Knight Crew - Youth opera in Sussex
PUBLISHED: 01:15 01 April 2010 | UPDATED: 17:00 20 February 2013
In September, Glyndebourne began a big search for new talent in Sussex. They were looking for singers for Knight Crew, a brand new youth opera. Gareth Malone, of BBC TV's The Choir, was chorus master...
Pictures: David Illman
Imagine being a teenage singer with dreams of performing on the big stage. Then imagine the excitement when one of the worlds leading opera houses said they were looking for people to appear in their latest performance and the results would appear on national television.
This is just what happened in Sussex this year. Glyndebourne went in search of young people for the chorus of Knight Crew, a brand-new opera specially commissioned for the community and young people.
The opera is a fresh take on the Arthurian legend based on a book of the same name by Brighton-based novelist Nicky Singer. The music was by Julian Philips, Glyndebournes first Composer-in-Residence.
Work began in 2007 when the piece was commissioned to be a full-length opera for six professional singers, youth and community participants and a full orchestra of professional and young players.
Katie Tearle, Head of Education at Glyndebourne, said that in keeping with the King Arthur theme they developed The Round Table Project, a programme of 20 participation workshops to recruit young people and the community to be in the opera as well as for a separate programme of work-related learning linked to a new Creative and Media Diploma focused on Knight Crew.
Katie said that rehearsals started in January and the young performers had given up an evening and every Saturday for weeks as well as most of their half-term holidays plus the week before the performance.
She said: Evenings and weekends have been given up to this project with a huge amount of support from parents and carers, teachers and youth workers enabling young people to develop skills and be part of what we hope will be a life-changing experience.
One of the rules of the Round Table was to seek after wonders and with this project we have certainly taken up the challenge of the quest.
David Pickard, the General Director of Glyndebourne said in his programme notes that the same amount of care had been taken on the community opera as on any other new commission.
He said: This is a production in which over 120 of the artists taking part are young people and adults drawn from our local community, and in all respects it has been treated with the same care and attention which any other new commission would receive on the Glyndebourne stage.
The planning of this immense project and the process of getting from first idea to first night is, of course, a thrilling and sometimes daunting experience.
Part of the challenge of the piece was the involvement of professionals with young inexperienced performers.
Bass Robert Winslade Anderson, one of the six professional opera singers involved, who played Mordec, the brother of Art (the King Arthur character), said it had been a learning experience on both sides.
I see myself sometimes when I look at the young people. They have limitless energy which has to be channelled.
I got an insight into who I was trying to be from them. I was trying to find the way to move to walk in the shoes of my character. In the rehearsals I observed the kids and I thought thats what I need to do and it worked.
We learn from them and they learn from us. It would be great if one of them was inspired to take up singing as a career after this.
Chorus master Gareth Malone and Youth Chorus Workshop Director Karen Gillingham auditioned more than 450 young people and many women to form the 65-strong Knight Crew chorus and the 15-strong Mothers Chorus.
Gareth, who is best known for his BAFTA-winning BBC series The Choir trained the singers through the rehearsal process. He was unable to give interviews because of contractual obligations connected with the filming.
On the first night the accomplished performance was greeted with rapturous applause. Much of that applause came from people who were seeing members of their family on this world-famous stage. The reviews from the professional critics showed that the applause was truly well-deserved.
The whole exercise was filmed for a three-part BBC2 documentary Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne which will be shown in June.
What an inspiring evening they all pass with flying colours with boundless commitment, with intensity of expression James Inverne, Editor, The Gramophone
For a community opera this is an extraordinarily accomplished piece of work its certainly a major achievement Michael Church, music critic for The Independent
The 2010 Glyndebourne Festival runs from 20th May to 29th August 2010 with productions of Benjamin Brittens Billy Budd, WA Mozarts Cos fan tutte, Verdis Macbeth, Humperdincks Hnsel und Gretel, Stravinskys The Rakes Progress and WA Mozarts Don Giovanni.
Telephone booking is open from 10am until 6pm, seven days a week, on 01273 813813 or online at www.glyndebourne.com
Community members involved
Knight Crew chorus
Rory Afrizal Hayes
Alexandra May Hill
Luther John Vine
Schools and colleges involved
Blatchington Mill School
Brighton and Hove High School
Burgess Hill School for Girls
Cardinal Newman School
Dorothy Stringer School
Eastbourne Technology College
Falmer High School
Hailsham Community College
Moira House Girls School
Our Lady of Sion School
Patcham High School
Ringmer Community College
Seaford Head Lower School
St Bedes Prep School
St Bedes Senior School
Steyning Grammar School
Sussex Downs College
Sussex Downs EVOC College
The Grove School
The Skinners School
Uckfield Community College
William Parker and Helenswood Federal Sixth
William Parker Sports College
Worthing High School