Cape Town Opera Making A Difference With Music in Opera is My First Language Programme's THE SINGING GARDEN

By: Sep. 18, 2017
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Cape Town Opera's Opera is My
First Language programme in action

A group of children sit in a circle, plastic buckets placed between their legs. Initially shy, when the music therapist encourages them to beat their makeshift drums, eventually the hall is filled with a cacophony of drumbeats. One by one each child enters the centre of the circle and beats out a drum rhythm that the others copy.

This is the scene at Karita's, a Special Education Needs School in the West Coast for children with barriers to learning. More often associated with glamorous nights at the theatre, opera is having an incredible impact on the students at Karitas. Thanks to generous funding by Alta Mane Fondacion, International Music and Art Foundation, Rand Merchant Bank and the Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Cape Town Opera is able to offer its flagship music education program - Opera is My First Language - which addresses the lack of equitable music pedagogy for students in low-income and rural Western Cape communities.

In response to the lack of resources in township schools, Cape Town Opera brings music education and musical theatre where it is most needed. Opera is My First Language uses opera to involve low-income students in live productions, addressing current social challenges and exposing them to classical music.

This week, the process that began six months ago with a simple makeshift drum circle will culminate in a concert of THE SINGING GARDEN, an adaptation of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND by Francesco Nassimbeni. The new script is written in Afrikaans, Xhosa and English, allowing the children to perform in their mother tongues.

On 18 September, a team of 14 people, which includes Christine Crouse, the head of outreach at Cape Town Opera, and her staff, pianist Juan Burgers, six singers, a technical manager and a wardrobe manager, will depart from Artscape to travel 150 kilometres to Vredenburg on the West Coast. The team will arrive at Karitas in time for a rehearsal and will spend the night and have a full final dress rehearsal the following day, preparing for the performance of THE SINGING GARDEN at 18:00.

After returning to Cape Town, the team repeat the performance at Lathi-Tha School of Skills, a Special Needs Schools in Khayelitsha. There, a much larger group of more than fifty children will participate and perform in THE SINGING GARDEN. After the final dress rehearsal at lunchtime, a performance for the public will be held on 21 September at 17:30.

Members of the public who would like to make a difference with music can make an anonymous donation to Opera is My First Language through Giveandgain.


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