A WNO Community Chorus South Wales group of over 50 singers and 12 from the North Wales group has come together, virtually online, in the past couple of months with 30 members of Bristol’s Renewal Choir to work together on the Co-video programme with 60 then working on a digital performance being released before Christmas. Renewal Choir had been due to perform with WNO in our new opera Migrations this Autumn (which has now been postponed to 2021) and this project offered the opportunity for WNO and the Community Chorus to get to know each other a little better in the interim.
Both groups have brought their own speciality to the performance – opera and gospel – and taught their opposite numbers how to perform in each style. WNO Community Chorus is led, as always, by Kate Woolveridge with Kim Samuels leading her Renewal Choir singers.
In the opera ‘taster’ activities, the group learned Habanera from Carmen, with WNO Chorus member Meriel Andrew joining sessions to sing Micaela’s aria. French language coach Pierre Barlier also spoke to the group about how opera singers learn and perform in foreign tongues as well as training how to correctly speak the Habanera text.
The Renewal Choir then introduced the group to gospel song Rain Down. Producer Jennifer Hill tells us ‘The interesting thing with the gospel was actually learning totally by ear and memory which is quite challenging for anyone used to having printed music in front of them. Also, gospel is generally scored for soprano/alto and male part rather than Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Bass. In the warmup exercises with Renewal we also learned the ‘blues scale’ and a different ‘tone’ to the singing ‘
For the third piece in the project, the singers produced a festive version of O Holy Night. This particular arrangement of the much loved piece in the Christmas canon was picked as it offered a less traditional or straight-forward classical style of the piece, instead it’s more of a meeting between the two soundworlds of opera and gospel.
As a project delivered totally online, the Co-video project was particularly unusual because the participants had to learn everything ‘remotely’ with the choral leaders having no idea what the singers were actually sounding like at any given time, so it is quite amazing that a video and audio can be produced at the end! The recordings are all passed on to a sound and video engineer who edit all the audio and video recordings to create the final performance. Participants were able to reunite recently online to join in some more festive fun and a sneak preview of a little of the final completed version .