Andy Howells attends the launch of the 38th Welsh Proms – set to take place at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall this July and speaks to Artistic Director, Owain Arwel Hughes CBE about the programme.
This year’s Welsh Proms are set to take place at Cardiff’s St David’s Hall from July 8 to 14th. The 38th Welsh Proms are not only some of the biggest concerts in Wales cultural calendar, but also a diverse programme catering for a variety of tastes.
Officially launched at a press event in Cardiff’s Hilton Hotel on April 25, I was immediately taken with the warmth and friendliness of those in attendance, including Welsh Proms Artistic Director, Owain Arwel Hughes CBE.
Back in 1986, Owain took inspiration from the newly built St David’s Hall and launched the first Welsh Proms season.
“I was involved for many years with The Hallé orchestra, and we had very successful proms in Manchester,” he told me, “We decided “let’s give it a go here in Cardiff.” I’ll never forget the very first one, I was sat in the back room wondering “Is there going to be anybody out there?” Thankfully, it was a good audience and has been successful ever since.”
38 years on, The Welsh Proms continue to delight with a week-long series of performances held at the National Concert Hall of Wales. What does Owain think contributes towards The Welsh Proms enduring appeal?
“There’s nothing stuffy about it at all,” he replies, “It’s a very happy atmosphere, people come in year after year and make new friends. People aren’t inhibited at all; bars are open for everybody. You can mix and mingle.
“We make music for people to listen to and enjoy and this is what happens in the Welsh Proms. There’s an atmosphere of friendliness everywhere.”
Owain continues to lead the curation for The Welsh Proms programme which is certain to have an appeal to visitors old and new. He continues: “To hear live music at its very best, I’ve made sure there’s a familiarity about it and that we have a programme that’s both exciting and appealing.”
The Family Prom launches at 3pm on Saturday July 8th with the Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Michael Bell MBE and special guest host Mike Church taking the audience on an intergalactic music journey through the cosmos. From interstellar to extra-terrestrial adventures in space there will be the opportunity to hear music from Star Wars and Close Encounters of The Third Kind as well as classical pieces from The Planets and Also Sprach Zarathustra (as famously featured in 2001: A Space Odyssey.)
For young children aged under 5, there is also the return of the Tiddly Prom at 10.30am daily from Saturday July 8th to Friday July 14th. The fun filled performances of Bert’s Magical Musical Kitchen are an accessible and interactive concert devised by Art Active on Lefel 1.
On Sunday July 9th, Owain Arwel Hughes CBE leads the world class Philharmonia Orchestra for the first ever Welsh Proms Sunday concert in a Classical Extravaganza at 4pm. Take a journey through some of the most dramatic music ever composed from Rossini’s Barber of Seville via the ancient Egypt of Verdi’s Aida to the haunting moonlight of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.
There are two Prom’s with a difference on Monday July 10th. Jonathan Scott performs a lunchtime performance of the Organ Prom at 1pm comprising Bach, Beethoven and Scott’s own arrangements of masterpieces including the finale from Saint-Saens Organ Symphony.
The Folk Prom gets underway at 7.30pm showcasing two talented partnerships, UK bluegrass act, The Carrivick Sisters, plus Americana act, Tapestri featuring Welsh duo Lowri Evans and Sarah Zyborska.
On Tuesday July 11, Arts Active will present the Soundworks Prom on Lefel 1 at 1. 30pm.The event will be a relaxed summer concert for adults and young people with learning disabilities and autism.
Later that day at 7.30pm, The Movie Prom gets underway as the Welsh National Park Orchestra celebrate the great film composers including John Williams, Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and John Barry. Expect to hear blockbuster selections from Star Wars, Superman, Jaws, and Jurassic Park.
There’s a Brass and Voices Prom on Wednesday July 12th at 7.30pm featuring a selection of Wales finest choirs joined by the legendary Cory band, led by Owain Arwel Hughes CBE. The spirit of Wales is likely to raise the roof of St David’s Hall to the sounds of a 200-voice male choir as they perform Joseph Parry’s Myfanwy and John Hughes Cwm Rhondda.
The Jazz Prom on Thursday July 13th takes place in the L3 Lounge and sees the Capital City Jazz Orchestra and special guest Jeff Hooper perform the music of Frank Sinatra, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett and big band classics from Duke Ellington to Count Basie.
The week long events culminate on July 14th at 7.30pm with the Last Night of The Welsh Proms featuring Owain Arwel Hughes CBE, the Welsh National Opera Orchestra and soloist Shan Cothi, joining forces for an epic finale.
Undoubtedly the 2023 Welsh Proms are set to stir and inspire all in attendance. Cardiff Councillor Huw Thomas explained at the Proms launch: ”It’s as much about the audience as it is about the performers, providing an opportunity to introduce new people to the world of classical music. Something we must repeatedly and continually do.
“All of this helps the Welsh Proms be an inspiring festival of music, with a wide ranging programme that appeals to the breadth of residents and visitors, culminating in that very Welsh Last Night of the Proms – the colour and patriotism stirs us all!”
For Ticket availability and further details on the 2023 Welsh Proms visit St David Hall’s website.