Page last updated at 08:24 GMT, Sunday, 11 October 2009 09:24 UK

Orchestra tunes up to go it alone

The Welsh Sinfonia with the Cross Keys Choral Society
The Welsh Sinfonia largely accompanied choirs for 20 years

An orchestra which has spent 20 years accompanying choirs is to take centre stage by becoming a fully professional chamber ensemble.

The Welsh Sinfonia is marking the change of direction with a series of concerts, with the first in Cardiff University Concert Hall later.

Conductor Mark Eager said he hoped the smaller orchestra would be able to take classical music to all parts of Wales.

He also aims to make orchestra music more attractive to young people.

For the past two decades the Welsh Sinfonia has largely been an accompanying orchestra, only doing the odd concert on its own.

But it is now taking to the spotlight alone with a series of four concerts called The Spirit of the Dance, which explores the relationship between dance and music.

Mark Eager
A lot of classical music is not getting out to everyone in Wales
Mark Eager

Each concert will last for about an hour, which Mr Eager said should make them more attractive to younger people and those with "busy lives".

He also said the inclusion of the Debbie Chapman Dance Troupe in the first concert would bring added appeal.

Mr Eager, who is also the orchestra's artistic director, said he believed Wales needed an alternative to the larger orchestras like the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the Welsh National Opera.

"The difference between our orchestra and those is size," said Mr Eager, who used to play principal trombone with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and is also conductor of Cardiff University Orchestra.

"We're a smaller ensemble with a core of 15 strings, which we supplement with other instruments. It comes down to intimacy.

"We rely much more on the personalities of every player. Because of that, there's an intimacy with the audience, especially as the venues we play are a lot smaller."

Easy to travel

He said the fact there was only a small number of professional musicians involved in the orchestra meant it could travel all over the country.

"We're looking at touring and our size means we can go to venues in mid and west Wales where they might not usually get this sort of music," he said.

"A lot of classical music is not getting out to everyone in Wales."

The orchestra has received funding from the Arts Council of Wales for its series of concerts, which will take place on Sunday afternoons over the next few months along with question and answer sessions with Mr Eager and the musicians.

Mr Eager said he hoped the orchestra, which is run as a charity, would eventually link up with music students at the Royal Welsh Institute of Music and Drama, Cardiff, to give them opportunities to play.

The Spirit of the Dance, concert 1, is on Sunday, 11 October at 1630 BST at Cardiff University Concert Hall.

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