Thousands of people are descending on Llangollen this week for the the 68th annual International Musical Eisteddfod.
The event, which starts tonight, will see Wales welcome the world, having began as a festival of peace in the aftermath of the Second World War and grown into one of Europe’s premier music and dance events.
It is one of Wales’ main cultural attractions and has brought international icons like Dylan Thomas and the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti to a quiet corner of the Dee Valley.
In recent years artists such as Jools Holland, Katherine Jenkins, Kiri Te Kanawa, James Galway and Montserrat Caballe have performed at the final Sunday evening gala concert.
And this year the standard remains as high as ever with the curtain-raiser for the main event tonight seeing the great Welsh operatic bass-baritone Bryn Terfel returning to Llangollen to lead a star-studded cast in a performance of Stephen Sondheim’s Broadway smash hit, Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
It is the first time Terfel has appeared at Llangollen since 2006 and he is excited at the prospect:
“I’m absolutely thrilled I’m able to appear,” he said.
“I’m a proud Welshman and the eisteddfod is unique – the atmosphere, the colour, the audience, even the flowers. It really is a very, very special event.
“Being offered the opportunity to return to the International Eisteddfod is an honour and I look forward to seeing everyone at Llangollen which, without a doubt, for me, will be a highlight of 2014.”
Terfel will be joined on stage in Sweeney Todd by three unknown young singers he has hand-picked for starring roles, tenor Berwyn Pearce, soprano Lauren Morris and 14-year-old Dewi Wykes. They were chosen from more than 80 young singers at auditions in Cardiff and Llangollen.
Llangollen International Music Eisteddfod musical director Eilir Owen Griffiths said: “It’s one of our roles at the eisteddfod, to provide chances for young talent to flourish and there can be no bigger opportunity than to sing alongside a legend like Bryn Terfel.”
The eisteddfod continues through a vibrant six days of concerts this week, which will feature Dutch jazz diva Caro Emerald, American tenor Noah Stewart, a new work by acclaimed Welsh composer Karl Jenkins for his 70th birthday, an appearance by the chart-topping singing brothers Richard and Adam Johnson, from Holywell, and star artists from China, South Africa, Venezuela and Latvia.
The curtain will come down with an appearance by British rockers Status Quo, who will perform on Sunday night, July 13.
And the eisteddfod’s competitions have continued to attract entrants from all over the world.
This year they have travelled from Australia, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Madagascar, Morocco, Nepal, Trinidad, the USA and Zimbabwe as well as from all over Europe and the UK.
The blue riband of those competitions is the Choir of the World for the Pavarotti Trophy which takes place on Saturday night in the Royal International Pavilion and there will also be a competition to find the dance champions of 2014 and to top the evening off Richard and Adam, who shot to fame on the TV show, Britain’s Got Talent, will appear as special guests.
The colourful traditional procession through the town tomorrow will be led by eisteddfod president Terry Waite.
It will herald six days of competitions and concerts to Sunday’s spectacular fireworks extravaganza.
Tomorrow night there will be a galaxy of international talent at the Carnival of Nations concert.
Outside the Royal International Pavilion on the field colourful competitors from around the world join thousands of visitors, who can enjoy live music from the S4C Stage, take part in dance workshops or just soak up the heady atmosphere and world-class competition.
l For more information on the 2014 festival, visit www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk.