Gwynedd expat brings St David's Day to Kazakhstan

February 27 2015, 11:14 1674 views

Ross ClarkeRoss ClarkeRoss Clarke has organised a rugby game on a frozen river and a set of traditional Welsh songs from a choir of Kazakhs and Russians.

Rugby on a frozen river and a choir of Kazakhs and Russians singing classic Welsh songs may not be the traditional way of celebrating St David’s Day, but one Gwynedd man is planning just that as he brings a little piece of Wales to Central Asia, dailypost.co.uk reports.

Expat Ross Clarke, from Nebo near Caernarfon, has organised a three-day festival of Welshness to honour Wales’ patron saint in his adopted home of Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan.

Among the Welsh events taking place in Astana this weekend will be a game of rugby played on the frozen River Ishim and a St David’s Day concert at the national opera house, which will see the locals singing in Welsh following lessons from Ross.

The 26-year-old has worked as a trumpet player in the orchestra of the Astana Opera since it opened in 2013, having moved to the city to teach in 2012.

He said: “I’ve been here three years and every year we’ve done a little thing for St David’s Day in the British Embassy."

The former Ysgol Nebo pupil, who earned a scholarship to Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester before studying at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London, decided to make this year’s St David’s Day bigger than ever.

He said: “I’ve got four guys coming out from Britain to play an ensemble and we are showing the Kazakhs what Wales is all about.”

Saturday’s rugby game will feature Wales against “The Rest of the World”, although Ross hasn’t quite managed to find enough Welshmen to make up a full side.

“We are just going to give honorary Welsh status to some of the locals,” he said.

“At the moment it’s about -10°C and it gets as low as -25°C, so we are playing on the river. It’s lovely and mild at the moment - sometimes I don’t even have to wear gloves.

“On Saturday evening, we will be having a pub quiz about Welsh culture in the Marriot Hotel, with live music. No one here knows what a pub quiz is.

“Then we will watch France v Wales. There are definitely more French than Welsh here.”

Sunday will see an authentic Welsh brunch at the Radisson Hotel with cawl, cacen gri and Welsh lamb.

The weekend’s piéce de résistance will be the concert at the Astana Opera House.

Ross said: “I have been training the Astana Male Choir and teaching them to speak Welsh.

“I am going to conduct them, which is a great honour as they don’t let anyone else conduct normally.

“They will be singing Sosban Fach and other Welsh classics, and the British Ambassador Carolyn Browne will be reading an extract from Dylan Thomas. She has Welsh heritage too.

“The Kazakh choir will sing the Welsh national anthem and then my quintet will do the Kazakh national anthem.

“It’s been a difficult thing to arrange as it’s very much a non-English-speaking place.

“I’m the only Westerner in the opera house - there’s one man from St Petersburg and they mainly speak Kazakh.

“It’s a great place and the people are friendly, but it’s an unusual experience for someone who is English- or Welsh-speaking.”


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