A dream of many years – that the beautiful setting of St. Michael’s Church Lower Machen with its wonderful acoustics could be the venue and focal point for a series of concerts – came to fruition in 1968 with the launch of Lower Machen Festival.
As founder and artistic director, I had the support of a very enthusiastic and hard-working committee, many of whom were friends.
Mrs Mary Adams of Machen House immediately offered her support and help with the venture – support that has continued over the 50 years of the Festival’s existence.
Another wonderful committee member I will be eternally grateful to was J.Penri Davies. He was my guide and mentor during the early years of the Festival until I resigned as director in 1975.
Penri knew who to approach for financial support, how to gain the most widespread publicity, which newspaper editor to approach for articles and critiques and – because his knowledge of the community was vast – he was an invaluable asset to the festival. In fact, he was instrumental in obtaining the grant for the first Festival.
The Festival was also blessed with a redoubtable ladies committee who worked tirelessly to raise funds, and to ensure guests were entertained and offered hospitality.
Even the local postwomen became involved in publicising the Festival, delivering flyers to 700 houses in their spare time!
From the outset, the philosophy of the Festival was to give a platform to young talent. A young Owain Arwel Hughes conducted the Cardiff Concert Orchestra with a young soprano Janet Price. Ann Griffiths harpist, gave a recital on the Triple harp and the Pedal harp. A piano recital was given by Malcolm Binns, and a 14 year’ old Robert Watson gave a clarinet recital.
One of the most interesting features of the Festival was the platform it gave to children. Malcolm Arnold’s work ‘The Turtle Drum’ was performed by Machen Children’s Opera Group. The choir of Our Lady’s Convent School sang Pergolisi’s Stabat Mater, and the Monmouthshire Young People’s Theatre performed Salome by Oscar Wilde.
The idea of promoting young talent has continued through the 50 years of the Festival – creating and recreating music of imperishable beauty in the intimate setting of a small country church.