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REVIEW #1; Last Night of the Welsh Proms St David's Hall, Cardiff.

Byline: Peter Collins

THE flags waved, the confetti floated in the air and we all belted out the Welsh National Anthem.

And so came to an end another Last Night of the Welsh Proms, that ever-popular fixture in the musical calendar of Wales.

This year's concert was also a celebration of the 70th birthday of its founder, Owain Arwel Hughes, above, who has lost none of his enthusiasm for the week-long extravaganza and the last night in particular.

The familiarity of the Last Night format is part of its appeal, with audience participation in Gareth Wood's Fantasy on Welsh Songs, Hughes' amusing banter and the patriotic flag-waving all part of the fun.

Hughes conducted the whole affair with his usual flamboyance, coaxing from the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera a thoroughly professional performance, shot through with fun and evident joy.

In these difficult days, the music was largely geared towards evoking emotions of determination, inspiration and a Dunkirk spirit to see things through to the end.

Take, for instance, John Ireland's Epic March, composed at the height of World War ll and first heard at the Proms in London in 1942. This stirring piece was given a rousing interpretation by Hughes and the orchestra and set the tone for the evening, which included Johann Strauss' Radetzky March and William Walton's Crown Imperial.

Both swelled the hearts of the audience, a mood that was heightened at the beginning of the second half with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No 1 (Land of Hope and Glory).

After we had all sung Mae Hen Wlad fy Nhadau, one was left to reflect on the contribution this one week in summer has made to the musical life of the nation and whether it could continue without Hughes at the helm.

Perhaps not. But he clearly has a lot more to give and we can look forward to many more years of this splendid celebration.

Peter Collins
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 30, 2012
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