Feb 20, 2009

10 Questions with Gwyndaf Jones

By David L. Parry

Gwyndaf Jones is a Welsh Tenor who currently resides in Toronto, Canada.

In 1987 he won the prestigious Blue Ribband award in the Singer of the World competition held in Cardiff, Wales, which also awarded him a scholarship to the Guild Hall School of Music in London, England.

Gwyndaf has performed as a lead tenor for the Welsh National Opera Company, English National Opera Company and the San Francisco Opera Company. He continues to perform throughout Toronto and is pleased that this coming year he will be joining the Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir as a featured soloist.

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Q1 – What part of Wales do you hail from?

A1 - Llanfairpwll, Angelsey, North Wales.

Q2 – When did you cross the pond to Canada and why?

A2 - I crossed the pond to first live in Canada back in 1994 after finishing my contract with the Chicago Lyric Opera. Before then, I first came as a young boy touring with a choir from Anglesey. At the same time my father, the late Reverend Huw Tudur Jones, was trying to find a church he could call home so that we could emmigrate to Canada. When that didn't work out, we returned to Wales.

Q3 – Over the years you have performed in a number of prestigious venues in the UK and indeed the rest of the world – which ones particularly stick out as your favorites?

A3 - Royal Albert Hall in London, England was one of the most memorable venues I have ever performed in simply because of its sheer size. This was also where I had my first opportunity to perform as a lead tenor for a concert version of La Boheme. My mentor, Gwynne Howell, became ill and as his understudy I was asked to step in and perform in this grand venue. It was also one of the most terrifying experiences of my musical career as I was only a mere 18 years of age when this opportunity came to me.

Q4 – Do you have any plans for any performances in North America in the near future?

A4 - In 2009, I am looking forward to joining the Toronto Welsh Male Voice Choir at Metropolitan United for the annual St. David's Day concert on Saturday, February 28th at 7:30 pm. For tickets and information on all these upcoming events, please visit my website at www.thewelshtenor.ca

Q5 - Wales, with it's incredibly small size and population, seems to produce a remarkable amount of singing and acting talent. Do you have a pet theory as to why this is?

A5 - It's a fact that any suppressed nation in history tends to find solace and comfort in their art forms. This is especially true with music because people can relate to it, connect with it and loose themselves in it even if only for just a second. Through the centuries, Wales has taken this idea a step further by developing and keeping a very high standard of arts training. Now it has become the norm for us to expect great things from the product of this tradition.

Q6 – Who do you rate among the up and coming Welsh singers?

A6 – Katherine Jenkins & Aled Wyn Davies.

Q7– How often do you get back to Wales and what is the first thing you try to do when you get there?

A7 - Unfortunately, I don't get back home as often as I would like. Up until last year, I hadn't been back to my hometown for over 20 years. Even so, last year I was able to revisit my hometown and introduce my Canadian wife to Welsh culture. One of the first things I did was spend the day walking through the island enjoying the smell of the ocean, the glorious views and feeling like I had never left.

Q8 – Do you think you will ever move back to Wales?

A8 - Sometimes I feel like I could move back to Wales and other times I feel like it will never be a possibility. There are things that I will always miss about Wales, especially my childhood memories of church functions, community gatherings for the arts and playing rugby. But at the same time, I know that there are things that I would miss about Canada if I was in Wales, so it's really hard to say. Regardless, I believe that a large part of me has never really left Wales.

Q9 – What do you think is the best way for Wales to go about raising its profile abroad?

A9 - One of the things I admire about living in Canada is how multicultural we are as a nation. Everyone is from somewhere else, and if you were born in Canada your ancestors are from somewhere else. I have always admired celebrities who use their fame to promote the arts in their homeland. One such example is Bryn Terfel, a baritone on the world stage who still sings Welsh repertoire in many of his concerts throughout the world and proudly displays his daffodil pin on his lapel where ever he goes. The Welsh stars can bring notoriety but it takes more than that to promote Wales in the world. What we can take from this is the idea of proudly showing our fellow citizens and neighbours who we are, where ever we live. The average Welsh person needs to educate others about where we are from, what we are about and what we can offer as a unique people. We are known as a creative nation; let us follow in that tradition.

Q10 – Do you have any messages for our AmeriCymru readers?

A10 - My message for AmeriCymru readers is this; in my travels and experiences I learned very quickly that the Welsh have had and continue to have tremendous influence in theology, politics and the arts in many countries of the world. We need to be a little less complacent and a little more ready to tell people about ourselves. Myself, I am tired of hearing that Celtic music is mostly made up of Irish songs where the Welsh have beautiful folk melodies that belong in this category. Or knowing that the average Canadian has never heard of Wales unless someone was speaking about titles of the Royal family. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We have so much to be proud of and let us not focus on just what we have done in the past but continue it into the future. As a Welsh artist it is important for me to put my talents towards this cause, however I know that I can not do it alone. I know that there are many talented and connected Welsh out there. What we need is to network and support each other in these endeavours.

For further information and tour dates please visit: www.thewelshtenor.ca

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