The experience of performing in Cardiff’s concert halls23 May 2022
Cardiff University offers a wide range of musical ensembles to perform with, from large orchestras, to jazz bands, to solo recitals. Should you be classically inclined with your instrumental or choral interests, you could get the opportunity to perform in some of Cardiff’s grandest concert venues. You do not need to be a music student, and you could even go along as part of the audience should you wish to go and support your friends performing at the venue. These opportunities are not limited to university run ensembles as there are a number of local and student run orchestras that welcome new players too. The two main concert halls in Cardiff are the BBC Hoddinott Hall and St. David’s Hall, both being specially designed for classical concerts and recordings. Other venues include Llandaff cathedral to the north, near Cardiff Metropolitan University, the Royal Welsh and Cardiff University concert halls, and a plethora of local churches both in Cardiff and Penarth. Should your ensemble go on tour or to a national competition, other performance spaces will obviously subsequently be available.
Briefly covering the smaller venues before focussing on the large concert halls, let’s first have a look at Llandaff Cathedral. I have played here with what was Cardiff University Chamber Orchestra, performing with solo vocalists and an accompanying choir to an audience of around 100 members. The architecture of the building is beautiful, with the large open spaces and hard stone walls creating a booming and awesome sound whenever the full brass played. It is a half an hour walk from the centre of Cathays though a bus option to about 5 minutes away from the premises is available, before ascending a little trail to the moderately hidden cathedral itself, though you will see the spire from miles away.
Now going to the furthest major venue in the city, the BBC Hoddinott Hall lies within the Millennium Centre located in Cardiff Bay. Specially constructed to have amazing acoustics for recordings and live performances, this hall has become the home of the BBC National Orchestra and Chorus of Wales since 2009. I have played here on several occasions with Cardiff University Symphony orchestra and Symphonic Winds and have nothing but praise for the sound quality. When playing and when in the audience, you can hear the ensemble as a whole whilst also being able to pick out each individual part. The distance to the hall means that a shuttle train or bus is recommended though the walk is possible in around 40/45 minutes.
Finally, for the largest venue in the city, St. David’s Hall is located in the centre of town, as part of the shopping centre of the same name, 5 minutes away from the castle. With a seating capacity of 1,500, this hall has the potential for the largest audience you might receive playing in a Cardiff Orchestra in the city, short of a gig at the Motorpoint arena, Millennium Stadium or outdoors concert in a park. The Hall itself is beautiful, though it is very easy to get lost in all the winding passages backstage. For any instrumentalist or singer who wishes continue their passion at university, I would highly recommend joining one of the larger ensembles that can provide you with such fantastic performance opportunities.