A Prom full of firsts for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

When California-born Ryan Bancroft steps onto the podium in Cardiff on the 8th September to conduct ‘American Dreams’ – the first BBC Prom ever performed from BBC Hoddinott Hall – it will mark one of the many firsts of the evening.

Because this will be Bancroft’s Proms debut and his first engagement as Principal Conductor of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales (BBC NOW). Streamed live from Cardiff Bay on BBC Radio 3 and BBC iPlayer, it will also be the first Prom by BBC NOW performed under the direction of Lisa Tregale who joined BBC NOW as director in January.

Speaking about his first official engagement at such a historic Prom, Bancroft said:

“I am overjoyed to be able to make music with BBC NOW, especially on such a massive virtual stage. It’s sincerely a privilege as well to be able to perform from our home in Hoddinott Hall where everyone knows the space intimately. This gives us home field advantage!”

That ‘home advantage’ has allowed BBC NOW to curate pieces that showcase every individual player in a way that will let audiences get to know the players on a far more personal level than usually seen. Ryan Bancroft said:

“I am delighted for our audience to hear the incredible talents within our orchestra in a much more direct and intimate fashion. The Proms are a special time of year for every musician involved, as it feels somewhat like a culmination of the year’s work. Of course, this year has been starkly different to previous years, but the enthusiasm is still there, and I am very much so looking forward to experiencing that for the first time – and from Cardiff!”

And the firsts continue…

Ryan Bancroft grew up in a household where jazz and prog-rock was heard more often than Bach, so it’s no surprise that jazz will play a role in this mostly American Prom programme. The programme will feature the first ever performances at the Proms of: Martinů – Jazz Suite – for small orchestra, John Adams – Chamber Symphony, Barber – Knoxville: Summer of 1915, and Copland – Appalachian Spring – suite for 13 Instruments.

A world premiere of ‘Rough Voices’ by British Composer, Gavin Higgins, will complete the fresh and colourful repertoire. During the Prom from Cardiff, Gavin Higgins will be announced as the new Composer in Association for BBC NOW; a three-year tenure which will see him work closely with the orchestra, its audiences, and different communities across Wales. Gavin Higgins said:

“The opportunity to work with an orchestra is always exciting, but so often your time with them is limited – an hour’s rehearsal then a concert. The chance to really get to know BBC NOW over the coming years, working closely with the players and Ryan Bancroft is a special privilege. I have a number of works buzzing away in the back of my mind, including a large-scale piece that would engage with the local brass band community in Wales with whom I already have a rich and fulfilling relationship.

I think music has helped people so much through the past six months and making sure the public has access to it, at every level, should be our priority but also continuing to put forward the case as to why it’s such an important and integral part of our culture is also needed now more than ever. I’m so looking forward to getting to know the audiences and can’t wait to start working with this amazing orchestra.”

It will also be announced that Sarah Lianne Lewis is to become BBC NOW’s Composer Affiliate. As a composer and singer, Sarah also runs educational workshops for schools, focussing on enhancing creativity and classroom composition, and leads vocal and musicianship skills masterclasses for amateur musicians. She will work with BBC NOW to inspire and encourage the next generation of performers, composers, and arts leaders. Sarah Lianne Lewis said:

“I’m totally thrilled to become a part of the BBC NOW family. As a child one of my earliest memories of attending an orchestral concert was watching BBC NOW perform in Aberystwyth’s Great Hall as part of their annual season tour. After university, my first piece for symphony orchestra, ‘Chiaroscuro’, was performed by the orchestra in 2012 as part of their Welsh Composers’ Showcase.

I’ve loved how the orchestra has encouraged and engaged young people in music-making over the years, and I’m excited that working with the orchestra in the community will be a part of my role. I’m also looking forward to being embedded with orchestra, writing for the incredible musicians, and learning from the different departments. It’s a privilege – particularly at this uncertain time – to have a position like this, and I hope that I’ll be able to inspire and support other creatives through this role.”

Audiences will be able to watch this Prom live on BBC iPlayer. It will also be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio Cymru on Tuesday 8th September from 7.30pm and broadcast on BBC Two Wales on Saturday 12th September at 5.30pm.

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