The absence of JLS couldn’t prevent Ynysangharad Park from being alive with the sound of music, as the Valleys’ most anticipated music festival drew to a close on Sunday 25th July. Animation was high and still rising as the iron gates flooded with locals young and old, all eagerly awaiting the music phenomena that were born and bred in our very own back yard. By three o clock, the sun had decided to grace us with its presence as deck chairs were erected and ice creams were bought, all in preparation for an evening full to the brim with musical extravagance.
The afternoon’s entertainment started off with a bang, as the V Factor finalists showed us that they all have what it takes to become another addition to the wealth of talent Wales has to offer. The youth of the valleys glowed with inspiration, which the audience happily lapped up, beginning with a young guitarist who evidently did not need a band to back him in order to captivate the audience. This was followed by a series of five vocalists, including the V Factor winner Emily Ady, who enthralled the audience with a beautifully performed song which she had written herself.
The valleys’ youth had not finished yet however, as another contest winner stormed the stage; Envirovision’s winning school ‘Y Pant’ rocked the audience with their original song against graffiti, which had won their school £600 in the annual song quest a prize which the audience deemed them worthy of.
The next act was the epitome of Welsh talent, whose musical stylings echoes in karaoke nights throughout the valleys. Darren Edwards from Mountain Ash entertained the crowd with his renditions of modern classics, such as Kings of Leon’s Sex On Fire and Stereophonics’ Dakota, which didn’t fail to have the audience clapping and singing along.
This was followed by the much anticipated James Williams, who’d made his debut on X Factor 2008. Williams boarded the stage to the sound of screaming women, his Michael Buble-esque charm and taste in suits doing their jobs without fail. His set list excited the audience, who sung and clapped along without prompt to favourites like Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now and Don’t Stop Believing by Journey.
The next and final act of the first half was certainly met with appreciation by the audience, as Sophie Evans, runner up of the BBC’s Over The Rainbow walked onto the stage, with boyfriend Tom on guitar, introducing him by saying she thought she’d “bring him along”. Her strong valleys accent was ever prominent as she thanked the audience, her humility endearing herself to the masses. From singing Alicia Keys’ New York and Jason Mraz’ I’m Yours with her boyfriend’s accompaniment, Sophie went on to sing her favourite show tunes, ending her set and the first half of the show with a beautifully performed Over The Rainbow and a reminder that she would be performing in the West End, along with an invitation for the audience to join her.
The final part of this year’s Big Weekend was devoted entirely to the classical arts, as the audience were treated to Britain’s finest. Britain’s Got Talent finalist Faryl Smith, named the most talented young singer by Mr Simon Cowell, took to the stage with a comedic and chatty nature, engaging the audience by asking them to pause for a picture for her nan’s scrapbook. The fifteen year old appealed to the audience, her stage presence and outstanding voice winning the hearts of the crowd. She sung her personal favourite “Somewhere” from West Side Story, and finished with “River Of Light”, the leading track on her first album, Faryl.
As hard an act this is to follow, Jonathan Ansell did not disappoint. After a quick explanation about his new beard and long hair (he is currently in a west end show where he is mistaken for Jesus Christ, if any of you were curious ) G4’s high tenor enthralled the audience and shook the ground in Ponty as he sung a number of songs backed by a string quartet, finishing with a jaw dropping rendition of Queen’s Who Wants To Live Forever.
Even after such an astounding performance, the headlining act was not one to be missed. Hayley Westenra, whose debut album is the fastest selling classical album worldwide, was a star at the age of sixteen. Now at the age of 23, the New Zealander did not fail to impress, singing well known classics such as Scarborough Fair and O Danny Boy.
The audience whistled, clapped and cheered until hoarse, a sound that could have very easily competed with the screaming fans at the Saturday show, which had starred pop sensation JLS. Today, I stand under the impression that classical music deserves a lot more recognition, as I, along with thousands of others, was completely entranced by the world of talent one small stage in Pontypridd held on that summer afternoon.