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Saturday, 1 February, 2003, 15:49 GMT
Opera star performs at opening concert
North East Wales Institute
The hall is at the North East Wales Institute
A special tribute concert to cultural and political figure Paul Robeson was held to mark the official opening of the newly refurbished William Aston Hall in Wrexham on Friday.

International bass-baritone opera star, Willard White, entertained the audience with songs made famous by Robeson including Ol' Man River which was featured in the 1935 film Showboat.

We only had a small window in the schedule for this work to be done and so I am pleased that it has gone off so well

Professor Michael Scott, Newi

The hall at the North East Wales Institute (Newi) has undergone a 350,000 renovation which aimed to preserve the unique atmosphere of the venue which has been open since 1954.

The 890 seat hall is one of the key places in Wrexham to hold concerts and live entertainment.

Professor Michael Scott, principal of Newi said: As with any building work, it is always difficult to plan exactly when the work will be completed.

"We only had a small window in the schedule for this work to be done and so I am pleased and, I must add, relieved, that it has gone off so well.

Willard White
Opera star Willard White performed at the hall

"I was also thrilled to be able to welcome Willard White to Newi.

"His name and voice are known throughout the world as a top opera singer.

"It is a great privilege for us to have him here in Wrexham performing in honour of a man who has been an inspiration to so many," he added.

First Minister Rhodri Morgan performed the official opening of the hall before the concert.

He said: "William Hall is a superb venue for the performing arts providing excellent facilities for students and audiences who come here from all over north Wales and the border counties.

"The importance of this venue has been recognised by the investment made in restoring it to its former glory and even more so by getting such a pre-eminent star as Willard White to celebrate the re-opening," he added.

As part of the refurbishment the tiered seats inside the hall can be removed and replaced with platforms that level out the floor.

Paul Robeson
Paul Robeson was a human rights campaigner

The performance was held in tribute of the American actor, singer and human rights campaigner who had a special affinity with the town after he donated money to mining disaster fund.

Paul Robeson, who died in 1976 aged 77, is also the subject of a joint exhibition between Wrexham Museum and local college the North East Wales Institute (Newi).

He was a long-standing campaigner against racism, and was the first black artist who refused to perform before segregated audiences.

In 1934, he donated money from a north Wales concert to a mining benevolent fund after an explosion at Gresford colliery near Wrexham.

Two hundred and sixty five men were killed in the incident on 22 September 1934.


More from north east Wales
See also:

10 Oct 02 | England
06 Mar 02 | Arts
10 Sep 01 | Wales
07 Apr 01 | Wales
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