An acclaimed acoustic quartet are swapping the BBC Proms at London’s Albert Hall for a concert at St Asaph Cathedral.
Kabantu will be bringing their eclectic, folk inspired repertoire to the North Wales International Music Festival at 7.30pm on Thursday, September 21.
The festival has been made possible thanks to the support of the Arts Council of Wales, Colwinston Charitable Trust and the festival’s headline sponsor, the Pendine Arts and Community Trust (PACT), that was set up by the Pendine Park care organisation to provide funding for arts and community activities.
Other sponsors include Arts & Business Cymru, Tŷ Cerdd, Salisbury & Co Accountants, manorhaus and Tŷ Architecture.
Manchester-based Kabantu includes violinist and whistler Katie Foster, guitarist Ben Sayah, Ali McMath on double bass, didgeridoo and banjo with Delia Stevens on percussion.
Ben Sayah said: “We like to take folk music from all over the world and turn it into a different form of music.”
He said they have taken songs from as far afield as Brazil and India as well as various European and African nations and adapted them in their own unique style.
Born in France and now based in the north of England Ben draws inspiration from bluegrass guitarists and fuses it with the influence drawn from progressive rock and metal.
Kabantu have also created large-scale works for BBC Singers and the Manchester Camerata, made interactive theatre shows for Lancaster Arts, featured on BBC children’s channel CBeebies and run creativity in music courses for the National Youth Orchestra and Aldeburgh Young Musicians.
They also collaborated with Sinfonia Cymru, based in Cardiff, on a project called Close to Folk in 2019.
Violinist Katie Foster said: “The Welsh identity of the orchestra was hugely important, so we looked at ways to base the project on traditional songs and folk melodies from Wales.”
The band’s set at St Asaph will include pieces from their two albums. Their debut CD, Of the People, was released in 2018 to critical acclaim and their second, entirely original album, Freehand, was recorded last year with support from the PRS Foundation and Help Musicians UK.
The programme will feature a variety of instrumental and vocal music including No Change, an original Scottish reel with a Caribbean twist, L’etranger, a snappy percussive piece based on a line from Albert Camus’s famous novella, and Rhoscolyn, a more traditional folk song melody, inspired by the Anglesey coastline.
North Wales International Music Festival Artistic Director Ann Atkinson said Kabantu means “of the people” – stemming from the South African philosophy of Ubuntu: “I am who I am because of who we all are”.
She said: “Kabantu are an eclectic combination of musicians. Their folk-inspired music is an interesting mix of various styles from all corners of the world.”
“It will be a wonderful and varied evening of virtuosic music making – truly original music which will transport you from a raucous Scottish ceilidh, to an Indian street market and back to a rugged Welsh coastline.”
Ann, who steps down as festival Artistic Director this year, said Kabantu’s music from various parts of the world also fits in well with the theme of this year’s festival, Horizons.
The closing concert on Saturday, September 30, will take the form of a farewell to Ann and will feature the NEW Sinfonia, the NEW Voices Community Choir and soloists Lisa Dafydd and Dafydd Jones. Also taking part will be Ann, an accomplished mezzo-soprano, and her husband Kevin Sharp, baritone.
“This orchestral concert will include the young instrumentalists from our Instrumental Project and a bit of Opera and favourite pieces. The programme will include our 2013 Commission by Paul Mealor ‘A Welsh Prayer’ and a follow up new commission from Paul Mealor for 2023 ‘A Welsh Blessing’,” said Ann.
The talented vocal ensemble, Tenebrae, who have performed at the festival twice before, will star in the opening concert on Friday, September 15.
A bilingual concert, Gorwelion y Gair (The Horizon of Words), on Friday, September 22, features the Trelawnyd and Bro Glyndwr Male Voice Choirs – both are led by Ann Atkinson as their musical director.
They will be joined by Dee Sign BSL Choir, poet Aled Lewis Evans and popular Welsh folk group Pedair whose latest release, Mae ‘Na Olau, has just been named as Welsh Language Album of the Year at the National Eisteddfod.
On Saturday, September 23, NEW Sinfonia will be joined in concert by Welsh pianist Teleri–Siân and American violinist Tai Murray, who is described as “technically flawless… vivacious and scintillating”. Their programme features Piazzolla’s The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires and Gershwin’s An American in Paris and Rhapsody in Blue.
Canadian-born pianist Janina Fialkowska, “one of the Grandes Dames of piano playing”, will perform a recital featuring pieces by Schubert, Brahms and Chopin, on Thursday, September 28. Janina has enchanted audiences and critics around the world for over 40 years.
The following evening former Royal harpist Catrin Finch takes centre stage on September 29, when she will be appearing with Irish violinist Aoife Ní Bhríain.
In addition, there will be an extensive programme of daytime concerts and other events, including a dementia friendly and inclusive concert, a Schools concert and a Tots concert – all with musicians from Live Music Now Cymru.
There will be morning concerts with classical guitarist Jonathan Richards and Ensemble Cymru, clarinettist Peryn Clement-Evans and pianist Iwan Llewelyn-Jones, who will present a Chamber Music programme with poetry by Aled Lewis Evans, and there will be various masterclasses and workshops.
Tickets and further details about the festival programme are available online at www.nwimf.com. Tickets also available from Cathedral Frames, St Asaph – 01745 582929 (Weds – Fri, 10 – 4) and Theatr Clwyd by phone – 01352 344101 (Mon – Sat, 10 – 6).