Stephen Bell is a man on a musical mission. As Associate Conductor of the acclaimed Hallé Pops series, his aim is to bring classical music to as wide an audience as possible, including many first timers.
It’s a mission shared by everyone in the internationally-renowned Hallé – which is bringing all its musical magic to this year’s Lytham Proms Festival.
The ensemble of top symphonic talent will perform for the crowds on the green on the Sunday evening Last Night of the Proms on August 3.
And, in a special move to reach new and younger audiences, children and teenagers aged 16 and under can go free.
The Hallé’s picnic concert at Lytham Proms will also feature the UK’s leading musical star Michael Ball, as well as Britain’s most popular soprano, Lesley Garrett; classically-trained singer and X Factor finalist Rhydian Roberts; the first lady of West End musicals, Kerry Ellis, and one of the most exciting male vocal groups around, Tenors of Rock – all accompanied by the award-winning Hallé.
Now in its 156th season, the Hallé ranks among the UK’s top classical orchestras.
From its Manchester base, it prides itself on introducing young people to its work and the enchanting world of classical music.
Stephen said: “I would urge people who’ve perhaps never come to a classical concert before to come along and enjoy the experience.
“We know they’ll have a fantastic time!
“We encourage people of all ages, especially young people, to come and enjoy the fabulous sound of the Hallé.
“At Lytham Proms we’ll be playing a range of well-known pieces, including film themes and other popular pieces.
“People who come for the first time are often surprised by how much they enjoy it.
“Classical music has a wide appeal and we can promise them a spectacular evening with a fabulous picnic concert in a beautiful setting.
“Ending with a dazzling fireworks display to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Lytham Proms, it promises to be a real night to remember!”
He explained the orchestra’s mission to reach out to new and younger audiences.
“The Hallé has a broad and diverse programme of education projects, which includes working with individual classes, taking the whole orchestra into schools across the North West, and an entire series of concerts at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester specifically for schools,” he said.
“There are also concerts where every seat – nearly 2,000 per concert – is packed with children, who bring their own instruments and play along with pieces they have worked on.
“It’s a great experience.”
Stephen, who also has strong North West links, as he was born in Bury, said: “It is always important for us to be aiming at new audiences and giving as many people as possible the chance to hear our music.
“The breadth and variety of music we play – everything from classical masterpieces to opera and movie themes – is very important.”
He added: “With modern technology, all types of music are so instantly available through various apps and websites, it is now easier than ever to introduce young people to our full range of music.
“I think that it’s vital for young people – the younger the better – to come into contact with live orchestral music and even get the chance to play an instrument.
“It’s always good for people of all ages to know more about our own country’s musical heritage.
“There is no substitute for the real thing - a live orchestra.
“Often when we have performed a film soundtrack, for example, there is a sudden realisation that what the young people hear on the soundtrack is actually created by a group of living musicians.
“There is also that fine line between giving an audience what they want to hear and are familiar with and encouraging them to discover new composers and styles, which they come away from thinking ‘that was great’.”
Looking ahead to the big fifth anniversary gala night at Lytham Proms, he said: “Our programme for this event will be a mix of popular classics with lighter items.
“There will be some film music, together with our line up of fantastic artists performing some great pieces.
“There’s sure to be a wonderful atmosphere. ”
When it comes to outdoor summer events, like Lytham Proms, he continued: “The whole experience is relaxed, with an informal setting with friends and a good picnic, together with a lovely seaside setting.
“We just need the good, old British weather to deliver!”