Talking Music: Derek Brockway & Behnaz Akghar Discuss Family Prom

THE Family Prom returns to St David’s Hall on Sunday 21 July at 3pm, celebrating the wonders of weather!

Come rain or shine, Conductor Michael Bell MBE and Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra are forecast to be on cloud nine as they take this year’s event by storm.

And who better to present a concert all about the weather than BBC Wales duo Derek Brockway and Behnaz Akhgar? Joining them are a vibrant cast of young local performers, who are ready to take us on a journey over the rainbow and back.

Whatever the weather, the Family Prom guarantees an amazing afternoon of magnificent music with intermittent spells of laughter and showers of fun!

Neil Collins chats to guest hosts Derek Brockway and Behnaz Akhgar about the event.

How important are concerts like the Family Prom in getting young people interested in classical music and the arts generally?

BEHNAZ: We are so blessed to live in country where young people are exposed to classical music at a very young age. Growing up in Iran, it was all pop music for me. I wish I had attended events like the family Prom. The whole thing is so powerful, and I hope we can inspire future musicians. 

DEREK: It is very important to have concerts like this that give people of all ages an opportunity to experience and enjoy classical music. The weather is a subject that we all love to talk about and it’s a great idea to combine it with classical music.

Likewise, are you hoping to inspire young people to take an interest in the weather with it being the theme of this year’s Family Prom?

BEHNAZ: Derek and I adore the weather and we are always looking to share the message with everyone. Hopefully we can interest a few youngsters to take up Geography and Physics. We are also working with the Arts Active team at St David’s Hall. They play a key role in motivating young people to enjoy the arts. We are so excited to see young choirs and dance schools getting involved with the concert.

Were you both interested in attending and participating in the arts as children?

BEHNAZ: Absolutely! As soon as I moved to Swansea I attended dance, singing and drama classes at the Grand Theatre. I have such fond memories of that time and how happy I felt performing.

DEREK: I learned to play the recorder, and then progressed to play the flute when I was a teenager. I would spend hours practising in my room and then loved playing Christmas carols for my neighbours. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to read music. I don’t play the flute now, but one day I hope to take it up again.

Derek Brockway and Behnaz Akghar will host the weather-themed prom at St David’s Hall on July 21.Derek Brockway and Behnaz Akghar will host the weather-themed prom at St David’s Hall on July 21.

Derek Brockway and Behnaz Akghar will host the weather-themed prom at St David’s Hall on July 21.

Derek, I read that you first developed an interest in the weather as a young boy back in the long, hot summer of 1976. Describe for us those early days and how they developed into a career studying something you loved?

DEREK: I started keeping a daily weather diary, and my dad bought me a thermometer so I could record temperatures in the garden. I used to listen to the shipping forecast on BBC Radio 4, and one of my favourite pieces of classical music is Sailing By. I never thought I would end up working in television and radio when I left school, but it just goes to show that dreams can come true!

Behnaz, please tell us a bit about how you became involved with the weather too?

BEHNAZ: In Iran we had four seasons and that was my norm. Then I moved to Swansea and it rained a lot – well it is the wettest City in the UK! I very quickly realised that we talk about the weather a lot. I thought to myself that is where I need to be. I adore the sunshine – and even snow days – and have loved the past 11 years in the weather department.

One thing that really comes across to households across Wales is the warmth and camaraderie between you. This makes you the ideal co-hosts for an event of this nature doesn’t it, especially in front of a Welsh audience?

BEHNAZ: I feel very blessed to work with Derek. He took me under his wing from the first day and has taught me so much. We love working with each other and cannot wait to co-host the Family Prom. We often dream of having our own show together!

DEREK: I love working with Benny, she’s not just a colleague but also a good friend. We are planning a walk together in October to raise money for charity. It’s great to have her in the weather team – the sun is always shining when Benny is around!

In recent years your TV programmes like Weatherman Walking have become very popular Derek, and Behnaz you seem to really love presenting your on show on BBC Radio Wales. Tell us a little bit about what you’re up to at the moment and what you’ve got planned next…

BEHNAZ: I just cannot believe that I am presenting my own radio show on BBC Radio Wales! You are so right, I love it. My favourite part is talking to listeners and just getting to know them. Then I get to play some lovely music, it is the best job. I would love to film a documentary this year, so watch this space.

DEREK: We have recently started to film for the next series of Weatherman Walking visiting different parts of the Welsh coast. I am looking forward to getting out and about, meeting new people and learning more about the history of Wales.

This year’s Family Prom evokes all kinds of weather conditions from glorious sunshine to blizzards of snow. What pieces can we look forward to hearing?

BEHNAZ: I cannot wait for this amazing concert, which will open with the famous sunrise theme by Richard Strauss from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Then we go into a cold front which comes with Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride and it just gets better and better. Don’t forget you can join us for pre-concert activities too from 1.30pm in the foyers including face-painting, photo ops and live performances. See you there!

Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra will be performing the music once again this year and are now stalwarts of the Family Prom having played it every year since 2000. Have you been to any of the concerts, and have you been involved with events of this nature before?

BEHNAZ: Sadly, I have not had the pleasure of seeing the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, but my dad tells me I am in for a great treat!

 DEREK: I’ve been to a few concerts with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, but this is my first Family Prom event. I am really looking forward to it. It’s going to be fun and I’ve heard great things about Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra.

Lastly, please describe to us in a nutshell why the Family Prom is an unmissable afternoon out with your loved ones young and old…

BEHNAZ: This is an afternoon with a difference; it’s not every day that you get weather and amazing classical music all under one roof. Often when the school holidays start the weather goes downhill a bit, so it will be the perfect conditions to stay indoors and let the music lift your soul.

DEREK: It’s very important to spend time with your family and friends. This is a great way to get people together to enjoy and celebrate classical music. It also gives us an opportunity to share our enthusiasm for the weather with the audience!

Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra, Conductor: Michael Bell MBE
Presenters: Derek Brockway & Behnaz Akhgar

  1. Richard Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra (Sunrise from 2001: A Space Odyssey)

  2. Hamish MacCunn Land of the Mountain and the Flood

  3. George Gershwin Summertime

  4. Rimsky-Korsakov Flight of the Bumblebee

  5. Johann Strauss II Thunder & Lightning Polka

  6. Mussorgsky A Night on the Bare Mountain

  7. Kristen Anderson-Lopez Frozen (selection)

  8. Leroy Anderson Sleigh Ride

  9. Arthur Freed & Nacio Herb Brown Singin’ in the Rain

  10. Harold Arlen & Yip Harburg Over the Rainbow

  11. George Harrison Here Comes the Sun