The first International Musical Eisteddfod was held in Llangollen in 1947. In the 70 years since then it has become one of the world’s great music festivals. It began as a way of healing worldwide wounds following the end of the Second World War.
Led by local people from Llangollen and Wrexham, planning for the first event began in 1946. There was a fear that no one would come, especially given the hardships of the post-war years. The public managed to raise an impressive £1,100 – about £35,000 in today’s money – with a commitment that every penny would be invested in that year’s and any future events.
The 1947 International Eisteddfod was an unqualified success. Plaudits rang down on the organisers, the founders, and all the competitors. The next few years saw numerous countries represented for the first time and by 1953, when the new Queen, Elizabeth II, visited the Eisteddfod as part of her post-coronation tour of Wales, musicians from 50 countries had competed in Llangollen. A truly international festival had been created.
Llangollen’s place in world music is now immutable. Placido Domingo acknowledges that his first professional experience in the United Kingdom was at the 1968 International Eisteddfod, and in 1955 Luciano Pavarotti competed with his father in the male voice choir competition with others from their home town of Modena. The choir won its section, and Pavarotti returned for a spectacular concert in 1995.
Kiri Te Kanawa, Jehudi Menhuin, José Carreras, Lesley Garrett, Bryn Terfel, Katherine Jenkins, Dennis O’Neil, James Galway, Nigel Kennedy, Elaine Paige, Michael Ball, and Montserrat Caballé are among the musical stars that have appeared in our Gala Concerts.