This week would have seen Priority Booking launch for our Autumn / Winter season. We can't wait to get back to hosting concerts again at WMC; in the meantime, we sat down with James Slater, WMC's Artistic Director, to talk about his WMC memories and what he's looking forward to about reopening...

Do you remember the first concert you heard at WMC?

Absolutely, as it was total unforgettable! On Wednesday 25th September 2013 (just one day ahead of starting my new job as Artistic Director, and having very recently returned from sailing a 100-year old Bristol Pilot Cutter as crew with a friend from Stornoway to Swansea) I arrived at WMC to hear the Britten Sinfonia with Mark Padmore in a stunning performance of Finzi’s Dies Natalis. What an introduction, and just about the best way to experience WMC at it’s best. I could not contain my smiles at the prospect of getting properly stuck in.

Dies Natalis, Op.8: II. Rhapsody: Recitativo stromentato

What makes a season opening night special?

Every WMC season is special and the result of many months of careful planning, discussion and exploring ideas with artists, agents and friends. The opening night of the season is the moment when it all comes to life. We serve lots of different audiences and communities at WMC but opening night always bring together the staff team, our fantastic volunteers and audiences, and of course our wonderful visiting artists in a very particular way. So for me there is always a heavy sense of anticipation and the hope of getting things off to a flying start.

What makes WMC special as venue for music?

Look in the eyes of any visiting artist or group performing on the WMC stage and you will hopefully see that they are very comfortable in their surroundings. This has a great deal to do with the excellent acoustics and the feel of the Auditorium and venue as whole, but just as much to do with how they are looked after from the minute they arrive by our highly committed staff team and volunteers. We then have our concert-goers to thank for making the live interaction in the moment so electric, as you can’t have great music without great audiences.

What has to happen behind the scenes to make a WMC concert a success?

The music business is built on a network of personal relationships between lots of different sorts people with a wide range of skills who are committed to being part of something special, which in turn has the ability to transport us to extraordinary places and bring us closer together. Every part of the system is closely interlinked and relies on everyone having the highest standards in what they do, whether they are one of the administration team, technical crew, or a seasoned performer. When everyone and everything works together at their best it’s incredibly satisfying and hugely rewarding to be part of the team.

What are you most looking forward to about coming back to WMC?

This is honestly impossible to answer. WMC is not just one thing, it is many things to many people. Part of my personal journey at the Centre has been to take greater pleasure in supporting and enabling the success and achievements of others. This can be done on so many levels and in so many ways, but it all comes back (and particularly at this time) to how we can individually and collectively make our communities happier and richer. It is just as important to me that WMC is able to welcome through its doors some of the finest artists in the world, as it is to support and encourage the enjoyment of music and music-making for people of all ages and backgrounds in our community. The Centre, like society at large, is just starting to ease out of lockdown and as we do so I hope there will be an even great understanding and appreciation of the vital role that the arts and organisations like WMC  play in bringing people and communities together in powerful ways.