A top music industry professional who has worked with some of the biggest names in the business has been appointed as the new Artistic Director of Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod.
At the age of 39 Dave Danford has already had a decade-long association with the iconic festival and has stepped up into the key role after a number of years as its Production Manager.
He is “extremely excited” about his appointment, which has just been announced by the Eisteddfod’s trust board. The appointment is funded through the Arts Council of Wales.
And he says he is relishing the challenge of overseeing every musical aspect of the festival, from big-name concerts featuring stars as diverse as Sir Tom Jones and the Manic Street Preachers before and during the festival’s core week of July 2-7, to its unique programme of international-class competitions.
Dave, 39, is originally from Swansea and studied at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff for his degree in orchestral percussion.
He began his music career as a freelance percussionist working with a variety of orchestras.
He played with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Royal Northern Sinfonia and recorded with Dru Masters, composer for The Apprentice on BBC TV, and former BBC Radio 1 DJ Judge Jules.
From 2017 to 2023 he toured the world as the percussionist for Bat Out of Hell: The Musical, including a run in the West End in 2018, and an arena tour of Australia and New Zealand at the start of 2023.
Alongside this, in 2010 he added a new professional string to his bow by founding his own company, Absolute Music Services, which specialises in assembling orchestras to play at major concerts and tours across the UK.
Some previous projects include providing orchestras for Hollywood composer Michael Giacchino’s 50th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall, Casablanca Live at the Royal Opera House and Home Alone in Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and in Aalborg, Denmark.
In 2011 he formed the Welsh band Adran D who released two albums of traditional Welsh songs modernised for the 21st century, with many tracks still featuring on the BBC Radio Cymru playlist.
Dave first began his association with Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in 2012 when, working closely with the festival’s then Music Director Eilir Owen Griffiths, he provided the orchestra for a performance of Sir Karl Jenkins’ The Peacemakers at the festival and, in subsequent years, helped to organise concerts featuring artists such as Alfie Boe, Dame Evelyn Glennie, and Rolando Villazón. He is looking forward to implementing some of his innovative ideas to move the festival forward.
Apart from all his other roles he is also Artistic Director of his own orchestra, the British Sinfonietta, which has won a strong reputation for itself in the world of professional performance since it was established in 2010.
He has already arranged for these other ventures to be in safe hands as he steps into his pivotal role at Llangollen.
Dave says he doesn’t for a minute underestimate the challenge he now faces with the iconic Llangollen festival which is now fighting hard to recover and strengthen its international and home appeal after suffering a major financial setback last summer.
The Eisteddfod has now forged a formidable partnership with international agency Cuffe & Taylor to book a host of top headliners for its evening concerts both during and in the lead-up to the festival, from Sir Tom Jones to Paloma Faith and from Gregory Porter to Manic Street Preachers.
It has also reworked its competitions programme to ensure a perfect balance between traditional and more accessible aspects.
“The concerts we have announced over the past few weeks represent the most formidable package of entertainment we have ever arranged, with its real star value and widespread appeal,” said Dave.
“I am also relishing the part of my job which involves putting together and ensuring the smooth running of our competitions, with which in any case I have already had lots of experience in my last job as Production Manager.
“We are doing things in a new way for 2024 by incorporating the finals of some of the daytime competitions into the evening concerts, for instance by having the final of the youth choir competition on the Wednesday of the festival during the evening concert that night.
“We have done this because we may have some people who come along for the evening concerts and don’t even realise we have competitions going on throughout the days. So this will hopefully help to give them the overall picture of what we do.”
Dave, who is married to Siân and has two children aged nine and five, added: “I am over the moon about becoming Artistic Director as it’s my dream job.
“I’m also very excited at the prospect of helping the Eisteddfod overcome the challenges it has faced over the past year and I can’t wait for next July to come.”
Professor Chris Adams, chairman of the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod, said: “We are delighted to appoint Dave Danford to this central position at our festival. As a well-known figure in the UK music industry, with a reputation for innovating, Dave has worked with our Eisteddfod for several years and as Production Manager has been responsible for giving us many memorable nights. We look forward to working with Dave on some of his imaginative ideas to move our festival forward.
“He is someone who shares our festival’s ethos that through sharing music and dance we can promote international harmony, and we look forward to working with him to present a 2024 Llangollen Eisteddfod that will be talked about for generations.”
Listen to Dave talking to Roy Noble on his show on BBC Radio Wales: Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod on BBC Radio Wales