An acclaimed teaching centre is hoping to tug at the heart strings of music lovers by offering them the chance to support the studies of talented young harpists.

Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias in Caernarfon, which is currently providing tuition for over 400 aspiring musicians, has launched its Sponsor a String appeal which aims to raise cash by inviting people to “buy” one or more of the strings on a traditional Welsh triple harp.

All the money raised will go towards creating three scholarships of £1,500 each to be offered as prizes to winners of the Youth Competition during this year’s fourth annual Wales International Harp Festival to be staged at Galeri Caernarfon from April 1-7.

And festival director Elinor Bennett says she can’t think of a better way of helping to nurture young talent.

She said: “The Youth Competition at the Wales International Harp Festival is for young harpists aged 19 or under and the prizes of three equal scholarships of £1,500 are meant to help the winners pay for a series of lessons from a specialist tutor of their choice.

“The cost of specialist music tuition can be prohibitive to many families and this amount of money would make a great deal of difference to develop a young harpist’s potential. As a guide, one hour’s lesson can cost between £40 and £100, which some people would be hard pressed to find.

Pictured are: Festival organiser, Catrin Morris-Jones and Festival Director, Elinor Bennett

“Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias, which currently offers high quality tuition in a range of musical instruments at its centres in Galeri Caernarfon as well as Denbigh and Ruthin, came up with the Sponsor a String appeal to help get the careers of young musicians off to a flying start by offering these very valuable scholarships.”

Elinor added: “Entries for festival’s Youth Competition are going very well at the moment and we eventually expect to attract up to 25 young musicians. Although several will be from Wales and pupils of the William Mathias Centre, others will be coming from far as away as the USA and Russia specially to take part.

“Stage one of the Youth Competition will be held from 9am on the third day of the festival, Tuesday April 3, with the final at 3pm on the Wednesday.

“It will be a real showcase of musical talent and do much to raise the profile of harp playing. It will also bring top international artists to Galeri Caernarfon so that people can enjoy their playing in their own locality.

“The harp brings people together through the power of music. In previous years a number of lasting friendships have been formed amongst entrants of the Youth Competition.”

Elinor added: “In the run-up to the festival a copy of an 18th century triple harp, with 90 strings, is being exhibited at Galeri.

“A label with the name of a sponsor will be tied on to one of its strings when a pledge of money is received from a kind and generous individual.

“We have suggested a donation of £50 but we will be extremely grateful for any other sum, large or small, we receive for such an excellent cause.”

Gwenan Gibbard, who has been a harp tutor at the William Mathias Centre at Galeri Caernarfon for over 10 years, is strongly in favour of the Sponsor a String appeal.

She said: “It’s always a challenge to find new ways of raising money for the study of music and I think this is an excellent idea.

“The three scholarships that the sponsorship money will help finance are the perfect way to help nurture the best young harpists of the future and the appeal deserves to win as much support as possible.”

More than 100 harpists are heading to the festival and the opening concert will see the premiere of a new poem entitled Osian, by chaired poet Mererid Hopwood, which honours the life and work of globally-renowned harpist Dr Osian Ellis CBE, who started playing again as he approached his 90th birthday on February 8.

At the height of his career Dr Ellis, who is the Harp Festival president, collaborated with leading British composer Benjamin Britten and played on the madcap radio comedy series, The Goon Show.

The festival will conclude with a sell-out concert by Sir Bryn Terfel, accompanied by his partner and former royal harpist Hannah Stone, at the Bryn Terfel Theatr, Pontio, Bangor, on April 20.


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