TOP classical artists stole the spotlight as the North Wales International Music Festival returned to St Asaph Cathedral.

The two-week music and culture festival, established in 1972 by Welsh composer William Mathias with the aim celebrate the arts in the north, includes a stellar line-up this year with musicians from the Welsh National Opera and highlights such as Japanese pianist Yu Kosuge and mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones.

The festival, which is funded by the Arts Council of Wales, Tŷ Cerdd and Colwinston Charitable Trust, opened at the cathedral on September 14 with appearances from North Wales Only Boys Aloud, who gave an emotional final performance of the classic Welsh hymn Calon Lȃn. They were followed by the stunning voice of Mezzo-soprano Erin Rossington, from Llanfairtalhaiarn, who won the Pendine International Voice of the Future competition at Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod. Luke Jones, a young classical pianist from Wrexham, then took centre stage with backing from Lord Thomas of Gresford and The Baroness Walmsley.

Ann Atkinson, the festival’s artistic director, said: “It really is a busy programme this year and we are going to have the pleasure of enjoying some amazing music performed by talented world class musicians.”

Eleri Watkins, manager of North Wales Only Boys Aloud, said it was a “real honour” for the choir to perform in the opening ceremony.

“One of our first performances was in St Asaph Cathedral at the North Wales International Music Festival and it could have been our last too as the funding just wasn’t there,” she said.

“However we are now going from strength to strength. Only Boys Aloud is made up of some 200 boys who attend 14 choirs from Holyhead to Cwmbran led by experienced professional choral leaders and the local choirs meet every week during term times.

“In North Wales we have choirs that meet in Rhyl, Caernarfon, Wrexham and Holyhead. We are always looking for new members and there are no auditions or fees to pay, it’s absolutely free.

“At its heart the scheme aims to make a difference to the young men of Wales and help raise aspiration levels, self-esteem and confidence.

“It was a real honour to perform at the North Wales International Music Festival again. It’s going to be an amazing festival with some fabulous concerts and events.”

Still to come at this year’s festival, which ends on September 28, are Japanese pianist Yu Kosuge, folk groups Awen Celtica and VRï, vocalists The Gesualdo Six, mezzo-soprano Rebecca Afonwy-Jones and musicians from the Welsh National Opera.

There will also be an evening in celebration of Mr Mathias’s 85th anniversary in which his daughter, Rhiannon Mathias, will be joined by royal composer Paul Mealor, harpist Elinor Bennett, pianist Iwan Llewelyn-Jones and mezzo-soprano Ann Atkinson to perform the likes of Mozart and Debussy.

All evening concerts start at 7pm. Tickets are available online from Theatr Clwyd, Mold. Alternatively, call 01352 344101 or 01745 582929.

For more information about the North Wales International Music Festival, visit or email