St. Davids Cathedral Festival, May 27 to June 5, 2022


Tuesday 10th May 2022 1:06 pm
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There’s something just perfect about the scale of the St Davids Festival that makes it a real jewel in the Welsh calendar. Pembrokeshire beaches and hospitality all day and world-class concerts in the afternoons and evenings. It’s a festival that gets the spirit of place just right. The music is wonderful, and it’s the easy atmosphere, the festival buzz, the craic that makes it so special. And it’s got to be said, there is nowhere on earth with an acoustic quite as spellbinding as St Davids Cathedral. It’s as wonderful for big bands as it is for sacred music.


The music programme this year is a deeply satisfying mix of Baroque classics, sweeping Romantics and contemporary adventures, reaching a rousing finale with the BBC NOW under the baton of superstar conductor Ryan Bancroft raising the rafters of the Cathedral with Beethoven’s C Minor Piano Concerto and the world premiere of Alex Mills’ new commission - Landsker. But it’s thrilling to see centre stage given to phenomenal Welsh women musicians, from Brecon’s legendary Baroque violinist Rachel Podger, who plays with the international acapella ensemble Voces8, and the fabulous Royal harpist Alis Huws, who plays a candlelit concert on the opening night, to breakout stars from the Royal Welsh College of Music like the blind pianist with a genius for improvisation, Rachel Starritt, and the 2021 and 2022 Dyfed Young Musicians of the Year, harpists Annest Davies and Gwenllian Hunting Morris.


The saxophonist Jess Gillam wasn’t born here, but she’s brilliant, adventurous, hugely entertaining, tells a great story and gives great gig. She’s here with her jazz ensemble, and the sound they’ll make in the Cathedral, this most ancient of concert venues, will make you believe in Angels having an even playlist of all the best tunes. Emerging international stars Connaught Brass mix up the ancient and modern in their St Davids debut. Early music fans will want to hear the leading baroque band Florilegium play Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. The British Sinfonietta come to the festival to join with the Cathedral choirs in a feast of coronation classics including Handel’s sensational Zadok the Priest, one of the most spectacular royal anthems of all time. And Folk fans will enjoy the evening spent with Welsh folk legends Ar Log, playing favourites from 50 years of making music together.


The heart of the St Davids Festival has traditionally been choral music, and Artistic Director Simon Pearce has brought in the magical choir Vox Angelica to sing with the Cathedral’s own resident choral scholars. Two of the most popular choirs in Wales come to St Davids to celebrate the Queens Platinum Jubilee: the Morriston Orpheus male voice choir sing in the Cathedral and on Bank Holiday Friday 3 June the beloved Welsh NHS Choir, Hospital Notes, will sing at the festival’s first free, open-air Prom – The Picnic in the Palace with Goodwick Brass. The whole festival is dedicated to the NHS in Wales who have cared for us throughout the pandemic.

The festival runs 27 May to 5 June. There are informal conversations every day with stars of the festival, cookery, gardening, theatre and music workshops for kids on half-term, and a Jubilee Sandcastle competition on Whitesands Beach. Tickets range from £5-£32, with £1 for all concerts for under 16s and lots of free events for families. After two years of covid absence and digital-only events, it’ll be wonderful to see friends again, to wander through the streets of St Davids, and to sit and wonder, to stand and cheer, to hug and dance and enjoy every note, every beat, every minute.


by Bronwen Parry

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