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.
Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’
THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.
The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.
The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.
Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.
These stages include:
· The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK
· Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets
· Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine
· Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.
· The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.
Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.
As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.
Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.
People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.
There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.
The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.
The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.
“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.
“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.
“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.
“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”
Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.
“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:
· The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen
· How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed
· Who the first recipients will be
· How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures
“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.
“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”
Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution.
Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.
Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.
“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”
Pubs closed and fined for breaching Covid-19 rules
TWO licensed premises in Carmarthenshire have been handed £1,000 fines for staying open beyond the current 10.20pm closing time.
The operators of the Coopers Arms in Betws and Betws RFC were issued with the fixed penalty notices for breaching the current Covid-19 regulations.
Around 200 licensed venues have been visited by Carmarthenshire County Council officers in the last fortnight to check for compliance with regulations and to offer necessary advice.
As well as issuing two FPNs, the council has had to take action to close three premises where there were significant shortfalls in measures to ensure the safety of their customers.
They were the Biddulph Arms in New Street, Llanelli; the Greenfield Inn, Llanelli, and the Wheaten Sheaf in Abergwili.
They will now have to demonstrate a range of improvements before being allowed to re-open.
Several other premises have been served improvement notices, and will be re-visited, but the vast majority of businesses are operating well and have been commended for their efforts.
Council officers will continue making proactive visits to licensed and business premises, particularly offering support in light of new restrictions on the hospitality industry coming into force in Wales at 6pm on Friday, December 4.
The new regulations will mean pubs, restaurants and cafes cannot serve alcohol and will have to close to customers by 6pm, only being permitted to stay open later for takeaways of food or non-alcoholic drinks.
Cinemas, bowling alleys, bingo halls, museums and galleries must also close from Friday.
Cllr Philip Hughes, Executive Board Member for public protection and enforcement, said: “This is an exceptionally difficult time for our hospitality industry, in particular in light of the new regulations that come into force on Friday.
“Our officers have been working incredibly hard to support the industry and I want to thank the majority of businesses for making every effort to look after their customers and staff.
“That said, it has been disappointing to see a small number either recklessly or purposely ignoring the rules and by doing so, putting their customers at risk.
“We have made it very clear from the start that where we see premises falling significantly short of the standards, and where there are premises that are not operating within the rules, we will not hesitate to take action – make no mistake about it.
“As well as ensuring customers can meet and socialise safely, we must also ensure a level playing field for all businesses – most of which are trying hard to meet the regulations.”
There are serious concerns about the spread of Covid-19 in Carmarthenshire, with local hospitals and care homes now heavily impacted.
Welsh Government regulations make it clear that social gatherings should be minimised.
Hospitality venues, including licensed premises such as pubs, clubs and restaurants, must ensure that customers can safely social distance at all times and strict cleansing routines must be in place.
People can meet in maximum groups of four, but if they are from different households every effort should be made to support social distancing.
Table service must be provided, with no customers allowed to congregate around the bar. Customers must remain seated, and wear a face covering at all times other than when they are seated.
Contact details of all customers must be checked and recorded as part of Test, Trace, Protect procedures.
Any business owner or landlord unsure of the rules is urged to check they know and understand the regulations – they are available online at www.gov.wales.
Further information, advice about steps to take and free downloadable resources are available on www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales where businesses can also sign up to receive regular business news updates.
Jail for man who live streamed himself speeding and dangerous driving
A MAN who live streamed himself on Facebook while speeding and driving dangerously has been jailed.
Justin Dean Jones, of Panteg in Llanelli, filmed himself driving at grossly excessive speeds and racing other cars on a number of occasions over the summer.
He then posted the videos to Facebook, which were sent to the Go Safe Road Harm and Casualty Reduction Enquiry Team by a concerned member of the public.
Dyfed-Powys Police PC Roger Jones investigated three videos filmed between July 2 and July 14, which clearly showing Jones using his mobile phone to film himself at the wheel.
The footage showed him speeding in a Vauxhall Astra and a BMW X5 in a 30mph zone on Glyncoed Road, Llandafen Road and Gelli Road in Llanelli, and reaching speeds of up to 120mph on the A484 Loughor link road, while overtaking other drivers.
In one video, the 30-year-old was seen overtaking other vehicles on pedestrian crossings in broad daylight, putting road users at a significant risk of harm.
Jones, who was holding the phone in one hand while driving, can be heard on the videos boasting about the performance of the vehicle.
As members of Road Safety Support (RSS), Go Safe sought the help of Steve Callaghan, the not-for-profit company’s forensic video analyst, to examine the footage.
Mr Callaghan conducted a thorough review of the evidence and was able to calculate the exact speeds that were driven in the incidents.
Jones was charged with three counts of dangerous driving, and was sentenced to 25 months in prison. He was also disqualified from driving for 62 months.
An anti-social behaviour destruction order has also been granted for the Astra and the BMW and is pending.
Sergeant Ian Price, of Go Safe, said: “The sentence of just over two years in prison and a five year ban from driving shows the high risk he poses to other road users.
“It is a clear message that this type of behaviour is unacceptable and ensures the removal of a dangerous driver from society and we hope that it gives him enough time to reflect on his actions in prison.
“We would like to thank Road Safety Support for helping us in this matter and ensuring this individual is no longer a danger to society over the next two years.”
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