Prince's golden harp takes centre stage


Garth ApThomas

THE Prince of Wales gave permission for his golden harp to be brought to North Wales for the premiere of a new choral work to celebrate his 65th birthday.

The piece, entitled A Welsh Prayer, was hailed as a “masterpiece” after it was performed for the first time at the North Wales International Music Festival held at St Asaph Cathedral.

The music was composed by Professor Paul Mealor, who hails from Connah's Quay, and the words were written by Dr Grahame Davies, assistant private secretary to the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, who hails from Coedpoeth.

It was written specifically for a choir accompanied by two harpists, the Prince’s first official harpist, international star Catrin Finch, and the current royal harpist Hannah Stone.

Hannah played the golden harp and both accompanied the choir from Aberdeen University where Professor Mealor works.

The premiere was one of many highlights at the year's festival which boasts a stellar line-up that also includes the Swingle Singers, virtuoso pianist Peter Donohoe, historical performance ensemble La Serenissima and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Speaking before the premiere, Professor Mealor, who received international acclaim after composing the music for the royal wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011, and who also wrote the music for the chart-topping Military Wives’ Choir, admitted to being a little nervous.

He said: “It’s always a little nerve-wracking when your music is heard for the first time and this evening is even more difficult for me as I have my family here and many close friends and I’m also conducting the piece.

“However, it’s unbelievable and I have to say I’m so honoured to have two of the world’s very best harpists here at the festival to play for us.

“And what a privilege that the Prince of Wales allowed his own personal harp to be brought to St Asaph so Hannah could perform using it.

“Normally the prince’s golden harp is kept in the garden room at Clarence House and for His Royal Highness to give consent for the harp to be brought to St Asaph, specifically for this performance, was a wonderful gesture.

“And of course not only have we been blessed by having two of the world’s finest harpists here to perform with the choir but Dr Grahame Davies, who wrote the words to the piece is also here.

“I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the very best poets but Grahame, for me, is one of the finest in the world.

“You know immediately when a poet sends you his text whether you can do anything with it.

“When I received Grahame’s words I knew instantly they would work. They are direct yet deeply spiritual. In truth, they are just perfect.

“The piece was written and composed to celebrate the 65th birthday of the Prince of Wales but also to celebrate God.”

The festival’s artistic director Ann Atkinson said the St Asaph audience enjoyed the performance.

She said: “It’s such a warm and moving choral piece and the choir, alongside Catrin and Hannah, were superb.

“I’m delighted we were able to co-commission the work alongside Holywell Music, who have such a large harp showroom in London.

“Paul’s wonderful music is so beautifully complemented by the words of Dr Grahame Davies. Grahame is without doubt, one of Wales’ brightest literary talents and his words are so warm and eloquent.

“I think it’s fantastic the North Wales International Music Festival had the opportunity to premiere this amazing choral work.

“It’s always a bit nailbiting for composers when their music is heard by an audience for the first time. However, judging by the exceptionally long applause, the large North Wales International Music Festival audience clearly liked what they heard.

”And so did I, it was a masterpiece.”

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