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Chorus rehearsal during the first phase of Barefoot Opera's development of a people's opera.

Chorus rehearsal during the first phase of Barefoot Opera’s development of a people’s opera.

People’s opera project into new phase – participants wanted!

Barefoot Opera are moving into a new phase of their ‘people’s opera’ with a call-out for participants to start working towards the performance of an extract in late April and full performance a year later. The first events take place this weekend: a workshop for would-be chorus members and sessions in musical improvisation as part of the Hastings Fat Tuesday Festival. Nick Terdre reports.

Barefoot Opera’s project to create a people’s opera, inspired by and involving people in Hastings, St Leonards and Bexhill, began development in 2018, with a vibrant research and development project during which more than 25 workshops were held across the towns. (See Singing the praises of our town.)

“The creative team – including the renowned composer Orlando Gough – met hundreds of people, gaining a fascinating perspective on what it means to live in a town on the South Coast today, meeting and talking with people across the generations and a huge range of backgrounds,” Barefoot Opera’ s founder Jenny Miller told HOT.

“People learned how to write songs, improvise and sing together. They wrote songs inspired by stories in the local newspapers, brought along objects and photographs that told their own story, and sat in cafés talking about life on the South Coast.”

love the sea 350Musical soundclash

“It all culminated in a kind of musical soundclash at the De La Warr Pavilion last April. This involved young people drumming with Otti Albietz, a choir from the Seaview Centre rapping about the Old Town, and the Sound Waves choir singing several new pieces composed by Gough, including one about the closure of the toilets in Hastings town centre!”

All this proved a huge source of inspiration for the team writing the opera, Miller said, and what began life as A Town has now evolved into something altogether more dynamic: Bloom Britannia. Taking a satirical look at what Britain might feel like in the future, Bloom Britannia centres on a fictional regeneration competition on the South Coast, specifically on the day the winning town is to be decided.

So the call is going out for those who would like to take part in this new stage. Workshops, rehearsals and other events will take place over March and April, culminating in the performance of a 30-minute extract of the opera before an invited audience at the De La Warr Pavilion on Sunday 28 April.

You can take part by signing up to sing in the chorus or by applying to sing a solo part – this will involve attending workshops with composer Gough, librettist Stephen Plaice and singer/director Jenny Miller. The team is also continuing to organise workshops in various locations and with various groups in the local community, with the aim of enabling new groups to try out singing and delving into the opera, and hopefully taking part.

Commitment needed!

Commitment is necessary! Members of the chorus, for example, will be expected to attend least three of the rehearsal workshops which will be held every Sunday between 3 and 6pm from 3 March to 14 April, and ideally all of the rehearsals which will be held every evening, 6.30-8.30pm,  from Tuesday 23 to Friday 26 April, as well as the dress rehearsal and technical and dress rehearsal on Saturday 27th and Sunday 28th respectively at times to be announced.

Getting in the groove.

Getting in the groove.

Members of the team will also lead three days of musical improvisation as part of the Hastings Fat Tuesday festival – sessions will take place on Friday 1 March, 2-8pm, and at 11am-5pm on Saturday 2nd and Sunday 3rd at 4 Castle Street, Hastings TN34 3DY (the old Trading Post shop opposite Argos). Musicians Otti Albietz, Tom Clarkson and Lucy Mulgan will be in attendance, along with Frank Moon, Bev Lee Harling and other members of the local music community.

Funds for the next stage of the project have been raised from Arts Council England, through a successful Kickstarter campaign and with support from the Fairlight Arts Trust and Barefoot Wines UK.


For more information visit the Barefoot Opera website. The rehearsal workshops for the chorus will be held at the Salvation Army Hall in St Andrews Square, Hastings TN34 1SR except on Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25 April (St Barnabas Church, Cantelupe Rd, Bexhill TN401JD) and Sunday 28th (DLWP). Dates and locations for those interested in singing a solo part are yet to be announced. Some babysitting facilities will be provided for those with small children. For more information and other enquiries, contact Jane Freund.

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Posted 16:10 Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 In: Community Arts

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