A WNO Community Chorus South Wales group of over 70 singers have come together, virtually, in the last couple of months to sing together. In their second online project since March last year they have been working together with composer Michael Betteridge on a new piece called ‘Food with you’, as well as learning some classic choruses from popular operas.
‘This project broke new ground for the Community Chorus as it is the first time that the singers have had the opportunity to collaborate with a composer. Over the course of eight evening sessions, it has been great to see how enthusiastic they have been about the whole project including the creative process of generating material for a new work. During the eight weeks singers also had the opportunity to learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at WNO directly from WNO staff. Head of Touring Wardrobe Judith Russell and Head of Wigs and Makeup Sian McCabe demonstrated the huge amount of ‘unseen’ work that goes on behind the scenes back at base and during WNO’s extensive tours and Leader of the WNO Orchestra David Adams accompanied by Repetiteur Freddie Brown in a beautiful live performance as well as explaining what the role and responsibilities of being the leader of an opera orchestra entails. It was fantastic to share these insights with our singers and give them direct access to staff that normally would not be possible and for them to gain a better understanding of what it means to work for a national touring opera company.’ Jennifer Hill, WNO Producer.
On Wednesday 28 April, the group got to share their song and perform all their repertoire during an online event to invited guests. A range of WNO artists joined in with the entertainment including three WNO Chorus members, with Angharad Morgan singing Summertime from Porgy & Bess, Joe Roche singing Santa Lucia accompanying himself on the ukulele and Gareth Morris singing O Sole Mio, and Principal Trumpet Dean Wright with a performance of Granada, Principal Timpanist Patrick King led a brief percussion workshop (and showed off a magic trick) and Associate Artist, Aaron O’Hare, performed Fly me to the moon in an evening with a theme of ‘virtual travelling’ over Spring and Summer.
During the sharing one participant said the experience has improved her singing, ‘you’re able to see everyone’s faces instead of the back of people’s heads and I can sing loudly without worrying about putting people off around me.’
As a project delivered totally online, it is an interesting challenge for the Chorus, although they’ve had plenty of practice now with their first online project, Together I See. Kate Woolveridge, who led the group said during the final sharing, ‘I’ve felt like I’ve invited everyone into my home, it’s been lovely to get to know the participants on a more intimate level. They’ve also had to put up with my cup of tea and my dog Julian who loves to join in on the sessions.’
One chorus member said they were ‘Bowled over by this whole experience! Although I am a choral singer, I've never been involved in anything like this before. It's been great to being part of the process of composition and improvisation - both were way out of my comfort zone, but so good to have had an insight.’