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Cardiff character: Julian Bigg

Julian conducts the Royal Welsh Orchestra rehearsal for Bond at 50

His old teacher said a budding conductor needs two things: a degree in psychology and an iron constitution. After 30 years it seems Julian Bigg has both but he sees the start of his career a bit differently.


“Laziness,” was what appealed to him. “I liked playing in orchestras but I got bored quite quickly.” Even in his youth orchestra in Hemel Hempstead he showed interest in conducting. “I was listening to what was going on around me rather than my own thing. I wanted to be in charge of that.”

Apart from fundamental musicianship and the ability to read music very fast conducting is, according to Julian, all about communication. “You’re communicating, without words most of the time, with a large number of people some of whom may want to kill you.”

An illustrious career

Soon after graduating from the Royal Academy of Music in 1983, Julian was made Musical Director of Les Miserables in London. He held the same position on The Phantom of the Opera, Sunset Boulevard and Miss Saigon. “I’m very proud,” he asserts, “that I was the musical director for the most famous and long running shows in the West End, very early on in their lives.”

Julian has worked with hundreds of orchestras across the world including Australia, Sweden and South America and was Music Supervisor for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. From concerts, theatre, opera, ballet and recording sessions, he has mastered every style.

Joining the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama a couple of years ago, Julian is a musical theatre lecturer and takes great pleasure teaching the pressures of orchestral performance. “I felt that to mix the orchestral training with some of the other training was really important.”

For any aspiring conductors out there, Julian has an important piece of advice. “You have to watch people. You have to watch lots of conductors both in rehearsal and in concert.”

Bond at 50 was held in the beautiful Dora Stoutzker Hall at the RWCMD


Next to Julian is a huge pile of sheet music covered with scribbled annotations. With the concert Bond at 50 approaching, marking the release of James Bond’s Skyfall, he will have to run straight to rehearsal. It is his first time conducting the Royal Welsh Orchestra, his excitement is clear. “It’s such powerful music and it’s a very distinctive style. It is hard to play. You have to make a lot of noise.”

He was particularly intrigued by the opening sequence of Licence to Kill. “A fantastic piece of orchestral writing, it has all the Bond themes in it and the film is in Cuba so it’s got a lovely sense of Central-American style. That’s fun.”

The road ahead

Bond at 50 was hugely successful but with The Mystery of Edwin Drood at the end of December, a production of Shrek in Sweden starting rehearsal in February and continued work in Cardiff, the tireless conductor shows no sign of resting his baton hand.

And why would he? “I love pretty much everything I do, there’s nothing I’m ashamed of. If there is I’ve wiped it,” he grins.

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