Music and Peace in Snowdonia


The only sound to come from the audience last night as Catrin Finch played her harp was thunderous applause.  She played by candlelight because there is no electricity in the intimate and tiny St Tanwg’s church.

The church that  lies amid dunes in the hamlet of Llandanwg between Llanfair and Llanbedr has special significance for Catrin because she was married there.

Many have worked hard over the centuries to preserve this church, a holy place even by dint of its survival.  The very ground seems hallowed in the way the Camino is,  after so many souls have passed before with prayerful intent.

Unsurprisingly the church is steeped in history, the more recent no less inspiring and the facts almost make a better story than fiction.

In march 1945 Flight Lieutenant John Wynne, from Llanbedr, ordered his crew to bail out when their RAF flying fortress caught fire  during a bombing raid over Germany. He eventually managed to bring the burning plane down and survived, but the crew were captured as they landed in Huchenfeld unaware that only weeks earlier the RAF had destroyed  over 17,000 people  in a bombing raid and subsequent fire storm in nearby Pforzheim.

The RAF prisoners were stoned  in revenge for the attack.  One airman, Tom Tate, managed to escape, but his five fellow airmen died. It was nearly fifty years before Flight Lieutenant John Wynne  found out the fate of the other airmen and worked tirelessly for peace.  Llanbedr is now  twinned with Huchenfeld, reconciled 65 years after the massacre and a commemorative plaque for the RAF crew has been placed on the wall of Huchenfeld church.  The village, Llanbedr, received a  Coventry Cross of Nails.

The cross originates from the German bombing of Coventry Cathedral in 1940, when much of the city was reduced to rubble. Two of the charred beams that had fallen in the shape of a cross were set on the altar and three medieval nails were bound into the shape of a cross, creating the ‘Cross of Nails’.

It is a powerful and inspirational symbol worldwide of forgiveness and reconciliation. In post conflict Europe of the 1950’s and 60’s, the presentation of a Cross of Nails to churches in Kiel, Dresden, Berlin and other cities destroyed by Allied bombing, symbolized peace and the growing trust and partnership that developed.

By the 1970’s this courageous vision began to spread to other areas of conflict and the Community of the Cross of Nails was formed in 1974. There are now 170 CCN Partners around the world drawn together by the Coventry story and working for peace and reconciliation within their own communities and countries.

John Wynne was awarded  for the Guernika Peace Prize for his work of reconciliation. Guernika and Pforzheim were both firebombed although Guernika was destroyed  by German and Italian Air Force.

The prize was established in 2005 by the City Council of Guernika and Pforzheim and the organisations Guernika Gogoratuz (Institute for Peace), Peace Museum Guernika and the forcinghouse Guernika.


Something magical in Harlech



Something magical happened last night in Theatre Harlech when Sinfonia Cymru and Catrin Finch gave their concert.

The intimacy of the iconic sixties theatre, set high on the coast overlooking the Lleyn Peninsular, its round concrete structure at odds with rough hewn granite of the rest, meant the audience was close enough to see Catrin’s fingers fall like silk over her harp strings and hear the lead violin breathe deeply as the music moved him.

The first two pieces, Ravel’s Allegro for harp, flute, clarinet and string quartet and Claude Debussy’s Dances Sacred and Profane also for harp, are linked in a way unique to musical history having been commissioned by rival French harp makers to showcase two different harps: Debussy for the now defunct ‘chromatic’ harp and Ravel for the traditional harp.

The traditional harp won but as tonight proved both compositions stood the test of time, both were exquisite and the young musicians and Catrin Finch, inspired.

Mathias’s Melos for flute, percussion and strings, Op73, and Jacques Ibert’s Divertissement for chamber orchestra drew spontaneous applause and appreciative smiles from the musicians

Copeland’s Appalachian Spring, the finale, performed in its original orchestration for thirteen players, conducted by guest conductor Ben Gernon was simply beautiful and stunned the audience to breath held stillness.

Driving home along the stretch of coast known locally as Good God Corner named after an expletive uttered in awe of its beauty by visiting American airmen in WW2 the sun set was also magical.