Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra’s South American Journey at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall

CARDIFF PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA return to St David’s Hall on Friday 17 March with a very special, unique programme taking the audience on a South American Journey.

Neil Collins speaks with CPO Conductor, Michael Bell MBE about the orchestra’s latest venture.

Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Michael Bell MBE

What can the audience expect in the forthcoming concert?

We’ve performed lots of themed concerts with programmes centred around music from Scandinavia, Spain, USA, Russia, France and Britain among others, but this time we have a programme based on the continent of South America and particularly its dance music.

What have you got in store for us?

Every journey south must begin in the north, so our starting point is New York with the Symphonic Dances from the musical, West Side Story.

There are so many great dances in the concert, and many are included in this piece – some of which like the Cha-Cha and the Mambo originate from South America

So then we’re off to South America?

Not quite….We stop off in Cuba for George Gershwin’s fantastic and sultry Cuban Overture, a piece based on a dance that originated from this part of the world, the Rumba.

So now are we off to South America?

Yes, we are! We’ll be visiting Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and Mexico. Brilliant music based on dances such as the Tango. There might even be a Conga!

There will be the famous Libertango by Piazolla, a piece infused with danger and rhythm, and Por una Cabeza that has featured in many Hollywood films such as True Lies, Schindler’s List and most famously Scent of a Woman, which starred Al Pacino as a blind U.S. veteran who dances a Tango with a beautiful young woman, and the music used is Por una Cabeza.

The name may not mean a lot, but when you hear it, I bet you say one thing – so that’s what it is!

You’ll also have heard so many of the pieces we’re playing on a certain Saturday evening dance show on the BBC…

How is the orchestra enjoying this music?

The orchestra is enjoying this music very much. It’s completely different from the usual classical-type concert, but the music is vibrant, full of rhythmic verve and excitement.

The orchestra celebrated its 40th birthday in June 2022, and this year will mark 40 years of performing at St David’s Hall. It must feel like a second home to you!

CPO first performed at St David’s Hall in December 1983, as part of a charity concert sharing the programme with other performers including a very distinguished oboe player named Nicholas Daniel, who had won the 1980 BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition. At this concert our timpanist fell ill and had to go home in the interval. Luckily, Nicholas Daniel had played timpani at some point in his life and stepped in to save the day!

It is like a second home particularly as I worked for three happy years at St David’s Hall from 1987-1990.

What is next for the orchestra?

In the summer of 2023 on Saturday 17 June, CPO is returning to perform in the beautiful setting of Llandaff Cathedral for the first time since 2010.

The ‘new’ organ in the Cathedral was inaugurated in 2013, so we’re performing Poulenc’s Organ Concerto with the Cathedral organist Stephen Moore to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

The programme will also include Elgar’s magnificent and very moving Symphony No 1.

We have also have a great programme lined up for the Family Prom on Sunday 9 July at ST David’s Hall on the theme of outer space – tickets on sale soon!

  • For Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra’s American Journey ticket availability or call the Box Office on 029 2087 8444.

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