Flags are flying high for Welsh soprano
Catrin Aur believes the colour and excitement of Proms concerts bring new audiences to classical music. Nigel Powlson caught up with her.
SINGER Catrin Aur will be keeping an eye out for a Welsh flag or two at De Montfort Hall when she arrives in Leicester for the pomp and spectacle of a Proms-style concert.
The soprano from West Wales will join the London Concert Orchestra for a feast of patriotic anthems and classical favourites and hopes to see a few reminders of her homeland amongst the sea of Union Jacks.
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She says: "People always seem to know I'm from Wales and get out the Welsh flags when I come on."
Catrin loves the buzz of excitement created by the Last Night of the Autumn Proms Concerts and believes such events are vital in bringing new audiences to classical music and opera.
A programme of familiar music, a licence for the audience to get involved and a feeling of celebration all make the events immensely popular.
Catrin says: "The atmosphere is absolutely incredible. Everybody gets so into it all.
"I think people can get intimidated by classical music and think it's not for them. I have been brought up with a background of folk music so I know all about that as I was one of them, before I went into opera.
"But when you start singing it, you quickly realize that it is for everybody. It can be hard to break those barriers down and persuade people that it's not an elitist thing. The Proms-style concerts are a way of doing that and are introducing more people to classical music."
The Leicester programme includes Verdi's Brindisi from La Traviata; Elgar's Chanson de Matin; Sousa's Liberty Bell March; Pachelbel's Canon and Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty Waltz as well as Proms essentials such as Nessun Dorma, Jerusalem, Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia!
The concert is being staged by impresario Raymond Gubbay.
Catrin says: "You get the quality there – from Elgar to Italian opera – but they are all well known tunes and I know these concerts open the doors for people to go to more classical music or operas events.
"I have a lot of friends who aren't in the music business who have come to see me and they have been surprised at how involved and moved by it all they are."
Catrin is following in the footsteps of the likes of Bryn Terfel by moving from the traditions of the Welsh Eisteddfod into a professional opera career. In 2009, she won the Towyn Roberts Scholarship at the National Eisteddfod of Wales, represented the UK in the final rounds of the Montreal International Singing Competition and was named Young Welsh Singer of the Year.
She got her first professional contract at Glyndebourne and recently made her debut for Mid Wales Opera.
She was brought up surrounded by music but is the first member of her family to pursue a professional singing career.
She says: "My dad and grandfather were both very good amateur singers. I come from a family with a big tradition of chapel singing. Music is important where I come from but is taken a bit for granted.
"You also have to go to Cardiff really to see opera so the opportunities aren't there. That's one of the good things about this Proms tour; it goes to a lot of places that usually miss out on this kind of thing."
Catrin is full of praise for Raymond Gubbay, whose classical concert and opera events are commercially successful in a world that often needs public funding to survive.
She says: " He doesn't lose the standard but taps into what the public wants – you can't knock it. I was very lucky that he heard me singing a few years ago and he's been a great friend and mentor since. It's back to what I said about opening doors for people. That's what he does and then he throws in things that are a bit different, which opens people's eyes a bit.
"I think he basically puts on things he likes.
"He's a big fan of music, he knows what he enjoys and he has definitely hit on a winning formula."
Catrin also says that the Proms concerts are as enjoyable for the performers as they are for the audience.
"All the concerts are great fun. Because you get so much back from the concert-goers," she says. "It's almost overwhelming. You get this warmth coming from the audience.
"You just have to go 'wow' – it's such excitement and when the flags start going bonkers as well, then it really is something else."
Last Night of The Autumn Proms: De Montfort Hall, , November 17, 7.30pm.Tickets from £18 to£31.50. To book, call 0116 233 3111, go to www.demontforthall.co.uk or visit www.raymondgubbay.co.uk.