By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
If you want the best live music in Wales, you’ve got to go to Cardiff. There’s everything from classical to rock to afrobeat to get you going. More of a theatre buff? Never fear. There’s everything from West End shows to circus performances.
Live music venues and performances
Flagship venues don’t get much better than the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), located in Cardiff Bay. The gleaming copper-coloured building provides a permanent home to the mother of Welsh cultural organisations, the Welsh National Opera, as well as the highly regarded National Dance Company of Wales. The stunning auditorium, the Donald Gordon Theatre, is just as renowned for its aesthetics as it is for its acoustics.
Many would argue that the auditorium at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (RWCMD) gives the WMC a run for its money. What’s more, the college overlooks Bute Park, one of the loveliest urban parks in the UK. Come here to see everything from piano recitals to a recreation of a 17th-century tavern, complete with sea shanties and Purcell overtures.
An eclectic mix of international artists have graced the RWCMD’s stage, including kora maestro Seckou Keita and innovative Welsh harpist Catrin Finch. The foyer hosts a free jazz concert – AmserJazzTime – every Friday evening during term time, and in summer the terrace overlooking the park is the perfect place for a leisurely glass of wine.
Classical music takes centre stage at St David’s Hall in the city centre, also the home of the Welsh Proms. Classical performances are staged in the evening and at lunchtime. Mozart’s Requiem and the Mavron Quartet rub shoulders with a variety of other performances, such as Scottish folksters Breabach, beguiling fiddle player Jackie Oates and guitar supremo Martyn Joseph.
Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), is a gleaming copper-coloured building that provides a permanent home to the mother of Welsh cultural organisations, the Welsh National Opera, as well as the highly regarded National Dance Company of Wales
The Vale of Glamorgan Festival celebrates contemporary classical music and is devoted entirely to the music of living composers. Held annually in September, it celebrated its half century in 2019. The festival’s prestige attracts an international line-up of artists to incredible venues throughout the Vale and Cardiff.
For more live music head to the Tramshed in the lively suburb of Grangetown. It’s a century-old, Grade 2-listed building, which was once the tram depot for West Cardiff. Hawkwind, blues legend Walter Trout, Kate Tempest, New Model Army, Napalm Death, Foo Fighters, Twin Atlantic, Pearl Jam and Sham 69 have all featured on the programme. The venue also houses an art gallery, dance studios, a café, and office space.
In addition to opera and dance, the Wales Millennium Centre stages large-scale West End productions such as the massive hit War Horse, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I, We Will Rock You and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Smaller theatres within the complex hold more intimate performances – plays, dance, comedy – and the foyer has a regular free concert for those who happen to be strolling through.
Cardiff’s New Theatre hasn’t been new for many years. With its Edwardian baroque architecture and its air of faded opulence, it has the stately grace of a dowager duchess. Its back catalogue of performing artists is impressive – Sarah Bernhardt, Anna Pavlova, Laurel and Hardy – while Harold Pinter’s play The Homecoming had its world premiere there in 1965. These days, it’s the place to catch touring productions, such as The Girl on the Train, An Inspector Calls and Peppa Pig’s Best Day Ever, plus big names such as Russell Brand, not to mention the annual panto.
The Sherman Theatre, on Senghenydd Road, is noted for its brave, artistic productions, partnerships and community works. Never afraid to push boundaries, the Sherman is the first producing theatre in Wales to see its work transferred to the National Theatre in London.
For a well-established, multi-functional arts venue that’s unafraid to stage the avant garde, take a trip to Chapter Arts Centre, in the suburb of Canton. Live performances of music, drama and dance are coupled with three cinemas and an art gallery. There’s also a bustling café bar that’s always humming with people of all ages, even toddlers.
At the other end of town, The Gate Arts and Community Centre, just off the bustling City Road, offers a wide range of facilities, including a 350-capacity performance theatre space, dance studio and art gallery.
The Gate Arts and Community Centre, just off the bustling City Road, offers a wide range of facilities, including a 350-capacity performance theatre space, dance studio and art gallery
Ever fancied running away with the circus? Head for NoFit State, the UK’s leading contemporary circus troupe. They’re based in a beautifully restored church on Four Elms Road, Adamsdown. In addition to regular performances, often staged in a Big Top in Cardiff Bay, NoFit State runs well-loved community projects and circus skills classes (including stag and hen dos with a difference – trapeze skills, anyone)?
Outside Cardiff, The Barry Memorial Hall & Theatre, popularly known as The Memo Arts Centre, is currently the largest multi-arts venue in the Vale of Glamorgan. A registered charity, it programmes a wide array of live events and films, as well as dementia-friendly screenings.
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