Acting legend Jonathan Pryce whose latest movie is tipped for an Oscar swapped the film set for a starring role with the male voice choir he’s vice president of at an international festival in North Wales.
Mr Pryce, who was born in the village of Carmel in Flintshire, brought the curtain down on this year’s hugely successful North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral.
At the end of the final concert he took to the stage with the Côr Meibion Trelawnyd male voice choir, of which he is vice president, for a rousing rendition of the wartime marching song, Pack up Your Troubles, which was written by two brothers, Felix and George Powell, who came from St Asaph.
The concert also featured Côr Meibion Bro Glyndwr, Côr Cytgan Clwyd and the A5 Brass quintet.
The theme for this year’s festival was Reflections to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the so-called Great War and earlier in the evening Mr Pryce read the work of war poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.
It was part of an emotional tribute to the soldiers who perished in the First World War, including 50 young men from the small city whose names are carved on the local cenotaph.
According to the acclaimed actor, famous for his roles in blockbusters like the Bond movie, Tomorrow Never Dies, in which he plays the villainous mogul Elliot Carver, as well as Governor Weatherby Swann in Pirates of the Caribbean and The High Sparrow in TV’s Game of Thrones, he was honoured to take part in the concert.
His latest film, The Wife, in which he shares top billing with Glen Close, is one of the frontrunners to win an Academy Award at the Oscars.
Ann Atkinson, the event’s artistic director, was thrilled that Jonathan Pryce had agreed to join them at this year’s festival which was one of the most successful ever with a string of sell-out concerts for which they had to put in extra seating.
The festival was supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Tŷ Cerdd and the concluding concert was sponsored by Mario and Gill Kreft, the proprietors of the arts-loving Pendine Park care organisation, via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT) which supports a whole host of cultural and community activities in North Wales.
For Mr Pryce it was an opportunity to hear the Trelawnyd choir perform live for the first time and to meet his former geography teacher, Geraint Griffiths, who taught him at the old Holywell Grammar School.
He said: “I get up to North Wales all too rarely nowadays.
“My sister is still in the area and I did used to visit my aunt Mia on the Holway estate in Holywell but she passed away aged 97. I always enjoy meeting up with old friends and amazingly I’ve met my old geography teacher, Geraint Griffiths, tonight. I still haven’t finished my homework!
“When Ann Atkinson asked me to get involved, more than a year ago, I said yes without hesitation so long as I had the time. I’m currently in a play called The Height of the Storm, which was written by Florian Zeller, alongside Dame Eileen Atkins.
“However, it finished at Bath on the Saturday evening and I have two days before it opens in London so it meant I could make it to St Asaph. Happily Ann managed to extend the festival until the Sunday so I could make it.
“I also really wanted to hear the Trelawnyd Male Voice Choir perform live. I’m a vice president of the choir but I’ve always been unable, due to work, to see them perform live, although I’ve listened to many CDs.”
“I think commemorating the anniversary of 100 years since the Armistice is a wonderful idea.
“I have a great respect for some of the World War One poets. I love poetry but prefer it to be read out loud as a performance.
“It’s not dissimilar to acting in many respects. I do read poetry to myself at home but much prefer hearing it read.
“I’ve certainly enjoyed being back in North Wales and seeing so many old friends, it’s been an amazing concert and a thoroughly enjoyable evening.”
Ann Akinson said this year’s festival had exceeded all expectations and the final concert with Jonathan Pryce provided a fitting end to the event.
She said: “It’s been amazing and we have never had ticket sales quite like it.
“It really has been a wonderful festival. The final night though was an absolute triumph. I have been trying to get Jonathan Pryce involved but as Sunday was the only night he had free it meant extending the festival by a day. But it was worth it.
“The whole concert was just wonderful and Jonathan’s readings were just so thought-provoking and humbling. It really made for a special evening that brought the curtain down on what has been a fantastic festival.
“Of course we need sponsors and as ever Mario and Gill Kreft of Pendine Park Care Organisation came on board and sponsored the final concert. We couldn’t do what we do without sponsors and Pendine Park always commit to helping us.”
Mr Kreft said: “The arts are very important to all we do at Pendine Park and we are delighted to continue our long association with the festival through the Pendine Arts and Community Trust.
“Jonathan Pryce’s readings were so poignant and special and really very moving indeed.”
To find out more about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com