The first International Musical Eisteddfod was held in Llangollen in June 1947. In the following 70 years its celebration of “Peace and Harmony” has made it one of the world’s great music festivals.
It began with a vision that the ancient Welsh eisteddfod tradition could provide a means of healing the wounds of the Second World War, and help to promote lasting peace.
Inspired by the British Council, the people of Llangollen started planning the first event in May 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, or else retuned!
The 1947 International Eisteddfod was an unqualified success: groups from 10 foreign countries braved the journey to Llangollen, joining some 40 choirs from England, Scotland and Wales. It was all great fun. Plaudits rang down on the organisers, the founders, and the competitors. The next few years saw many more countries participating: by 1953, when Queen Elizabeth II visited the Eisteddfod as part of her post-coronation tour of Wales, singers and dancers of 32 nationalities had competed in Llangollen. A truly international festival had been created, organised and run by volunteers.
Llangollen’s place in world music is now immutable. More than 300,000 competitors from over 100 nationalities have performed enthusiastically on the Llangollen stage. In 1955 a young Luciano Pavarotti sang in the choir from his home town of Modena, conducted by his father. The choir won first prize in the Male voice choir competition. Pavarotti returned for a spectacular concert in 1995.
Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Markova, Joan Sutherland, Angela Georghiu, Kiri Te Kanawa, Jehudi Menuhin, 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 concerts. Placido Domingo confesses that his first professional engagement in the United Kingdom was at the 1968 International Eisteddfod.