Since starting work at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, many years ago, the Welsh Proms has been my favourite time of the year.
There is always a great buzz in the building and no two years are the same as the festival evolves to encompass the changing tastes and demands of our audiences and the exciting developments in the Welsh music scene.
Welsh Proms artistic director, Owain Arwel Hughes along with the St David’s Hall team has nurtured the event he founded in 1986.
Its broad range encompasses must-see concerts like the Fanfare Prom, with the internationally acclaimed Tine Thing Helsing, to opportunities for pre-schoolers to enjoy the bassoon, viola and clarinet with Bert and Cherry on the farm in Tiddly Prom.
For audiences, it’s as much an opportunity to try a kind of music that is perhaps a little unfamiliar as it is to grab the chance to hear the pieces, sounds and artists that are familiar favourites.
The variety in the festival made us realise what a fantastic resource the Welsh Proms is for training and development opportunities for young people wanting to find out more about the music and the entertainment industry.
Now in its third year, the Welsh Proms Volunteer Scheme gives 16 to 25 year olds the opportunity to learn about arts and events management through working in all departments of the hall during the festival while being guided by experienced professionals.
This year we wanted to go further and really open up St David’s Hall for young people to get more out of the Welsh Proms.
As a result, we have created a new “pop-up” venue in the restaurant space called Lefel 1COR, dedicated to showcasing young talent, hosting interactive workshops and providing quality performances by, for and with young people.
Supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff Council, who own and manage the Hall, Lefel 1 is being run by a small team of young professionals, just starting their careers.
Artist Terry Chinn has been working with young people from Cathays Youth Centre to decorate the space and, with help from equipment companies White Light and Stage Lighting Services and our friends at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, we’ve created a great little venue with a variety of events on offer.
Established Welsh Proms events such as the Tiddly Prom and the Gamelan Prom will be joined by new events to the festival programme like ukulele, guitar, gamelan and samba drumming workshops and a new musical by The Unknown Theatre Company entitled The True, True Story of Quincy Jones.
Young people from the RWCMD Junior Conservatoire, Welsh National Opera Singing Club and Grassroots Youth Centre will be showcasing their talents as well as established saxophonist Jade Gall.
St David’s Hall’s musicians-in-residence, the Mavron Quartet, is working with us to present a musical performance for adults with learning and physical disabilities in the Soundworks Prom.
We’ve also created a Welsh language stories and music show for pre-school children called Gardd Mali, which will be perfect for Welsh learning tots.
There’s more to the Welsh Proms than Lefel 1, of course, and our Proms volunteers will be gaining experience on a whole host of other events.
We have two Gareth Wood commissions being premiered this year. Gareth wrote a fanfare as a 70th birthday present for Owain Arwel Hughes to coincide with the launch of Owain’s autobiography. The piece is called Fanfare for Owain and will be the first piece in the first night’s concert. Gareth has also written a new commission called Fanfare for Cory which will be in the Brass and Voices Prom. I’m a recent convert to brass after enjoying last year’s Brass and Voices Prom so I’m particularly looking forward to this.
Gareth is ‘top and tailing’ the Welsh Proms this year as the final piece in The Last Night of the Proms is always his Fantasy on Welsh Songs.
Among the dazzling array of performers this year are Caroline Sheen and David Shannon in the Best of the West End Prom; Peter Donohoe in the Romantic Prom and Pete Long in the Jazz Prom.
Add to this the Spooky Men’s Prom; tales of Heroes and Villains, narrated by children’s TV presenter Barney Harwood in the Family Prom and a host of free and fringe events, this year’s Welsh Proms Cardiff promises to be one of the finest Wales has seen.
The Welsh Proms take place at St David’s Hall, Cardiff from tomorrow to July 27. For full details, call the box office on 029 2087 8444 or visit www.stdavidshallcardiff.co.uk
Family Prom: Heroes and Villains
When? Tomorrow, midday
What? For younger audiences, the opening prom features music from Harry Potter and Star Wars as well as classical favourites such as Rossini’s William Tell Overture.
Best of the West End Prom
When: July 24, 7.30pm
What? Fresh from her appearance in the new Les Misérables film, Welsh star Caroline Sheen is joined by David Shannon, who recently played the title role in The Phantom of the Opera, for an evening of West End hits.
When: July 26, 7.30pm
What? Norwegian trumpeter Tine Thing Helseth has taken the classical music world by storm. The 25-year-old’s first appearance at the Welsh Proms where she will perform alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra includes Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto and tracks from her new album, Storyteller.
Last Night Of The Welsh Proms
When? July 27, 7pm
The Last Night of the Welsh Proms is famous for its superb music, party atmosphere and sheer joie de vivre. As ever, the celebrations are hosted in style by the Artistic Director of the Welsh Proms, Owain Arwel Hughes.