Vale of Glamorgan Festival is celebrating reaching a milestone this year.

The unique festival, devoted to performing the work of living classical music composers which takes place at very different venues across the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, holds a special place in the affection of audiences as it showcases exceptional talent from both home and international artists

Celebrating its 50th Anniversary between May 18 and 24 May, the Vale of Glamorgan Festival is delighted to be inviting back composers they have championed over the years and to support emerging talents from Wales and beyond in presenting compositions by over 30 composers from across the world with 29 world premieres and many Welsh debuts. Highlights include:

• BBC National Orchestra of Wales’ concert featuring a Festival commission by Mark David Boden and the Welsh premiere of American composer Steve Reich’s Music for Ensemble and Orchestra.

• World premiere of John Metcalf’s new version of Polly Garter Aria from Under Milk Wood, sung by Elizabeth Donovan who sang the role previously at the premiere and features on the 2014 recording.

• Performances from New York’s excitingly different Sandbox Percussion featuring an unconventional assortment of instruments – from plant pots, to wine glasses and marimbas.

• A 50th Anniversary commission of 10 composers (8 from Wales) to write short pieces for Astrid the Dutch Street Organ, creating a platform to celebrate established multi award-winning composers alongside exciting younger talents

• Welsh debut of Berlin-based multi award-winning Armida String Quartet featuring a new work by Robert Fokkens, and Steve Reich’s emotive Different Trains

• Composer Graham Fitkin performing his own music to include two World premiere’s for prepared piano.

On 18 May, BBC National Orchestra of Wales is conducted by 29-year-old US conductor Ryan Bancroft – whose ‘natural fluidity, intense focus and beautiful shaping of the music’ won him both First prize and the Audience prize at the prestigious Malko Competition for Young Conductors in Copenhagen in 2018.

Taking part in this concert will be violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen, who has established herself as one of the most insightful and versatile young British violinists, and soprano Elizabeth Donovan, a former Welsh Singer of the Year who sang the role of Polly Garter for both the premiere of the opera and the recording in 2014.

The performance is preceded at 6.30pm by a talk on the 50th Anniversary of the Festival “New Music in Wales, then and now”

The same concert includes two World premieres – Polly Garter Aria from Under Milk Wood by the Festival’s founder and artistic director, John Metcalf; Mark David Boden’s 50th Anniversary Festival commission, and Ben Wallace’s European premiere of Five Gifts for an Old Friend. Other featured composers include Dobrinka Tabakova and Latvian composer Peteris Vasks with the concert ending with Graham Fitkin’s celebratory work Metal for orchestra and un-tuned scaffolding – so ending the evening with a Bang.

The festival is delighted to present the exuberant percussion chamber music group from New York, Sandbox Percussion, described by the Washington Post as “revitalizing the world of contemporary music (with) jaw-dropping virtuosity”.

With their unconventional assortment of instruments Sandbox features heavily in the Festival performing to children and adults in two concerts at St. David’s Hall on May 21, and popping up in outdoor spaces around South Wales

Performing alongside Sandbox at St. David’s Hall on 21 May will be Astrid the Dutch Street Organ with her operator Francis Stapleton.

There is a specially curated performance for children and their parents, with a presentation of songs written and performed by primary school children from South Wales, and a concert to include the World premiere of USA composer Ben Wallace’s Festival Commission for Dutch Street Organ and percussion.

Astrid opens the Festival on May 18 at the Wales Millennium Centre in a Free Event, in celebration of the Festival’s 50th Anniversary, with 10 new works which will first premiere at WMC before touring to St. Fagans National Museum of History, Barry Island, Penarth Pier and several other venues across Wales – but do check the website for updates of times and venues.

The composers participating in this exciting project are: Charlie Barber, Mark David Boden, Graham Fitkin, Gareth Glyn, Lynne Plowman, Steph Power, Guto Pryden Puw, Claire Victoria Roberts, David Roche and Ben Wallace.

Making their Welsh debut in a concert at Ewenny Priory on May 22, the Berlin-based Armida Quartet feature the music of Azerbaijan, Tatar-Russia and Bulgaria, and a World premiere of Cardiff based composer Robert Fokkens Festival Commission. This multi award-winning quartet, which comprises of violinists Martin Funda, and Teresa Schwamm and the sister-brother team of violinist Johanna Staemmier and cellist Peter-Philipp Staemmier, have established themselves as one of today’s greatest chamber music groups.

Four compositions by 50th Anniversary Festival Patron, Steve Reich, will feature across the Festival, including the Welsh premiere of Music for Ensemble and Orchestra and his emotive Different Trains, making the comparison of the trains of his childhood and those used in the Holocaust.

This piece, which won a Grammy Award for best contemporary composition in 1989, is performed by the Berlin-based Armida Quartet along with the music of Arvo Pärt and Peteris Vasks.

To further mark the Festival’s 50th Anniversary there is a one-off special event – the Festival’s first ever Mystery Tour.

After a 30 minute coach journey, when a renowned composer (or composers) will give a guide to their music, you will reach your destination to hear approximately 100 minutes of music performed at an atmospheric intimate secret venue. You can buy a picnic in advance or bring your own.

For full details visit the festival website,

Presented in collaboration with Composers of Wales and supported by a grant from Tŷ Cerdd, our Artistic Director, John Metcalf, will interview composers Brian Noyes and Andrew Wilson-Dickson on what inspires and challenges composers when they are creating new music, before Welsh premieres of two of their standout piano trios.

Noyes dramatic Piano Trio Op.38 was inspired by time spent with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies in 2015. Wilson-Dickson’s high-energy Piano Trio No.2 was inspired by ancient British bell-ringing techniques and is an offshoot of his 1980 chamber opera ‘errors’. Following the performance with pianist Robin Green, violinist Sara Trickey and cellist Rosie Biss, there will be the opportunity to ask questions.

In a Free event on May 24, the Aminda Quartet will also be performing works written by participants in the week long Peter Reynolds Composers Studio, which is a residency for emerging composers at the start of their careers to enable them to hone their skills and create genuine career progression.

Fittingly named for the Cardiff composer whose huge depth of knowledge of musical literature and unique artistic perspective were evident in his work as a generous and patient teacher.

There is no more fitting way to bring this celebratory Festival to a close on May 24, than by presenting a fascinating range of work from one of the UK’s foremost composers, Graham Fitkin, whose long connection with the Festival is very highly valued.

This concert gives a rare opportunity to hear the composer play his own music in a programme to include Resistances, Running and Breathing and two World premieres for prepared piano.

Prior to the concert there will be a pre-concert talk by Steph Power, journalist and composer.

Full details of this year’s programme can be found at