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BBC National Orchestra appoints new Principal Guest Conductor

Thomas Sinclair

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 Xian Zhang has been appointed as Principal Guest Conductor

Xian Zhang has been appointed as Principal Guest Conductor

BBC National Orchestra & Chorus of Wales today announce that the conductor Xian Zhang has been appointed as Principal Guest Conductor, with effect from 1 September 2016 for an initial three year period.

Xian Zhang said: “I’m so excited to be working with BBC National Orchestra of Wales; they are a fantastic group of musicians who genuinely love making music, and are a natural team. They have some exceptional qualities that have really impressed me. The first thing we ever worked on together was Ravel’s Bolero, it was so precise, with the right colour and texture – I was really speechless after the first reading! Under the strong leadership of Lesley Hatfield, the musicians rehearse in such a disciplined manner that is not often seen. It’s a great pleasure to make music with them and I very much look forward to further developing our relationship in my new role with BBC NOW.”

Michael Garvey, Director, BBC NOW told The Herald: ‘“I am thrilled to be welcoming Xian Zhang to the BBC NOW family as Principal Guest Conductor –bringing yet another exceptional artist to work with us, continuing our commitment to artistic excellence across Wales and further afield. Our recent concerts with her, in Swansea and the BBC Proms, were so energised, balanced and refined; we knew that an appointment would be the perfect fit. We look forward to seeing her back in Cardiff in September.”

During Zhang’s three-year appointment, she will conduct the orchestra in annual concerts at BBC Hoddinott Hall, St David’s Hall and Brangwyn Hall, with repertoire featuring Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, Rimsky Korsakov and Berlioz in her first season. BBC NOW will also perform at the BBC Proms under Zhang’s baton during her tenure and embark on an ‘On the road’ tour around Wales.

On Sept 27, 2016 Zhang conducts her inaugural concert at BBC Hoddinott Hall in Cardiff, with a programme featuring Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 4 and Barber’s Violin Concerto, with Chloë Hanslip as soloist. Further highlights of Zhang’s 2016-2017 season include a performance at a prominent welsh music festival and a collaboration with Chinese composer Qigang Chen.

Proms history was made when Marin Alsop became the first woman to conduct the world famous Last Night of the Proms in 2013, and there is a growing wealth of female conductors regularly performing at the BBC Proms and working with the BBC’s orchestras. Xian Zhang will be the first female conductor to have a titled role with a BBC orchestra when she becomes BBC NOW’s Principal Guest Conductor next year.

Rhodri Talfan Davies, Director, BBC Wales, commented: ‘“BBC NOW have had an incredible year, and to top it off we are now announcing this exciting appointment. I’m confident that alongside Principal Conductor Thomas Søndergård, and our dedicated musicians, Xian’s creative input will ensure many more memorable moments in the coming seasons.”

Alan Davey, Controller, BBC Radio 3 said: “Following her stunning performance at this year’s BBC Proms in July, I’m delighted we have booked Xian Zhang for BBC NOW. She is a talented conductor who can bring her passion to bear at an artistically exciting time for the orchestra. The BBC Performing groups are in rude health and their role in the BBC Radio 3 family is essential, where they form the backbone of our concert broadcasts. I’d like to welcome Xian Zhang, and look forward to hearing her first BBC NOW concerts with us.”

Born in Dandong, China, Xian Zhang made her professional debut conducting The Marriage of Figaro at the Central Opera House in Beijing at the age of 20. She trained at Beijing’s Central Conservatory, earning both Bachelor and Master of Music degrees before moving to the United States in 1998. She was appointed the New York Philharmonic’s Assistant Conductor in 2002, subsequently becoming their Associate Conductor and the first holder of the Arturo Toscanini Chair. Zhang has served as Music Director of the Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi since September 2009 and has recently been announced as the next Music Director of New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

A regular conductor with the London Symphony and Royal Concertgebouw orchestras, Zhang’s recent highlights include her return to the BBC Proms with BBC NOW, as well as performances with the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Gothenburg Symphony orchestras. This season, she debuts with the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and Orquesta y Coro Nacionales de España, and she returns to the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and Orchestre National de Belgique. Zhang continues to work frequently in North America; recent performances have included a week of Chinese New Year concerts with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. This season’s operatic performances include a return to English National Opera for La bohème and her debut with Den Norske Opera conducting La traviata in January. Following Zhang’s hugely successful production of Nabucco with Welsh National Opera in June 2014, which subsequently transferred to the Savonlinna Festival, she returns to the festival in summer 2016 to conduct Otello, marking her debut with the opera company itself.

Zhang frequently returns to her native China, where she is a regular conductor with the China Philharmonic, Beijing Symphony and Guangzhou Symphony and is a champion for Chinese composers. Working with young talented musicians continues to play a major part in Zhang’s life. She has held the position of Artistic Director of the NJO, Dutch Orchestra and Ensemble Academy since 2011, and this summer, she made a hugely successful debut with the European Union Youth Orchestra, conducting them in Grafenegg, Amsterdam, Berlin, Rheingau and Bolzano.

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Four charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs

Carli Newell

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FOUR people have been arrested and charged as part of an investigation into an organised crime gang supplying class A drugs from London to Aberystwyth, Llanelli and Swansea.

Dyfed-Powys Police, with support from The Met Police, carried out warrants at four addresses on July 21, resulting in four arrests.

Mohammed Osman, aged 23, Yonis Mohammed, aged 20, Salman Mohamoud, aged 23 – all from Islington – and Amy Simmons, aged 21, from Dulwich were charged with a total of 12 offences:

  • Mohammed Osman: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine,
  • Yonis Mohammed: Two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and two counts of conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.
  • Salman Mohamoud: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine
  • Amy Simmons: Conspiring to supply class A drug heroin, and conspiring to supply class A drug crack cocaine.

All four appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Friday, July 23, where they were remanded in custody. They are due to appear at Swansea Crown Court for their next hearing on August 20.

The investigation is being carried out by the Ceredigion Serious and Organised Crime Team, Aberystwyth CID and the Operation Orochi command of the Met Police.

Detective Sergeant Steve Jones said: “These four arrests and charges are the result of a coordinated approach to target an organised crime gang we believe is running a county lines operation into the Dyfed-Powys Police force area.

“We will continue to work diligently to disrupt gangs of this kind, to prevent the supply of illegal substances into our community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved, as well as the Met Police for their part in the operation.”

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New children’s play area in Bryn as part of new council housing development

Carli Newell

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A NEW children’s play area has opened in time for the summer holidays in Bryn, Llanelli as part of a new £5.9million council housing development.

Carmarthenshire County Council is building 32 new homes on land close to the Dylan housing estate in Bryn.

The scheme will be made up of 22 two-bedroom homes, four two-bedroom bungalows and six four-bedroom homes and is part of the council’s ongoing drive to deliver more affordable homes across the county. It has been part funded through the Welsh Government’s Affordable Housing Grant.

The development also includes a new children’s play area, funded by the council in partnership with Llanelli Rural Council, which will take over the running and maintenance of the play area on completion.

Executive Board Member for Housing Cllr Linda Evans said: “I am delighted the park has been completed in time for the summer holidays for the local children to enjoy.

“We are committed to delivering more affordable housing across Carmarthenshire and this development will benefit dozens of families in Llanelli, as well as proving much needed facilities for the local community.

“I would like to thank the rural council for collaborating with this us on this and I hope the children are thrilled with it.”

Before designing the play area, the rural council liaised with local schoolchildren to find out what play equipment they wanted at their new park.

Llanelli Rural Council Chairman Cllr Tegwen Devichand said: “The council is delighted to be working in partnership with Carmarthenshire County Council to provide this wonderful new play area for the community.

“The opening of the play area couldn’t have been better timed to coincide with the school holidays. I hope the local children will enjoy the range of challenging play equipment on offer and that they have lots of fun using it over the summer.”

The housing development is due to be completed by the beginning of 2022.

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Burry Port Harbour lighthouse overhaul tops council’s £2million investment

Carli Newell

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A £2MILLION investment in Burry Port Harbour is nearing completion, topped off with the iconic lighthouse getting a fresh lick of paint.

Carmarthenshire County Council is behind a range of improvements to maintain and restore the historic harbour which is one of the county’s most loved and well visited beauty spots.

Restoration of the Grade II listed harbour walls, undertaken under the guidance of CADW, will conclude within the next few weeks.

The council has also been working alongside The Marine Group, which operates the harbour, to improve mooring facilities. They are working closely with fishermen to bid for funding for new commercial pontoon infrastructure.

It will add to investment made over previous years which saw the council spend almost £1.5million on new pontoons, and over £300,000 in maintaining the harbour railings and bridge.

A local operator has agreed a lease for a cafe and public toilets on east side of Harbour, and the refurbishment of the old RNLI harbour office has recently started by The Marine Group (TMG) to create a harbour-side coffee house.

TMG has also invested in a state-of-the-art dredger which arrived at the harbour last autumn. Dredging is well underway and will continue until targeted depths are reached.

Boat lifting equipment and new fuelling points are also planned.

The council has introduced community safety officers to patrol the harbour assisting tourists and local people during the summer months, especially to advise around Covid regulations, as part of a tourism hotspot plan to take care of issues such as parking, litter, street cleansing, enforcement and signage.

Temporary car parking surfacing has also been laid on the east side along with new pay and display facilities ahead of a wider multi-million regeneration plan that will transform the harbour with a mix of housing, commercial and leisure space covering around 13 acres of prime development site.

Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, Executive Board Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “We are proud of our continued investment in Burry Port Harbour. We are spending millions restoring and maintaining historic features that are much-loved by local people and visitors who come from far and wide to enjoy what the harbour has to offer.

“We continue to work closely alongside The Marine Group and Pembrey and Burry Port Town Council to plan and prioritise works and ongoing maintenance. We are as keen as everyone else to ensure it is well-maintained and continues to be a place people can enjoy.

“We appreciate that there has been some upheaval during these improvement works but we ask people to understand that our investment will make Burry Port Harbour an even better place for the future.”

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