INTERNATIONALLY-renowned harpist Claire Jones is returning to her roots this week when she brings her harp school finale concert to Cardigan’s Theatr Mwldan.
The chart-topping harpist – who was in the national spotlight when she performed for the newly-married Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at their 2011 wedding reception - will present a musical extravaganza.
It will feature talented young musicians from all over the UK and will include harp ensembles, duets and solo items from all participants of the Claire Jones harp school aged between nine and 25.
Born and raised in Crymych – she was a pupil at Ysgol Y Preseli – Claire moved on to live in London, where she attended the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy and met her husband Chris Marshall, one of Wales’ most promising and exciting composers and percussionists.
But Claire still calls South West Wales her home.
“It is always lovely to come back and kick back a gear. My parent still live in Crymych and other members of my family are in the area and we are always travelling back and forth,” she said.
“It is just so exciting to come back with the harp school, which will take place at Cardigan Castle in the week before the concert.
“I have had a link to the castle for a long time and have tried to help them with the restoration. I was the royal harpist to Prince Charles and one of the first times I played for him I was 18 or 19 and he came to the castle in Cardigan to see it.
“That’s why I have chosen the castle for the harp school and it’s all very inter-connected. I am looking to get the message across that the castle is a great facility.”
The school will feature 34 harpists and Claire will be helped by fellow tutor Kathryn Rees, from Boncath. Another course will be run at the castle later in the summer, when a visiting party from America will also come across “to take over the area”.
But this week’s harp school will be capped off by the performance at Theatr Mwldan.
“It’s a spectacular sight, with such talented musicians,” said Claire. “It promises to be a very energetic show and such a different platform for the harp.”
The repertoire will include well known themes from the world of film such as Jurassic Park and ET, classical and folk music, accompanied by live multi-media and production to make it a treat for all the family.
It is a busy time for new mum Claire, who only recently gave birth to daughter Cadi Haf Marshall-Jones back in February.
However, Claire acknowledges it could all have been so very different for her and Chris after she became seriously ill back in 2013.
“I had ME and my body just shut down,” said Claire.
“I thought my career was over. I went to hospital having had a seizure but my consultant had also suffered from ME and been through it and was able to diagnose me.
“I was ill for a long time but I am now fully recovered and I want to be an inspiration to other people with the illness.”
So how is Claire managing to juggle motherhood and work, with the harp school, a trip to the States looming large on the horizon as well as a new album due for release in June?
“I am not really sure to be honest with you,” she said.
“There has been a lot going on this year. We recorded the new album ‘This Love’ while pregnant and it’s a new chapter for me and Chris. The music expresses what I am feeling at the time and I think it is important to always be true to yourself.
“It’s about the love of my husband, family and friends and how it makes my life what it is, as does my love of music. It’s this love that kept me going in the really dark times of my illness.
“I am living my dream again and will be travelling to America shortly. Life has turned round now and I am living every moment.
“It is great to have Cadi as there were times when I was ill that I thought I would not be able to have children. How would I ever cope but thankfully I recovered and got through it.”
And why the name Cadi Haf?
“We want her to know her roots,” said Claire. “She might have been born in England but she has strong Welsh roots. Many people have followed my career in Wales and it is important for her to know that.”
And will Cadi follow in mum and dad’s footsteps and be a harpist or a percussionist?
“I hope she might pick up on something but she won’t be under any pressure,” said Claire.
Tickets for the finale concert of the Claire Jones International Harp School on Saturday April 15 (2pm) are £10, £8 for concessions and £6 for children and are available from Theatr Mwldan’s box office on 01239 621200, online or via smart phone at www.mwldan.co.uk