to give consent for the harp to be brought to St Asaph, specifically for this performance, was a wonderful gesture.”
He added: “And of course not only have we been blessed by having two of the world’s finest harpists here to perform with the choir but Dr Grahame Davies, who wrote the words to the piece is also here.
“I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the very best poets but Grahame, for me, is one of the finest in the world.
“You know immediately when a poet sends you his text whether you can do anything with it.
“When I received Grahame’s words I knew instantly they would work. They are direct yet deeply spiritual. In truth, they are just perfect.
“The piece was written and composed to celebrate the 65th birthday of the Prince of Wales but also to celebrate God.”
Harpist Catrin Finch was thrilled to be asked to perform the piece at the North Wales International Music Festival.
She said: “Paul Mealor is a very well loved composer and I really enjoy his work. As a harpist and musician it is always nice to be asked to play a piece for its premiere, it really is an honour.
“It’s also been a privilege to play alongside Hannah Stone and to be accompanied by such a fantastic choir.
“A Welsh Prayer is such a lovely piece of work and I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to come to St Asaph to play.”
Hannah Stone added: “It’s wonderful to be given the opportunity to perform a piece of music for the first time particularly when the composer is not only present but conducting too.
“I have really enjoyed performing at St Asaph particularly as His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales gave permission for his harp to be transported to North Wales especially for the performance.
“I don’t think I could ever tire of playing such a wonderful instrument.”
David Williams and Allison Battye, of Holywell Music, who co-commissioned the piece, were present for the performance and spoke of their delight.
Musician David Williams, who hails from Holywell, Flintshire, says he was thrilled to have had the opportunity to attend the festival.
He said: “We are absolutely delighted to be here to listen to its world premiere. And to have two harpists as good as Catrin and Hannah, on stage and performing, is magical.
“I think Paul Mealor’s composition and the words of Grahame Davies are a perfect combination. It’s a wonderful piece of work that can be performed as a concert piece or equally as a church anthem.”
Allison Battye agreed adding: “It’s just wonderful to be here and to see such a big audience enjoying what is an important piece of work.
“I am absolutely thrilled we had the opportunity to commission, alongside the North Wales International Music Festival, such a beautiful piece which was performed so wonderfully.
“It’s fitting that such a powerful and warm piece of music was written by Paul Mealor specifically to celebrate the 65th birthday of The Prince of Wales.
“Paul has a worldwide reputation and is without doubt a very talented composer. He has worked so well with Grahame Davies and what they have produced is a wonderful tribute in celebration of the Prince of Wales‘ 65th birthday.”
The North Wales International Music Festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, says the St Asaph audience clearly enjoyed the performance.
She said: “It’s such a warm and moving choral piece and the choir, alongside Catrin and Hannah, were superb.
“I’m delighted we were able to co-commission the work alongside Holywell Music, who have such a large harp showroom in London.
“Paul’s wonderful music is so beautifully complemented by the words of Dr Grahame Davies. Grahame is without doubt, one of Wales’ brightest literary talents and his words are so warm and eloquent.”
She added: “I think it’s fantastic the North Wales International Music Festival had the opportunity to premiere this amazing choral work.
“It’s always a bit nail-biting for composers when their music is heard by an audience for the first time. However, judging by the exceptionally long applause, the large North Wales International Music Festival audience clearly liked what they heard.
”And so did I, it was a masterpiece!”
For more information about this year’s festival and how to buy tickets go to: www.nwimf.com
A Welsh Prayer
whose faithfulness is like the mountains
and whose mercy like the rain,
whose wisdom ordained that the lines should fall for us
in delightful places,
grant us a spirit of thanksgiving
and give us strength to serve
that when you call upon us
we shall be ready
to answer for this corner of the earth.
y mae dy ffyddlondeb fel y mynyddoedd
a’th drugaredd fel y glaw,
ac a ordeiniodd i’r llinynnau ddisgyn inni
mewn mannau dymunol,
rho inni galonnau i ddiolch,
a nerth i wasanaethu
fel, pan elwir arnom
y byddwn yn barod
i ateb dros y gornel hon o’r byd.