Audience Participation

On Saturday evening I performed a recital, billed as a Summer Gala concert at the church where my cousin Vevet Deer worships in East London to raise money for their church funds. She was the organizer of the event. I haven't been particularly nervous before concerts in recent years but I did have a mild case of the butterflies.

The butterflies were uncalled for because it went really well. Allyson Devenish (my accompanist) was amazing as per usual and I particularly enjoyed performing the suite of Jamaican folk songs arranged by Peter Ashbourne who is indeed quite well known in music circles in the Caribbean and further afield. It was very well attended and much appreciated by all the organisers and the audience (who amongst them was the Deputy High Commissioner of Jamaica.)

Amid the operatic arias, oratorio, lieder, Spanish song and the Jamaican folk songs, I also performed three unaccompanied African American traditional sprituals. Now, I am very used to audence participation in the workshops I perform in, but on Saturday I was joined in my performance by a keen audience member during the unaccompanied spirtuals!  I have to say that the person was very much in tune and added a little spice to my evening.

? "My poor legs are aching and cannot run"

I spent this last week in the gorgeous Essex countryside near a little village called Halstead with Stanley Hall Opera performing in workshops for Key stage 2 kids.

We had a lot of fun this week teaching 12 groups about the opera Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky, which Stanley Hall opera are performing this year. For any who dooes not know about Stanley Hall Opera, it is a wonderful summer opera venture similar in type to Grange Park where you get to watch an opera in an amphitheatre and in the intermission (if weather allows) have a lovely picnic in the fields and gardens that surround the site.


My task for the week was to help get the children from local schools ready to watch the dress rehearsal. Our workshops were great fun and ranged from singing African and Arabic greeting songs in rounds to learning the chorus of the workers from Eugene Onegin "my poor legs are aching and cannot run", (which is a rather accurate statement to describe my current physical state!), to teaching the children the concept of having to fight a duel with your best friend who has betrayed you. We even learned a few dances which could have been performed in either of the two ballroom scenes in the opera. The workshops (organised by Ruth Paton) all culminated in a miniature performance of the opera on a mini cardboard stage with cardboard figures and a mini orchestra (Martina Schwarz on the accordion and Matthew Forbes on the cello) and with myself singing snippets of Tatyana's arias.


I think the highlight of the week was the roaring round of applause all the children we worked with gave us when we took our bow just before the start of the dress rehearsal. I didn't realise just how many children we had introduced the opera to until they were all seated together in anticipation of the performance. I am sure that in some small way we have helped to create a new generation of opera lovers and that makes me feel very proud.


P.S To all the children who took part, you should give yourselves a round of applause for being wonderful participants and great singers!


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