A top music festival reached a global audience after going virtual.
The North Wales International Music Festival moved online for the first time in its 49 year history as a result of the coronavirus crisis.
The decision proved a big hit with the audience who tuned in from as far afield as America and Canada along with a host of European countries including Holland, Germany, Belgium, Spain and Portugal and across the UK.
One delighted music fan who made a donation towards the costs of putting it on binge-watched the festival and commented it was more entertaining that Strictly Come Dancing.
Organisers are hoping to be back in their usual venue, St Asaph Cathedral, when the popular event celebrates its 50th anniversary next year.
Among the highlights was a concert starring young cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who won worldwide acclaim when he played at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and his sister, Isata, a hugely talented pianist.
There were also “brilliant” performances by Australian guitarist Craig Ogden, stunning vocal group Voces8, piano virtuoso Luke Jones from Wrexham, and the renowned folk trio Siân James, Sioned Webb and Arfon Gwilym with folk band VRï.
The curtain was brought down on this year’s event with a stunning performance by the festival’s resident orchestra, NEW Sinfonia, who had pre-recorded their concert in the cathedral.
The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, paid tribute to all their sponsors who had stuck by them and ensured the virtual event could go ahead.
She said it would not have been possible without the support of the Arts Council of Wales and all our sponsors including Salisburys chartered accountants and the Pendine Park care organisation via the Pendine Arts and Community Trust.
Ann said: “It’s been a very different festival this year, it’s gone as well as we could have expected under the circumstances.
“We’ve always had international artistes, but I suppose the main difference this year is that we’ve actually reached international audiences and we’ve also had people viewing across the UK, everywhere from Yorkshire to Essex.
“The one thing we haven’t compromised on at all this year is quality and it has been a top class festival in terms of content.
“People were able to watch live or catch up later via the website – www.nwimf.com – where the concerts are still available to watch for 28 days.
“There was an opportunity to donate in return for the pleasure of watching from home and, while it hasn’t replaced the amount we would normally expect to make at the box office, it has been a big help.
“We’ve had some lovely messages from people making a donation, saying how much they’ve enjoyed the concerts.
“One of the best ones was from someone saying they’ve binged watched the festival and that it was much better than watching Strictly Come Dancing.
“Reading the messages has been really touching especially at such a difficult time for everybody.
“Going virtual has put a different angle on things really. Another person commented it was a beautiful, intimate experience because they felt as if they had the best seat in the house.
“There were some incredibly special moments throughout the festival and you can go back and watch them all.
We also hope to put some of the education work that we’ve done online, we just need to gather all that together and put it out there so that people can see that side of our work as well.
“I’m so grateful to everyone and all our partners, the people that we work with normally, NEW Sinfonia, Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias, Live Music Now, Welsh National Opera, Ensemble Cymru – the list is long.
“They’ve all contributed something and have been willing to do so, and it means so much.
“The sponsors of course have played a big part. Without the sponsors and their continued valued support, we would not have had a festival this year.
“It’s also meant we have been able to provide work for our artistes at a time when work is in really short supply because virtually everything has been cancelled.
“I also have to pay tribute to our festival manager, Caroline Thomas, and our producer, John Liston, for their herculean efforts. They have been absolutely brilliant.
“The full and enthusiastic support of the board has also been crucial and I am eternally grateful to them too.”