How a new generation of musicians will be heard from the hillsides of Wales to the mountains of Slovakia

A group of young musicians are to scale the heights of their ambition against the backdrop of Slovakia’s High Tatras Mountains. The  youngsters are part of a project involving world-famous conductor Simon Chalk who, fittingly, comes from a small mining village in mountains of South Wales. Simon has toured the world three times as a conductor with the classic and modern performers, ll Divo but now he is involved in a major UK and Slovak cultural project for young musicians. Simon has also worked with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and is currently the Guest Principal Conductor for the Slovak Sinfonietta (Štátny Komorný Orchester Zilina – state chamber orchestra of Slovakia). And last year Simon was awarded the Diploma of Appreciation by the Slovak government in recognition of ‘extraordinary merits in the development of friendly relationships with the Slovak Republic’. The award focussed on his cultural work with young musicians.
Simon said: “For any musician performing for others is the real pleasure and to know they are listening is one of the greatest privileges. “And when one adds to this the prospect of being able to travel to other countries and share the experience, then we have a whole new set of wonderful things to add to the mix. “So, when I was approached by Nigel Payne, the honorary Slovak consul for Wales, through the Slovak Embassy in London, and asked to join him in planning this project for young people I was delighted. “We decided to arrange an exchange visit between students from Cardiff and those in Slovakia, including an opportunity with the Slovak State Chamber Orchestra, the Slovak Sinfonietta. I actually was the former Chief Conductor. “It will be a fabulous experience for the young musicians of Corpus Christi as they travel across Europe to join their compatriot young musicians in Slovakia and further afield. “They will also have the chance to learn from some of the best professional musicians I have had the honour of working with.” Simon is supported by Mrs Natasha Evans, Head of Music at Corpus Christi, Cardiff. She  said: “Opportunities such as this, where our young people will get to play alongside professional musicians, are rare. For some of our pupils this event has the potential to be life-changing.” The pupils will stay at the award-winning eco-friendly resort Aquacity-Poprad, Slovakia.
AquaCity, in the sunny north east of Slovakia, is famous for its geothermal spring water taken from a vast subterranean lake and harnessed by heat exchangers, The resort is powered by solar power and wind turbines, heats the resort’s hotels, spa and water park, and supplies up to 80 per cent of its electricity. By avoiding fossil fuels, the resort saves 27 tons of carbon emissions per day. Dr Jan Telensky, the founder of AquaCity, said “I am absolutely delighted to sponsor this group of young aspiring musicians. It’s essential that we encourage our young people to reach their full potential in all areas of the curriculum, including music. Providing situations where students can experience and take part in music is infinitely more inspiring than telling them about it.” Cardiff and Vale music service (CAVMS), which exists to develop young peoples’ musical talent in Wales, are involved with the project. CAVMS delivers music tuition in over 80 schools, teaching over 2000 students every week. John Murray, Director of CAVMS, said “The chance to play alongside professional musicians will be an experience they will never forget. It is a shame that we can’t do this for more young people”. This project is being supported by a number of organisations, including Jaguar Land Rover and Wizzair. Nigel Payne, Honorary Consular Office of Slovakia to Wales, said “This is a tremendous opportunity for the students to develop their music skills and be given the broader educational experience of travel as well as the experience of meeting fellow students from Slovakia with an interest in music.”