Crickhowell Music Festival 2023

Choral music with great expectations!

2023 will be our 27th Crickhowell Music Festival and will feature pieces that held great expectations for their composers and so represent a kind of musical manifesto of their talent. Our concerts include Mozart’s most ambitious choral work, a Missa Solemnis conceived on a scale comparable to those of Bach and Beethoven, and the result of a curious vow in thanksgiving to God for the composer’s marriage and his musical abilities.
Equally impressive is the young Handel’s powerful setting of Dixit Dominus written for the Carmelite celebrations in Rome during his Italian apprenticeship there. The sheer scale and vision of this piece is unlike any other setting and one that would announce Handel’s creative genius to the world. Luckily for us, an expert fleet of soloists will be on hand to tackle the exceptional technical and emotional demands of these virtuoso pieces, aided and abetted by some responsive singing from the choir.
In true Festival tradition, we will also showcase some hidden gems by Baroque composers that deserve to be better known. Such flagship pieces as Vivaldi’s vocal masterpiece Confitebor will serve to complement Handel’s Dixit Dominus, alongside three further Vesper Psalm settings by their Czech contemporary, Zelenka.
Zelenka is a composer now taking his rightful place in the musical pantheon and, as we shall hear, he presents us with perfect miniatures in an effervescent style that was greatly admired by Bach himself. Which brings us to another type of manifesto that will be unveiled during Sunday’s Festival Service, when Luther’s mighty reformation hymn Now thank we all our God is heard in its joyous Cantata setting by J.S. Bach (BWV 192).
Joining us this year for our opening Celtic Folk Night we welcome Patrick Rimes and Angharad Jenkins (of Calan fame), two outstanding musicians who are breathing new life into traditional Welsh tunes. Their violin virtuosity and lyricism alongside imaginative flare will leave you speechless.
Last but not least, Monday May 1st gives us a wonderful opportunity to catch up with our legendary choral scholars in an informal bank holiday recital of songs and airs.



At 7.30 pm Clarence Hall, Crickhowell

With Angharad Jenkins and Patrick Rimes 
(founding members of the celebrated group “Calan“)
We are delighted to have two much applauded musicians from the Welsh folk scene to get the festival into full swing. Angharad and Patrick’s musical rapport has been developed over some fifteen years of playing together, which helps explain their extraordinary skills as fiddle players, vocalists and songwriters. Their live set is full of variety. One moment you will be tapping your feet and itching to dance, and the next you will be taken on a more lyrical journey through their heartfelt songs. Expect plenty of wow factor!

Mozart Mass in C Minor

and Sancta Maria (Loreto Litanies) 

At 7.30 pm St Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell

Festival Orchestra (Leader Marianna Szücs)

Soloists: Natalie Clifton-Griffith and Áine Smith (sopranos), James Robinson (tenor), Stephen Hamnett (bass)

You may well recognise Mozart’s so-called Great Mass from the film ‘Amadeus’, where it illustrates the moment when Salieri first senses the composer’s sublime genius. It is certainly one of Mozart’s greatest works and is unusual in that it was the result of a personal vow to mark his marriage and express new confidence in his abilities. The setting is unlike any other of his masses, embracing a range of styles both old and new. Here, Mozart seems to be showing us his musical credentials. We hear Bach-style fugues alongside operatic arias, symphonic forms and choral textures, all generating some truly ravishing moments. We’ll also include some little known movements from the composer’s Loreto Litanies (K195), to fill in some of the unfinished sections in the Mass.
Please welcome too some new faces and vocal talents amongst our line-up of soloists, all much-needed to sing some of Mozart’s most challenging yet beautiful arias.


Bach Cantata BWV 192, Nun danket alle Gott (Now thank we all our God) Schütz: Psalm 23

At 10am St Catwg’s Church, Llangattock

With baroque ensemble and Festival soloists Áine Smith (soprano) and Stephen Hamnett (bass)

Helping to celebrate the joys of Easter (and in keeping with our festival tradition of hearing a Bach Cantata as originally intended during a church service), we perform one of the great man’s most uplifting works: Nun danket alle Gott (Now thank we all our God). This effervescent piece was written to mark the anniversary of Luther’s reformation and as such also marks one of history’s great manifestos. Festival soloists and players are on hand to take us through this rollercoaster of a piece.
A setting of Psalm 23 (The Lord’s my Shepherd) by Bach’s great predecessor, Heinrich Schütz, adds a further dimension to this service.

Handel: Dixit Dominus

Vivaldi: Confitebor (RV 596)   Zelenka: Vesper Psalms

At 7.30 pm St Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell

Festival Orchestra (Leader Marianna Szücs)

Soloists: Natalie Clifton-Griffith and Áine Smith (sopranos), Stephen Power (alto), James Robinson (tenor), Stephen Hamnett (bass)


For Handel, as with Mozart, there was a similar coming-of-age, musically speaking, during his sojourn in Italy as a young man.

His big commission to provide music for the prestigious Carmelite festival provided the impetus to lay out his compositional store – particularly, in this case, to demonstrate his assimilation of Italian style and taste. Dixit Dominus is the glorious result, a vocal tour de force presenting a kaleidoscopic whirl of vocal fireworks. Handel wrote nothing else quite so ambitious and Dixit remains one of his most revered pieces. 

Zelenka’s Vesper Psalms provide an intriguing comparison. Although relatively unknown today, here is a prolific composer who set himself an exhaustive challenge to provide complete cycles of psalms and masses as definitive proof of his worthiness in the post of Kapellmeister at the Dresden court. They offer us yet another compendium of 18th century styles and show Zelenka’s originality at every turn. 

Vivaldi, although better known for his concertos, also left us a considerable volume of sacred music that we have often showcased at the Festival. Amongst his neglected Vesper Psalms is a Confitebor setting considered to be a miniature masterpiece, encapsulating the very best of his inimitable style.


At 3pm St Catwg’s Church, Llangattock

This informal and ever popular bank holiday event sees the welcome return of many of our amazing choral scholars who are now launching out on their own solo careers. A varied programme of songs and arias will have something to suit all tastes and provide a perfect celebration of the festival’s very own visionary manifesto!

Our soloists

Natalie Clifton-Griffith (soprano)
Natalie Clifton-Griffith (soprano)

Cornish born Natalie studied at the Birmingham Conservatoire and the Royal College of music, winning early prizes at Great Elm and The first London Handel Festival Singing Competition back in 2002.

Career highlights include Bach’s Magnificat at the Barbican and the St John Passion at Three Choirs Festival and she regularly appears as a soloist with The English Concert including at the Bath Festival where she performed the very Handel Dixit Dominus that she will lead in Crickhowell as well as Purcell’s Fairy Queen at the Symphony Hall.
She has performed with consort vocal groups that include Tenebrae, I Faggiolini, The Sixteen and The BBC Singers and her operatic roles include The Queen of the Night in the Magic Flute, Venus in Venus and Adonis and Despina in Cosi fan Tutte.
We so lucky to have her with us at this year’s Festival!

Áine Smith (soprano)
Áine Smith (soprano)

Áine read Music at Merton College Oxford, graduating in 2021 with a first-class degree. In the summer of 2022, she completed a postgraduate MSt in Musicology with Distinction, where her research concerned musical concepts of body. 

Throughout her time at Oxford, Áine held a choral scholarship with Merton College Choir, participating in a busy liturgical and concert programme. She also sang with the Magdalen College Consort of Voices, and regularly performed with student-led ensembles.
As a soloist, Áine had her operatic debut with New Chamber Opera as an undergraduate, singing Haydn’s La Vera Costanza in New College, Oxford in 2020.
Áine has performed as a soloist on several occasions with violinist Rachel Podger in the Brecon Baroque Festival. Áine takes vocal lessons with Giles Underwood, and is also grateful for the continued time and support of Jeanette Massochi, with whom she has vocal coaching when at home in Wales. For the 2022-23 academic year, Áine is an Associate Artist with Tenebrae, directed by Nigel Short, and is a recipient of the Genesis Sixteen scheme.
Áine is excited to return to the Festival as a soloist, and is deeply appreciative of the generosity and enthusiasm of Stephen Marshall and the Crickhowell Choral Society in their support of her singing. 

Stephen Hamnet (bass)

Founder member of the internationally renowned ensemble, Only Men Aloud, Stephen is an alumnus of The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where he studied singing as part of his degree in music.  

Whilst there he took part in many performances and workshops including performances at St. David’s Hall, a Master Class with Sir Geraint Evans and the inaugural tour of the National Youth Choir of Wales.  

After gaining his degree, Stephen joined the choir of Llandaff Cathedral serving as principle Bass Lay Clerk for 28 years, while performing with many choirs and music groups throughout the UK and Europe. He regularly takes part in recordings and broadcasts.

Stephen now sings with Bristol, Gloucester, Wells and Worcester Cathedral choirs, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales Chorus, the BBC Singers, Caritas Chamber Choir, Fitzhardinge Consort, and is an extra chorus member with WNO though most of his time is taken up with his  duties as a Second Bass with Only Men Aloud.

Stephen Power (alto)
Stephen Power (alto)

Stephen Power has held various organist posts in cathedrals and greater churches in the UK including Wakefield, Ripon, Grimsby, Southwell and Gloucester.

He is currently the Director of Music at Brecon Cathedral, training three choirs to sing for the four services each week. Under his leadership the choir has toured Malta, and there are tentative plans to visit Holland in 2023
Stephen is also an accomplished counter-tenor and has held singing positions at Ripon, Southwell and Gloucester. He now sings with the Cardiff-based chamber choir ‘Caritas’, raising money for local and national charities.

James Robinson (tenor)
James Robinson (tenor)
James Robinson graduated with distinction from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2018, having done his undergraduate degree in music at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.

James was named one of Tenebrae’s Associate Artists for 2016/17 and has subsequently worked with many of the country’s top ensembles. Recent projects include work with Dunedin Consort, Solomon’s Knot, Ex Cathedra, Tenebrae, BBC singers, The OAE, The Sixteen, English Voices, Ensemble Pro Victoria, and Apollo of the Arts. He is a member of Ars Nova Copenhagen, and has also worked with other groups in Europe including Le Concert D’Astree, Christian IV Vocal Ensemble, and Morgens Dahl Kammerkor. His recent solo work has included Britten’s St Nicolas, Evangelist in Bach’s St John and St Matthew Passions, Handel’s Messiah, Monteverdi’s Vespers in Llandaff and Winchester Cathedrals, and Mozart’s Requiem at Birmingham Symphony Hall.
His operatic roles include both Damon and Acis in Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Schoolmaster in Janáček’s Cunning Little Vixen, Shepherd and Sailor in Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, and The Madwoman in Britten’s Curlew River. He fills his spare time by playing Dungeons and Dragons, attempting to beat his father at tennis, and following the misfortunes of Charlton Athletic.


Tickets now on sale.
Friday Concert:   £12.50 
Saturday Concert    £20.50 
Sunday Concerts    £20.50
Saturday and Sunday Concerts bought together    £36.50
Discounted ticket (£36.50 instead of £40.00 if coming to both the Saturday and Sunday evening concerts)
Monday recital including tea    £10.50
Students free
You can email or call 07816 991501 to order tickets,
or visit Webbs of Crickhowell to buy them in person.