by Alistair Syme
A student choir that specializes in the sound – and look – of the Renaissance will be in Wales, the UK’s land of song, this summer as part of a Californian gold rush.
The Davis Madrigal Singers, 29 high school students from Davis, near Sacramento, will this July compete in one of the world’s great choral events in the tiny Welsh town of Llangollen.
They will be at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod for the Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy at the festival which is being held for the 70th time.
The coveted trophy is named for the legendary Italian tenor who had his first taste of international success at Llangollen in 1955 as a member of the Chorus Rossini from Modena.
It’s a return to Llangollen for the choir which won the Adult Chamber Choir title there ten years ago.
Now the fame of the Choir of the World event and other choral competitions at the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod has enticed them to once again make the 5,000-mile trek to Wales for this summer’s 70th festival.
The choir’s co-trip coordinator, Bill Hunter, said: “The choir performs a wide variety of music from the 15th Century to the present with singers wearing Renaissance-inspired costumes.
“We perform about 40 concerts a year in the United States and abroad and have reached out to the community by serving meals to the homeless and performing benefit concerts at children’s and military hospitals, senior citizen centres and at choral workshops with younger students at elementary to middle school levels.”
The Davis Singers were founded in 1966 and this is their third visit to Llangollen and they have also won the Prague International Choral Competition and performed in Germany, Austria, England, Italy, at the Sistine Chapel as well as St Peter’s Outside the Wall and the Sydney Opera House.
Dr Karen Gardias, the Singers’ Musical Director, said: “We are very aware of what an honour it is to compete at what is the 70th year of the Llangollen Eisteddfod.
“We were blessed to have been invited to perform at the festival in the past. Hearing exceptional choirs from around the world has been life changing for us. Thank you so much for the opportunity to return” An eisteddfod is a traditional Welsh competitive festival of the arts, particularly song and dance, and the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod was set up to promote worldwide peace and harmony in the days after the end of the Second World War.
It was held for the first time in 1947 and over the years since then its concerts have featured stars like Pavarotti, Joan Baez, Burt Bacharach, Lulu and Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel.
California is well represented at this year’s Eisteddfod and competing with them will be the Santa Barbara Quire of Voyces, the Bob Cole Conservatory Chamber Mixed Choir, from Long Beach, and Palmdale’s Sunday Night Singers and all are hoping to strike gold against choirs from around the globe at the iconic festival.
Eilir Owen Griffiths, the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod’s Musical Director, said: “We know just how strong the choral music scene is in California. Last year we had two Californian choirs and this year to be able to welcome four choirs is wonderful.
“I’m delighted to hear that Llangollen is considered by our Californian friends to be the choral capital of the world. That’s a sentiment I certainly wouldn’t argue with.”
This year’s Eisteddfod begins on Tuesday, July 5, with an opening night concert by superstar soprano Katherine Jenkins who will sing Bizet’s Carmen opposite New York tenor Noah Stewart.
Other concerts will feature Bryn Terfel and Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja with the Choir of the World competition for the Pavarotti Trophy on Saurday before the final conbcert on Sunday featuring Jools Holland and hisRhythm and Blues Orchestra.
For more on the Eisteddfod go to www.international-eisteddfod.co.uk and for more information about the Davis High Madrigal Singers please visit www.davismadrigals.com.