With its male voice choirs, harpists, award-winning pop stars and world-famous opera singers, Wales has long been known as the ‘land of song’. We take a look at five of Snowdonia’s most popular music venues.
Making and appreciating music is a huge part of Welsh culture. With centuries-old traditions of harping, singing, poetry and folk music still very much a part of modern Welsh culture – you’ll hear all of these and more at special cultural festivals called ‘Eisteddfodau’ (the plural of ‘Eisteddfod’), held locally and nationally throughout the year in Wales – it’s hardly surprising that Wales has, over the past couple of centuries, earned itself the moniker “the land of song”.
All sorts of music are popular – and created – in Wales. Opera, folk, jazz, rock, and even unique traditional styles of poetry and music like ‘cerdd dafod’ and ‘cerdd dant’ are all as popular as ever in Wales.
In Snowdonia, music is as much a part of everyday life as it is throughout the rest of Wales, and the region has produced musical artistes of worldwide acclaim; the opera star Bryn Terfel, for example, is from the Snowdonia village Pant Glas, near Caernarfon, while celebrated pop songstress Duffy hails from Nefyn on the Llyn Peninsula.
If you’re a music lover and would like to enjoy a concert or two during your visit to Snowdonia, here are five Snowdonia music venues you won’t want to miss.
1. Ty Siamas
We’ll start with the ultimate Snowdonia music venue, Ty Siamas in Dolgellau. Ty Siamas is the National Centre for Welsh Folk Music, and as well as providing a venue for Snowdonia’s musicians to perform and for visitors to discover new music, Ty Siamas is a wonderful educational centre where you can learn everything there is to know about Welsh folk music.
At Ty Siamas there’s an excellent interactive exhibition where you can try your hand at playing traditional Welsh musical instruments, a performance auditorium, recording studio, cafe, and a shop packed with musical goodies ranging from sheet music and CDs to musical instruments.
Performances at Ty Siamas in 2011 have included local bands, open mic nights, talent contests and folk dancing; there’s something for everyone at Ty Siamas, so make sure it’s on your Snowdonia to-do list!
2. Neuadd Dwyfor
When Neuadd Dwyfor was young, it was Pwllheli’s town hall and a penny would buy you the best view of the town, from atop the building’s roof.
These days, Neuadd Dwyfor is the place to be on the Llyn Peninsula if you want to watch movies, dance performances, plays and of course music concerts.
The programme at Neuadd Dwyfor is extremely varied, and the music season really begins in earnest in the run-up to Christmas, when you’ll be able to feast your ears on all sorts of musical treats.
Galeri in Caernarfon is one of Snowdonia’s newest arts centres, occupying a gorgeous spot overlooking Caernarfon Marina and the Menai Strait. There’s an outdoor seating area for warmer evenings, when you could spend the intermission enjoying a stunning Snowdonia sunset with a good cup of coffee or something a little stronger from the Galeri bar.
Like many of Snowdonia’s performance venues, Galeri offers a wide range of arts events all year round. Welsh and English language film, local bands, comedy, art exhibitions and even Christmas markets – there’s always something going on at Galeri to suit all ages and tastes.
4. Theatr y Ddraig
Formerly an English Congregational Chapel, the building that now houses Theatr Y Ddraig in Barmouth was improved and extended in the post-war years by a committee of local amateur dramatics enthusiasts dedicated to finding funding to create a permanent arts venue to be enjoyed by townsfolk and visitors.
These days, Theatr y Ddraig – the Dragon Theatre – is almost entirely self-funded, receiving the occasional small grant from Gwynedd Council and the Barmouth Town Council to help things along.
Performances at Theatr y Ddraig include variety shows, plays, music, dance, workshops – a real mixed bag, with something for everyone.
5. Theatr Harlech
Theatr Harlech, in the shadow of Harlech castle and backing onto the sand dunes at historic Harlech on Cardigan Bay, is another of those wonderful Snowdonia venues that hosts all sorts of performances and arts events all year round. Some of these even take place on the beach; in the past, some of Theatr Harlech’s most popular events have been sand sculpture workshops and sandcastle competitions.
In October 2011, look out for two very special live music events at Theatr Harlech: a concert night featuring Cor Meibion Ardudwy (the Ardudwy Male Voice Choir) and the Harlech Silver band, and later in the month a performance of Madam Butterfly by the Mid Wales Opera.