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Opera North Launches New Musical Activities For Young People

The Education Studio will provide a focal point for the Company’s innovative work with young singers and instrumentalists.

Young singers will be the first to benefit from Opera North's £18m redevelopment project in Leeds this summer as the Company prepares to open its new Education Studio in the heart of the city. The activities in the Howard Opera Centre will form part of a range of inspiring opportunities available for hundreds of young people over the coming months, including the launch of the Opera North Youth Orchestra for those aspiring to become professional musicians.

The Education Studio will provide a focal point for the Company's innovative work with young singers and instrumentalists, who will also be able to access the new rehearsal spaces which have been created for the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North. When the doors of the Howard Opera Centre open in August, it will be the Opera North Youth Chorus who cross the threshold first as they come together for a week-long project with pianist, composer and sound artist James Batty, director Gemma Woffinden, Youth Chorus Master Nicholas Shaw and Vocal Animateur Marie-Claire Breen.

The voices of young people will also be featured in the walls of the new building as part of the Writing Home initiative which has encouraged Leeds residents of all ages, including refugees and asylum seekers, to compose songs reflecting on what 'home' means to them. The Opera North Children's Chorus and Opera North Young Voices have been working with director Gitika Buttoo and guest artists Thandanani Gumede and Christella Litras to write and record their compositions. These will be used together with a selection of other pieces to form a sound trail which people will be able to access as they explore the public spaces.

As the Opera North Education team prepares to move into its new home, more children from the age of 8 to 19 years are to be given the opportunity to join the Opera North Youth Company. No prior knowledge of opera is required to join, simply a love of telling stories through music, a desire to develop skills in singing and stagecraft, and a passion for performance. Young singers can register their interest online now, with auditions to be held in the summer.

"I started in the Children's Chorus back in 2010 and moved to the Youth Chorus when I got a little older. I was offered so many amazing opportunities with the company ... If anyone is considering singing as a potential career, or if you just enjoy singing like me and want to give it a go, I'd highly recommend it. I have lifelong friends and experiences I'll never forget. Best experience of my life so far!"

Kieran Ragan, former Youth Company member

Young instrumentalists are also being offered a range of exciting opportunities to help further their musical education. These include, for school age orchestral players, a Woodwind and Horn Academy from 1-2 June and a Brass Academy from 3-4 June. Both are being held at Yeadon Town Hall in Leeds and will include the chance to learn from, and play with, members of the Orchestra of Opera North and Opera North education specialists.

Young string players will be able to enjoy an immersive 4-day Strings Academy in the Howard Opera Centre from 16-19 August while, for talented young musicians playing at grade 7 and above, the Opera North Summer Orchestra Academy will run from 23-28 August. Non-residential this year, entry will be by audition only, ensuring that the event can be tailored to the needs of the participants with everyone appropriately challenged in an inspirational and supportive environment.

New this autumn is the Opera North Youth Orchestra which aims to help 16 to 21-year-old orchestral players transition from further education and regional youth orchestras into the professional world of music. Specifically designed for those keen to pursue a career in music, it seeks to provide the next generation of musicians from the north of England and beyond with both inspiration and guidance. Successful applicants will get the chance to be mentored by members of the Orchestra of Opera North and to work regularly in the Howard Opera Centre with professional conductors and soloists.

For 8- to 11-year-olds with a more general interest in theatre, the Company's popular Opera North Creative Camp returns during the summer holidays at Herd Farm on the outskirts of Leeds. Over the course of five days, the children will explore all aspects of putting an opera on the stage, including script writing, acting, composition, set and costume design, and stagecraft. They and their families will also be treated to a special performance of Opera North's Whistle Stop Opera: The Magic Flute which will provide the inspiration for the week's activities.

Jacqui Cameron, Education Director, Opera North, said:

"We are acutely aware of the impact the pandemic has had on young people and their ability to practice, perform and enjoy music together, so we were keen to provide face-to-face activities over the next few months to fill that gap. We hope that we have succeeded in providing something to suit a variety of ages and levels of musical ability.

"We are thrilled to be moving into our new Education Studio this summer - and are particularly excited that our Youth Chorus will be the first to use the Howard Opera Centre on Harrison Street, even beating the Chorus and Orchestra through the doors. It's just one more indication of how committed we are to the musicians of the future and to nurturing their talent."

All activities will be designed specifically for COVID-safe learning according to the latest government advice and to keep participants and staff safe throughout. Bookings and expressions of interest can be made online. Financial support is available for anyone who finds cost a barrier to participation.


Opera North's Education Programme is supported by The Emerald Foundation, The Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation, The Whitaker Charitable Trust and Opera North Future Fund.  The Opera North Youth Company and Youth Orchestral programme are supported by a grant from the Leverhulme Trust for Arts Scholarships.


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