Globally successful composer Robat honoured on home turf

Reporter:

Andrew Martin

The work of a composer whose song helped achieve a Guinness World Record for the fastest selling debut album in the UK will be celebrated at a music festival.

Robat Arwyn, from Ruthin, wrote the music for a song called Benedictus on an album by three Irish Catholic priests backed by the Vatican Choir, which went on to be an international hit in 30 countries, selling two million copies.

His work as a composer, conductor and pianist will be honoured at a special concert at the North Wales International Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral at 7.30pm on Saturday, September 23.

The concert, that’s being sponsored by the award-winning construction company Jones Bros Civil Engineering UK - whose head office is in Ruthin - will feature the renowned tenor Rhys Meirion, who will also take on the role of interviewer.

The aim is to give the audience an insight into Robat’s musical journey, which started with the composition of a choral symphony while at college, up to his latest commission, writing a piece of music for cello and piano.

The festival, which starts on Saturday, September 16, and ends on Saturday, September 30, is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales, Ty Cerdd and the Colwinston Charitable Trust.

Among the other stars at the festival will be singers from the Welsh National Opera with the newly formed Festival Community Chorus, vocal group VOCES8, the Aquarelle Guitar Quartet, baroque instrumentalists Red Priest, violinist Ye-Eun Choi, Ensemble Cymru, the National Youth Brass Band of Wales and Italian pianist Federico Colli.

The resident orchestra is NEW Sinfonia, which was established by brothers Robert and Jonathan Guy, who were regulars at the festival’s masterclasses and workshops when they were younger.

According to Robat, 57, who is set to retire early from his job as principal librarian with Denbighshire County Council, it’s a huge honour to have been asked to share his music at the festival.

Robat, who hails from Talysarn in the Nantlle Valley, said: “I suppose my greatest successes have come from commissions for new works for the likes of Sir Bryn Terfel. I prefer to get the words from lyricists or poets and then write the music, although I do write lyrics myself too.

“I was given some words by Hywel Gwynfryn in 2003 called Arfonaf Angel (Guardian Angel). I composed a piece, but quite frankly I didn’t like it and shelved it.

“Then, in 2008, I was commissioned to write a song for Sir Bryn Terfel. I remembered Arfonaf Angel and dug out the words.

“Since then, it’s also been recorded by Rhys Meirion, Lisa Angharad and around 70 Welsh choirs. Arfonaf Angel is by far my biggest Welsh success so far.”

He added: “It really was a huge honour when Ann Atkinson, the artistic director of the North Wales International Music Festival, invited me to share my music and musical journey with the festival audience.

“I’m really looking forward to the evening. I’ll have my wife Mari, son Guto and daughter Elan there with me. In fact, my wife and son are both members of Cor Rhuthun, so they will be performing on the night at St Asaph and I’ll be conducting them as the choir’s music director.

“I’m also excited to have the school choir from Ysgol Pen Barras in Ruthin taking part in the concert.”

To find out more about the festival, visit www.nwimf. com. Tickets are available online and from Theatr Clwyd on 01352 701521, or Cathedral Frames in St Asaph on 01745 582929.

Email:

andrew.martin@nwn.co.uk

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