Jan 28, 2010

The North American Festival of Wales - An Interview With Alan Thomas

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Don't miss this opportunity for fellowship and Welsh culture in Portland! Our daytime programming will feature four days of interesting and informative seminars, workshops, concerts & much more.An Interview with Eirian Owen, Musical Director of the Cor Godre'r Aran who will be appearing at NAFOW 2010 can be found here. More info and registration here

Alan Thomas - organist at the North american Festival of Wales
Americymru: For how many years have you been an accompanist at the North American Festival of Wales?

Alan: I was invited to become accompanist for the NAFOW when it was held here in Ottawa in 2000 I think I am the only professional musician in the city who was born in Wales, so the Committee decided to invite me. I missed a couple of years after that but I have performed in several US cities ever since.

Americymru: Care to tell us some of the people you have accompanied in that time?

Alan: I have accompanied quite a number of singers, notably in recent years Shannon Mercer, Aled Wyn Davies and Gwyndaf Jones, all of whom were very well received at the festivals Shannon is from Ottawa, and I played for her when she was a 10-year old !

Americymru: What for you is the most enjoyable and the most significant part of the festival?

Alan: I enjoy all the festival but I especially like the concert after the Banquet on the Friday evening,when the guest soloist and I perform a 45-minute recital for the assembled company

Americymru: How long have you been playing the organ?

Alan: I began piano lessons when I was 6 and then organ lessons when I was 13 (when I was tall enough to reach the pedals !) That makes 60 years, since I shall be 74 in June

Americymru: You were born in Neath in South Wales? Care to tell our readers something about the town? What early memories do you have of it?

Alan: Neath was a wonderful town for music The Grammar School I attended had a very strong vocal and instrumental program, and turned out several professional musicians apart from myself The town had a flourishing Municipal orchestra in which I played Double Bass , and a splendid Operatic Society which put on a Grand Opera every year

Americymru: You were once active in the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. Care to tell us more about your role with that organisation?

Alan: I began playing Double bass in the NYOW and then was invited to join the staff when I reached the age of 20 (when players were considered too old to continue !) I then became Orchestral Librarian and did all kinds of jobs normally associated with that of Orchestral manager, such as visiting all the concert halls in advance and sorting things out with the staff there I was employed by the Welsh Joint Education Committee at this stage.

Americymru: In 1977, you were appointed Organist and Choir Director of Westminster Presbyterian Church in Ottawa. How active is the Welsh community in Ottawa?

Alan: The Welsh Society in Ottawa is quite active, with a Choir, a Christmas service and an annual St David's Day dinner and concert preceeded by a Cymanfa Ganu There is a department of Celtic Studies at the University of Ottawa, which is a very useful resource for us

Americymru: What, for you, will be the musical highlight of this years festival?

Alan: The highlight of the festival is the afternoon Cymanfa and the Friday evening concert, but all the events are very well worth attending, including the Saturday night concert by the visiting choir.

Americymru: Any final message for the members and readers of Americymru?

Alan: My advice to everyone is simply to make every effort to attend this wonderful weekend devoted to Welsh music and culture in general Not to be missed !!

Interview: Ceri Shaw Email

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