From West End to the Welsh hills

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Staff reporter

SINGING sensation Margaret Preece has been climbing every mountain for well over three years. Now the West End star plans to make sure the hills are alive with music around Mold and Bala.

Margaret has been playing the Mother Abbess in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s hit musical The Sound of Music at the London Palladium, and on tour, since 2007.

She is coming to North Wales thanks to her friendship with Ann Atkinson, the artistic director of the North Wales International Music Festival and her husband baritone Kevin Sharp.

The internationally acclaimed soprano will perform at Ysgol y Berwyn in Bala on June 11 to raise money for charity and on June 12 at Ysgol Bryn Coch in Mold to raise funds for the Music Festival.

Margaret, the singing voice-over for film star Minnie Driver when she starred in the movie version of Phantom of the Opera, said: “I’ve known  Kevin and Ann and their whole family for years. We were thrown together working on a Cunard cruise ship as the entertainment.

“We had a wonderful time together and got on like a house on fire. We’ve worked together since and stay in touch.”

Margaret trained with the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the National Opera Studio.

She successfully auditioned for the role of Mother Abbess in The Sound of Music in 2007, sharing the part with opera star Lesley Garret, until Lesley finished  after five months and Margaret took on the role solo.

She has sung one of the show’s biggest numbers, Climb Every Mountain, more than 1,000 times – and never tires of it.

“You never get sick of great music and it’s a wonderful, wonderful role,” she added.

“The Sound of Music has always been one of the most successful musicals. It was one of the most successful films ever and this was probably the best ever stage production of the show.

“Climb Every Mountain comes at the end of Act 1 and it creates a sensation, it’s fantastic because everyone goes wild.”

After more than two and a half years at the London Palladium to rave reviews, Margaret went on tour with The Sound of Music.

“My surname is Welsh so I suppose I must have Welsh ancestry and I’ve performed in North Wales before, for Kevin and Ann at Corwen,”  recalled Margaret, who has just completed four concerts with the English Mozart Ensemble, after leaving The Sound of Music production in February.

“I’m having a bit of a rest after The Sound of Music because it was exhausting, but I’ll enjoy doing concerts,” added Margaret.

She says she will be singing with Ann and although she’s not giving away too much about her performance, she expects “I might be doing a bit more mountain climbing!”

The Evening of Song in Bala will raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society and for Parkinsons UK while the same programme in Mold will help the North Wales International Music Festival.

Ann, who’s starred frequently at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera, is an award-winning mezzo soprano and will also be performing at both concerts.

She won a scholarship to train at the Royal Academy of Music in London and while she was there she won several other prestigious awards including the Leverhulme Scholarship.

On top of that she has won a string of top competition prizes including firsts at the National Eisteddfod and the International Musical Eisteddfod in Llangollen.

Ann went straight from the Academy to Scottish Opera and more recently led chart-topping Froncysyllte Male Voice Choir as their artistic director until she relinquished the role last December.

Joining her on the bill will be her husband, baritone Kevin Sharp, also a talented and experienced singer.

On piano will be Christopher Frost, from Ruthin, who worked as a musical director in the West End where his credits include Les Miserables, Sunset Boulevard and Mamma Mia.

Ladies choir Cor Merched Edeyrnion and Cor Meibion Bro Glyndwr, conducted by Ann, complete the impressive bill.

Ann said: “Both concerts are raising money for some good causes that are very close to my heart.

“My mother, Enid, developed MS in her 40s and she lived until she was in her 70s.

“The Bala concert is also raising money for Parkinson’s UK because the husband of Manon Easter Lewis, the conductor of the Edeyrnion Ladies Choir, has
Parkinson’s so it’s something that is very close to their hearts.

“On the second night in Mold, we will be raising money for the North Wales International Music Festival.”

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