Meet Laura Sinnerton and Daniel Trodden, two members of the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales who happen to be a married couple. Emma Way uncovers their shared musical journey, from teaching each other instruments during lockdown to their roles in BBC NOW’s community engagement ahead of the orchestra’s new season.
When I find myself opposite two members of the BBC National Orchestra Of Wales – principal tuba Daniel Trodden and violist Laura Sinnerton, a married couple to boot – one September morning, both explain the interconnected nature and importance of an orchestra and their community role. Memorably, both taught each other their assigned instruments over lockdown, documented over the course of entertaining social media instalments.
“The orchestra spends so much time going into schools and hospitals,” says Sinnerton – also a teacher – after describing a scheduled performance specifically aimed at students sitting GCSE and A-levels, coinciding with the nationwide music education curriculum. This is just one fragment of the orchestra’s expansive, varied 2023-24 season, announced in August and which includes the orchestra’s first Artist-In-Association, South African cellist Abel Selaocoe.
Trodden has been coming to watch the Orchestra, often known as BBC NOW, since he was young. “I studied Grace Williams at GCSE. She’s been a leading light in Wales, orchestral composition-wise, for a long time. I remember growing up in Cardiff and coming to see the orchestra as a kid. [They were] performing those composers – Grace Williams, Morfydd Llwyn Owen – before it was fashionable to.” In early November, BBC NOW will pay homage to Williams, much of whose work disappeared after her death in 1977.
Both members appreciate the interest taken in the orchestra. “Let’s face facts, money’s tight,” Sinnerton tells me. “There are a lot of entertainment sources vying for our attention, but I also think there comes a time where you have to trust your audience – trust that they will be adventurous.” Classical music performance, like other areas of live music, has been impacted in Wales of late by lockdown and the UK having left the EU – yet BBC NOW strives to improve accessibility through £5 tickets for students and people under 25; new and old audiences both celebrated and appreciated for a simple love of song.
While speaking with Daniel and Laura, both musicians’ enthusiasm for orchestral composition is instantly evident. When I ask Trodden what she’s especially looking forward to this year, an admiration for Arnold Schoenberg is almost mutual. “The piece I’m most looking forward to playing this year is Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht. It’s this extraordinary work for string orchestra. It’s like proper gothic romance: it tells the story of this couple walking in the woods at night, and their relationship crumbles and comes back together within the scope of this singular walk.”
As well as performing annually at the BBC Proms and BBC Cardiff Singer Of The World, the Orchestra works closely with a number of local schools, charities and organisations throughout Wales. One such collaboration is their work with the Glamorgan Cricket team and local primary schools, combining elements of sound, music and movement. “It’s the National Orchestra Of Wales, so we’ve got to do all that stuff – it’s in our blood!” Trodden says.
St David’s Hall in Cardiff, purpose-built in the early 1980s for classical performance and one of BBC NOW’s regular venues ever since, announced its temporary closure in early September due to the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) within the hall. The venue would have held the orchestra’s season opening on Thurs 5 Oct; as it is, a reworked programme of Robert Schumann and Gustav Mahler will be held at BBC Hoddinott Hall in the Wales Millennium Centre. “The season opener is a lovely way for us to be able to welcome back our audience, old and new, and from previous seasons, inviting them to join us on the journey for the season ahead,” says Sinnerton.
BBC NOW Season Opening Concert, Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff Bay, Thurs 5 Oct.
Tickets: £5/FREE under-16s. Info: here
Further BBC NOW concerts take place on Thurs 19 Oct and Thurs 2 Nov.
words EMMA WAY