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Youth & Community in Dubai

14 March 2019

Following a successful trip with the full company in 2017, WNO’s Youth & Community team returned to Dubai this month, in partnership with British Council UAE, to deliver a series of workshops and masterclasses with local schools, community choirs, and young musicians from the Centre for Musical Arts.

With instruments and voices in tow, four members of WNO Orchestra, three Y&C team members, two professional singers and one repetiteur made the 4,000 mile journey from Cardiff all the way to Downtown Dubai to say Shwmae once again to the Dubai Opera House.

The trip began with our Community Singing Masterclass, where WNO vocal animateur Kate Woolveridge and repetiteur Nicki Rose were joined by talented and enthusiastic participants from the local community. They quickly mastered Mozart’s Laudate Dominum and the world famous Habanera from Bizet’s Carmen (which forms a part of WNO’s 2019/2020 Season), and to their excitement, got to perform alongside Kate and Stacey Wheeler (WNO Chorus), an opportunity that doesn’t come around often. The session ended with praise, selfies and a few turns on the WNO virtual reality headsets, Magic Butterfly

The team then launched into three days of schools workshops. Themed around ‘Opera Magic’, Kate Woolveridge gave a whistle-stop tour of Mozart’s The Magic Flute with special emphasis on the musical landscape, its story and themes and a brief background of the composer. The score was brought to life by WNO instrumentalists Steven Crichlow, Roger Cutts, Sarah Bennington, Johnny Helm and Nicki Rose. During the workshops, the children had the opportunity to take a closer look at the instruments, learn about the orchestra and working as part of a team within the orchestra and had the opportunity to ask questions (one of our favourites being ‘why is the trombone so bendy?’). In addition to this, they had the opportunity to hear Stacey Wheeler perform the familiar Queen of the Night aria, Der Hölle Rache from The Magic Flute, which she performed one day at 8am!

As part of British Council’s UK / UAE legacy programme, we met over 250 school children in total, aged 6-11 from nine different local schools and learning centres. We’ve had fantastic feedback so far, including this lovely comment from The Manzil Centre: 

Students had a wonderful time today. The Welsh National Opera Workshop team were amazing and had our students engrossed in the activities. Students returned to school all excited to share their experience. Thank you so much for giving our students an opportunity of being a part of such an amazing show.

The final part of our trip was working closely with the Centre for Musical Arts in Dubai. Housed at Dubai Opera House, we brought together around 60 young musicians, many of who had never played in an ensemble before, to form an orchestra. Conducted by Steven Crichlow and supported by Sarah Bennington, Nicki Rose, Roger Cutts and Johnny Helm, the budding musicians learnt four orchestral pieces, which culminated in a final performance (featuring live opera singers) in the Dubai Opera Studio to a big crowd of supporters. 

A fantastic few days! Thanks to the Welsh National Opera team for being such an inspiration to the students – as well as the teachers.

Brian Cunningham, Centre for Musical Arts

We had a brilliant time in Dubai and hope to continue #connectingcultures again soon.