Archives for August 2012

James McLaren 1978-2012

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BBC Wales Music BBC Wales Music | 09:23 UK time, Wednesday, 8 August 2012

James McLaren, who worked as a journalist and assistant producer on the BBC Wales website, passed away yesterday at the age of 34.

He was enormously talented, hugely driven and an endlessly enthusiastic supporter of Welsh music, who will be well known to readers of this blog. This is a personal tribute from a colleague, manager and friend for over 15 years.

James McLaren

James McLaren

I first met James at Cardiff University in 1996. He was a rather earnest long-haired young fresher and I was in the year above, and we found a shared love of music which bordered on obsessiveness. His knowledge of music seemed to begin in 1990 and end in 1994, but boy could he remember the chart positions of those early Pearl Jam singles.

We spent many hours working on the student newspaper Gair Rhydd, which led to nascent careers in journalism. He went on to work for Big Issue Cymru and the Welsh Music Foundation (WMF) before joining the BBC in 2006.

At the WMF he edited Sound Nation, a free monthly magazine containing music industry news and advice for musicians, labels, gig promoters and fans. Wales' only national music magazine was an important source of information, and his energy and passion for his subject was authentic and relentless. He was a well-known figure in the Welsh music scene who forged close and enduring friendships with many local musicians.

When Sound Nation closed in December 2005 he was made redundant from the WMF. He spent just one day out of work before I called to offer him some freelance work. I knew that he had the skills and talent to really make a difference in our online team. He adapted quickly to moving from print to digital despite being a self-confessed technical dunce. He enjoyed reminding me that he had been the first person to show me how to use the web, in the days when AltaVista and Yahoo! were at the cutting edge of technology.

He worked across a broad range of websites, including history and nature, but music was his real passion. He took over the BBC Wales Music website and gave it new life, and worked with news and radio to find the best way to break stories or inform readers and listeners. He was bold and tenacious and never afraid to give his all in pursuit of a story, all admirable qualities in any journalist.

Outside of work his main passions were rock music, good food and fine wine. He lived in Cardiff with his girlfriend Cazz, and Juno and Ella, their two beloved Flat-Coated Retrievers.

Writing about James in the past tense is an odd experience, and the shock of losing him is still raw. Right now there's a desk to my left full of the detritus of modern office life: half-drunk coffee mugs, discarded newspapers, CDs and scrawled-upon Post-it notes. And it's filled with James' presence and spirit, which will outlast any physical memento. He will be greatly missed.

Only Boys Aloud sign to Sony

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James McLaren James McLaren | 12:17 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2012

Only Boys Aloud, the choral boy band from the south Wales valleys, have secured a UK album deal with major label Sony.

The group came third in this year's Britain's Got Talent (BGT), judged by Simon Cowell, who also has a business relationship with Sony.

Their as yet untitled début album will come out in November through Relentless/Sony. It follows over three million views of their BGT appearances on YouTube.

The choir's music director Tim Rhys Evans said: "The phenomenal Only Boys Aloud journey continues with this record deal, and we are all so excited to see what the Boys can do in the studio.

"I'm incredibly proud of what the Boys have achieved to date and confident that the passionate support we received from fans across the country will make the album a big hit.

"These are exciting times for all involved in the Aloud family, and the success is all underpinned by a great deal of hard work that goes on constantly in the background.

"This album deal is the result of the generous support of our great sponsors and the unstinting commitment and talent of the Boys' mentors and my colleagues in Only Men Aloud."

Only Boys Aloud and Only Men Aloud will perform tonight (3 August) at the opening concert of the National Eisteddfod in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Only Boys Aloud launched as part of The Valleys Heart and Soul campaign, a three year campaign which aims to raise awareness of the region as a tourist destination and bring long-term economic benefit to the area.

Let the Proms begin...

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Laura Sinnerton Laura Sinnerton | 11:15 UK time, Friday, 3 August 2012

The BBC Proms are the world's largest festival of classical music, and it is a great honour for us to be involved so heavily in the season each year.

Our first 2012 Prom came hot on the heels of our tour to China, and a full day's recording for a new children's show to be aired in the Autumn. It was quite a hefty programme, the first half comprising of Elgar's In The South and Hugh Wood's jazz inspired, and incredibly complex, Concerto for Piano. The second half was a watery event, dedicated to music inspired by the sea - Ravel's Une Barque Sur L'Océan, Prom founder, Henry Wood's orchestration of Debussy's La Cathédrale Engloutie, and Debussy's La Mer.

The programme was to be conducted by principal conductor, Thierry Fischer, who unfortunately had to withdraw last minute due to ill health - young British conductor Ryan Wigglesworth took the reins at short notice.

In The South was the first work by Elgar that I ever really liked. My little Irish heart somehow always bristled a little at the overt imperialism of the Pomp and Circumstance marches, and until I went to college, sadly, these were the only Elgar works I knew. I had yet to discover the turbulent angst of the Introduction and Allegro, the humour of the Enigma Variations, the imagination of works such as Cockaigne, and the glorious viola solo of In The South (on this occasion, beautifully and imaginatively played by principal viola, Goran Fröst). When we first played through the Wood Concerto for Piano, I knew we were in for some hard work! This is definitely one of those works that I would term a 'stressful' play. It is rhythmically very complex, and the writing gives you ample scope for coming in with an embarrassingly loud spare (when you play where you shouldn't). The viola part requires very dexterous playing, jumping around from the low register to the high register frequently and at speed. In short, it's one of those works that makes violists wish they had an E string.

Nonetheless, hats off to Mr Wigglesworth, whose businesslike approach and, in my opinion, clear beat, meant that, by the concert, everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing! It was also fabulous to work with Joanna MacGregor. Not only does she have amazing shoes, and impeccable hair, but surely, to get through that piano part, she must have four hands, or at least six fingers and two thumbs on each hand.

For me, the highlight of the concert was Debussy's La Mer. It isn't a work I've particularly enjoyed before (I've always had a love/hate relationship with playing French music), but on this occasion, I felt I could get beyond the little fidgety details and enjoy the music itself.

After the concert, it was back onto the coach for the drive back to Cardiff. One day off, and back into rehearsals for the next Prom.

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