Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper
Chorus rehearsal from an earlier stage.

Chorus rehearsal from an earlier stage.

People’s opera rehearsals peak as first performance nears

Rehearsals for Bloom Britannia are reaching a climax, and the cast will be meeting every day in the week before they bring Act 1 to a public audience on Sunday 28 April. Brian Hick dropped in on rehearsals to see how things are progressing.

The Salvation Army Hall in St Andrew’s Square seemed a fitting venue for the first full rehearsal of Bloom Britannia under its international conductor Odaline de la Martinez. The story line of the new opera has been built around the lives of a large number of disparate groups who live in or visit Melhaven – a slightly run-down seaside town not a million miles away from us.

As a first time visitor I found the experience was somewhat unnerving. Where one might expect to find a chorus distinctly separate from a group of soloists, here everyone taking part is individualised and form a series of tightly defined small groups.

With exceptional sensitivity Odaline de la Martinez unpicked the complexity of the scoring to ensure individual parts were secure, often having to accept that there were some voices missing (there were no policemen or judges present!). Thankfully there were enough fishermen, flower arrangers and the hen party to make up for any potential gaps.

Jenny Miller, one of the driving forces behind the enterprise, did a magnificent job singing in any missing parts and helping to support some of the more challenging harmonies.

Challenging writing

Anyone expecting an easy sing may find much of Orlando Gough’s writing challenging. On a first encounter only the laid-back blues number for the Busker and the extended Cinnamon Toast chorus actually made a strong impact but I am sure this is my problem as a first-time listener, not the work itself, for all concerned oozed enthusiasm.

I caught up with Fiona, who is a member of the chorus, after the rehearsal to get a sense of her response and how she had got involved in the first place. ‘Since my singing group is taking a break for a while, I thought I’d like to take the opportunity to stretch myself a bit. The chorus have been meeting every Sunday afternoon through March, but Monday was the first run through with the conductor and we had only done one the previous Sunday, when lots of people were absent. That was the first time we got a sense of the whole act.

‘I think it will be great once it all comes together – some parts should be very funny. I didn’t attend any of the sessions last year when the community first came together to throw out ideas for the composer and librettist, which resulted in the story line we now have. I think it was a bonus to have Orlando there – first time I’d seen him.’

Having Orlando Gough present was certainly a bonus as points of interpretation were winging their way over the heads of the singers between conductor and composer. The attention to detail was very impressive as was the quiet, if good humoured, intensity of the long evening. Even the children were present for the Wally chorus – which should be a highlight of the first act.

If there is still a long way to go – it is after all a work in development –  this communal sense of creativity in progress, drawing on a wide range of abilities and enthusiasms, and driven with exceptional professionalism, can surely only be highly successful.

It will see the light of day before a public audience at the De La Warr Pavilion on Sunday 28 April at 5pm. A few tickets are still available (online booking here) and feedback on the event is very welcome to help the company progress towards a full performance of the work in 2020.


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


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Posted 13:13 Wednesday, Apr 17, 2019 In: Community Arts

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