17th March 2000 at 00:00
Wales, the land of song - what a cliche. Cliches often have more than a grain of truth in them, though, and Schools Prom Wales, at St David's Hall, Cardiff on March 2, proved this one to be gloriously accurate.

The centrepiece of the evening was a shortened version of The Raven King by the Caerphilly Kids Opera Group. It was originally sung by 400 children aged between seven and 11, but more than 200 of them sardined on to the stage to give the delighted audience a very good idea of its effect. Welsh composer Mervyn Burtch and Canadian composer Mark Morris have invented a piece loosely based on The Tempest. An island populated by animals is changed by the arrival of humans but the ending is one of hopeful reconciliation.

The soaring voice of professional singer Robert Bourton as the Raven King, aided by young actor James Cash as the Wizard-narrator, added a sharpness to the sweetness of the children's voices.

They were followed by the older and exceptionally accomplished Tasker Milward Singers. This was not the only time in the concert that one school was responsible for an outstanding ensemble, but this one offered three excellent singers, Sam Morris, Lloyda Henton and Hilary Price, who is a soloist with the National YouthChoir of Wales. Together the three of them brought maturity and clarity to Lionel Bart's "Who Will Buy?".

The evening was a show-case for Welsh composers, including Karl Jenkins, whose Allegretto from Palladio was played by the award-winning West Glamorgan Youth String Orchestra together with Jason Shute's The Red Dragon Rampant. This medley of folk songs was followed by a different arrangement of traditional tunes played by the delightfully sophisticated Isca Electric Violin Quartet, aged 14 to 18, on their far-from-traditional instruments. The Newport Music Centre Brass Band's Welsh contribution was Castell Caerdydd by Powell. The concert began in unusual fashion with Guy Wolfenden's light, sweet Illyrian Dances for Concert, originally written for a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night, played by the Cardiff County and Vale of Glamorgan Youth Wind Band. They produced an exciting sound in Symphonic Suite from Star Wars, adding less well-known sections to the rather over-familiar Phantom Menace.

The 120-strong Ysgol Greenhill Orchestra ended the evening in style with Grace Williams' Penillion, followed by a roof-rocking account of Tequila. Ysgol Greenhill supporters complete with kazoos and letter cards to spell the school's name had already raised the mood to something approaching hysteria before hundreds of balloons fell from the ceiling to e eagerly popped all over the hall. This prom was sponsored by CGU and organised by Music for Youth. Information about future events: 0181 870 9624.

Music is an everyday matter in Wales, not just for high days and holidays, but the annual National Eisteddfod, to be held this year at Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, between August 5 and 12, provides an extraordinary concentration of events. Music - traditional folk song, opera and pop as well as the ritualistic songs and dances of the crowning and chairing ceremonies - is particularly important, but there is room too for drama, arts, crafts and local products.

Bryn Terfel is the star guest for the millennium year, but the week will be inaugurated by a school, emphasising the importance of young people in the celebrations. Ysgol Gyfun y Strade will present an adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd WebberTim Rice hit Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (originally written for a school) - Joseff a'r Got Amryliw. The language on the field is Welsh, but visitors without a single word of Cymraeg need not feel alienated. Information: 01554 772000.

And while we're in Wales, Richard Moore is travelling the Principality performing An Evening with Charles Dickens, as another Welshman, Emlyn Williams, did years ago. This impersonation of the still popular eminent Victorian reaches the Emlyn Williams Theatre at Theatr Clwyd this weekend. Tickets and tour details: 01352 755114.

And while we're talking Dickens, you might like to know that he has joined Shakespeare on the learnfree website. You can put questions directly to him and he will answer within a few days. Jane Austen is waiting in the wings. Well, probably in the drawing room.

Rather more energy will be required by the 80 children aged four to 14 involved in Planet Dance, a one-off performance on March 25 organised by Dance for Everyone in collaboration with the Brent Indian Community Centre. Various schools have been involved in rehearsing and making costumes for their pieces which come from all over the world, from Zaire to Denmark. Anansi the Spider and the Weather King will represent the Caribbean while The Game of Dice from the Mahabaratha is the Indian contribution. The eveningwill end with English country dances. Tickets: 020 8202 7863. Information about Dance for Everyone projects:; Opera Piccola lives upto its small name with less-than-epic productions. Rossini's Barber of Seville isits current choice being performed at the Rosemary Branch Theatre, London N1. Tickets and informationabout school workshops:020 7704 6665.

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