The Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod returns in a blaze of colour tomorrow (Thursday, July 7).
After a Covid-enforced absence, competitors will be arriving in the picturesque Dee Valley town in time to celebrate the festival’s 75th anniversary.
The Eisteddfod was founded in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War in a visionary attempt to promote peace through musical harmony and dance.
The pandemic put a temporary halt to the festival as a physical event and it took on a virtual format last year, with performances streamed online.
But preparations are well under way for this year’s comeback Eisteddfod, which starts on Thursday, July 7 and culminates with Llanfest on Sunday, July 10, when the eisteddfod will join forces with the Llangollen Fringe Festival.
Among the army of volunteers helping to put the festival is a wine expert from Hong Kong who fell in love with the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
For years Bill Kong flew 6,000 miles to work as a volunteer at the festival every year.
He was captivated by the intoxicating magic of the eisteddfod on his first visit as an audience member in 2013 ago when he fulfilled a long-standing ambition to experience it for himself.
Bill said: “I have been mesmerised by the magic of Llangollen. That means the music, the performers as well as the visitors and above all the hard work and dedication of all the volunteers throughout the year who make the Eisteddfod the incredible event that it has become.
“The young and the more seasoned have all played their part in the history of something so unique and special by participating in the legacy of the festival.”
During the four-day event, there will be a host of new attractions and activities on the revamped outdoor site, including music, dance, talks, comedy, food, drink, shopping, workshops and pop-up entertainment.
In the evenings there will be concerts featuring the singing duo of Aled Jones and Russell Watson and Anoushka Shankar, the British-Indian-American sitar player, producer, film composer and activist who is a half-sister to singer Norah Jones.
The competitions climax on Saturday night with Choir of the World and the contest for the Pendine International Voice of the Future featuring the finest young singers from around the world on the stage where Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, Sir Bryn Terfel and Luciano Pavarotti have performed.
This year’s Eisteddfod is a shortened version of previous years but will still pack plenty in with a full programme of competitions in the Pavilion and starting on Thursday with Schools Day and the Young Peacemaker Awards.
Sunday sees the Eisteddfod let its hair down for Llanfest before the climactic final concert featuring indie rock stars Amber Run, blues powerhouse Elles Bailey and Bajan-Welsh singer songwriter Kizzy Crawford
Over the years the festival has helped launch the careers of global stars like Luciano Pavarotti.
Among those sending their anniversary congratulations were opera star Sir Bryn Terfel, First Minister Mark Drakeford and Aled Jones.
After competing on the famous pavilion stage as an up and coming young base baritone from Pantglas in Gwynedd, Sir Bryn went on to forge a stellar career as one of the world’s greatest opera singers.
In a specially recorded video message, Sir Bryn said: “I send my heartfelt congratulations to the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod as it celebrates its 75th anniversary.
“A truly unique event that is lauded as an international treasure – the people, the stage, the audiences, even all those beautiful flowers at the front of the stage making such a truly memorable and unique experience.”
First Minister Mark Drakeford is also a big fan of the event and what it stands for.
In his video, he said: “The Llangollen International Eisteddfod is truly an icon of the Welsh cultural landscape, and it’s particularly exciting to be able to welcome in person attendees back to the event and back to Wales this year.
“As relevant today as when it was first established in the aftermath of the Second World War, the overriding message of the International Eisteddfod is of international harmony and cooperation and it gives us that annual opportunity to reflect upon these vital priorities.”
Meanwhile, Eisteddfod Patron the Prince of Wales has written the foreword for the official programme.
On the last occasion in 2015, when he was accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall, he was captured on camera dancing to a bhangra beat with the Sheerer Punjab Bhangra Dance group from Nottingham.
In the foreword he said: “It is a source of great pride to me, as Patron of the Eisteddfod, that Wales should have given the world this shining example of peace and harmony.
For more on Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod and its competitions and concerts as well as how to get to it and where to stay go to http://international-eisteddfod.co.uk/ or check out https://www.facebook.com/llangollen