DEBUTING with their new musical director on the steps of St David’s Hall, The Spectrum Singers were stunned to be joined at the conductor's podium by Owain Arwel Hughes CBE, conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales at Wednesday night’s Romantic Prom.
St David’s Hall had invited the Penarth-based a cappella choir to perform outside the venue on the evening of July 23 as an initiative to promote the Welsh Proms.
The live street entertainment drew a large crowd and those promenaders lingering outside to listen were surprised to see Welsh Proms founder, Owain Arwel Hughes, appear front of house at the National Concert Hall of Wales to thank the choir personally for their show of solidarity.
Owain Arwel Hughes, who following Cardiff Council’s withdrawal of funding for the Welsh Proms pledged to guarantee the orchestra fees himself, applauded the choir’s efforts on behalf of raising awareness of the Welsh Proms.
He thanked the singers for their ‘marvellous support’ and enquired about the origin of the group’s name, which reflects its broad range of musical repertoire, from classical music at one end of the spectrum to pop songs at the other.
The special atmosphere of the Welsh Proms is that it provides a stage for both world-class professional musicians and up-and-coming local talent, with free fringe events at St David’s Hall during Proms week designed to showcase the next generation of music makers.
The Spectrum Singers’ newly appointed conductor, David Hutchings, was instrumental in organising the event. Having studied for a Masters in Musicology at Cardiff University, he is passionate about securing the future of St David’s Hall and helped to mobilise a demonstration in January to raise awareness that this iconic classical music venue, which hosts the globally renowned opera competition ‘BBC Cardiff Singer of the World’, is facing the threat of closure.
Mr Hutchings said: "Since the Welsh Proms and St David’s Hall have come under severe financial pressure this year, we felt we wanted to do something to help.
"We came up with a proposal to cancel our weekly rehearsal to support the concert instead, singing as audience members arrived in a show of solidarity with St David’s Hall, BBC NOW, and Owain Arwel Hughes.
"It was a privilege to support the Welsh Proms and St David’s Hall, both of which do so much for Cardiff and make the music of a wide variety of international artists accessible to everyone."
He added: "It was very exciting to sing before a concert recorded for broadcast. The choir sang impressively and would like to extend special thanks to deputy singers Daniel VandenBurg and Owain Walker who stood in at the last moment, making some horribly tricky tenor parts sound effortless!"
After concluding their performance, choir members enjoyed the privilege of seeing Owain Arwel Hughes in action from front row seats, conducting the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in a thrilling performance of ‘high octane Russian and Czech romantic music’ that certainly lived up to its billing.