Articles tagged with: OperaPLUS

OperaPLUS: Where are they now?

OperaPLUS: Where are they now?

Guest post from Thomas Elwin

Ten minute read.

It is just over nine years since I took part in the Jackdaws OperaPLUS project, which in 2011 was Così fan tutte. An intense, extremely busy, and fun filled week. I have very fond memories of my time down there at Jackdaws, working with Saffron and Audrey, my course colleagues, time spent with school children with special needs, and then the performances in the Cheese and Grain of course.

It says a lot for the pull that Jackdaws has that so many from that Così cast have gone on to work in Opera at the highest level. Hannah Sawle (Fiordiligi), Clare Presland (Dorabella), Hannah Bradbury (Despina) and Tim Nelson (Don Alfonso) have all gone on to perform major roles at top Opera houses across Europe, while Sam Queen (Guglielmo) is rapidly developing as one of the go-to singing teachers in the UK (he will be returning to Jackdaws in 2020/21 to run a course).

My own journey since that week has been extremely varied and wide ranging, taking me to opera houses and concerts halls across the UK and Europe, with some incredible highs, and one or two quite significant lows.

At the time of my OperaPLUS course I was just about to finish my vocal studies masters, and about to go on to the Opera Course at the Royal Academy of Music. It was the ideal time to do such a course. For all the lessons, coachings and classes one has as a trainee singer, the opportunities to actually perform full operatic roles are like gold dust and should be jumped at. At this stage, despite being about to go on to specific opera studies, I was very new to opera so this was ideal preparation for the next stage of my development.

In September 2011 I started the Opera course at RAM, and it went off without a hitch. On it I sang a few more complete roles, including another Mozart opera, Tamino in The Magic Flute, and I also sang a role in one of the British Youth Opera productions, in their 2012 season, and continued to listen out for opportunities elsewhere, and consider what step to take next. At the beginning of the new academic year 2012/13, I auditioned successfully to join the chorus at Glyndebourne for my summer after graduation. Then an agent from Germany came to the autumn term Opera, in November 2012, and suggested I might audition for young artist programmes at German Opera houses. This was not something I had considered at all, but I asked a few people about it and then ended up flying to Hannover in January 2013 to audition. It was a very mixed audition, and a mildly terrifying experience – my first audition abroad – but on the back of the opportunity I decided to apply to other ‘YAPs’ (Young Artist Programmes) and soon after I got home from Hannover I was invited to audition in Munich.

What happened next is the first of a few sliding doors moments. After a busy day of rehearsals and lessons at the Royal Academy, in cold January of 2013, I did the same journey home that I had done so many times before. I walked from the academy to the tube, took the Met line to Liverpool St, mainline from there to Manor Park, and a 10 minute walk on the road through Wanstead Flats (a park for those who don’t know it) to my home. Only on this occasion I was followed from Manor Park, and half way along the road through the flats was invited to give my phone and money to two young men carrying knives.
Inevitably I was upset and shaken by the experience of being mugged. It was annoying to lose my phone, and the money, but I was unhurt physically – so I thought.

I flew to Germany again and sang ok in Munich, they decided not to put me through to the next round. Meanwhile I had turned down the place in Hannover because it didn’t feel quite right and the mini German exploration had come to nothing. As a result I applied to the National Opera Studio in London who had auditions a couple of months later.

Over these couple of months my voice didn’t feel right. Slowly and surely parts of my voice that I could rely on were becoming inconsistent. I didn’t think much of it. My final opera at the Academy was a small and easy sing in Eugene Onegin, which would be followed by a few weeks break before heading to Lewes and Glyndebourne in April 2013. I applied to take part in the Kathleen Ferrier competition and was excited for this and the Opera Studio audition. By the time these came about my singing was even more inconsistent, and despite getting through the first round of the Opera studio auditions, both the main audition there and the Ferrier first round were a real struggle.

This was the beginning of April 2013, and on the 6th of April I woke up with no singing voice.
I cancelled some concerts I had that weekend, and just assumed I had a virus or the flu. Yet by the time I had been at Glyndebourne for a month and my voice was still not back I started to really worry. My GP was quite dismissive, nothing that they could see. Then two ENT specialists saw a little inflammation but no real reason to worry or have voice loss. Finally, at the end of June, three months of being mute into a 5 month chorus contract I had been so looking forward to, I had an appointment with an osteopath who had saved me a few years earlier after a car accident.

Within the first minute Michael, my osteo, could tell there were problems. To cut a long story short, it turned out that my physical reaction to being mugged was similar to that of a car crash. The muscles around my neck, shoulders and chest were all extremely tense and locked and Michael was surprised that I could sing at all those initial few months.

I was hugely relieved to have found the cause of my vocal issues, though upset not to have realised earlier and therefore gone into important situations like the Munich, the National Opera Studio, and the Kathleen Ferrier competition auditions without realising that I was fighting a physical battle with myself. Following six months of vocal decline, and accompanying mental struggles, I could now see a way forward. In short, I had to relearn how to use my voice. I had a course of speech therapy with an incredible lady called Maggie Griffith, had an intense period of singing lessons with my teacher at the time, Gary Coward, and had regular osteopathy sessions with Michael.

The summer of 2013 having been a complete write-off, I went into the first year of post studies life without any work at all. I had had to postpone all auditions from April onwards, and was only just emerging into a place where I could use my voice again. I started working at a local restaurant where I lived, I also began teaching piano and singing at a local music school, and spent the rest of the time focusing on getting my voice into shape. I could easily have given up at this point but I had put a huge amount of time, effort, and money into getting my voice back and instead of wanting to stop I had a newly honed focus that had been missing before my voice loss. So I applied for YAPs again, in the UK and in Germany. I tried to run before I could walk and initial auditions were not successful, but in January 2014 I sang to the audition panel at the opera house in Stuttgart and got through to the second round on the day. A success! I returned home and waited to hear more. And waited… and waited. I applied again to the National Opera Studio, and then with nothing coming from Stuttgart, decided to apply for other work.

By the time, two months later, that Stuttgart offered me a further audition I was moments from accepting a job in London. But decided to give Stuttgart a go. The panel in Stuttgart were confused when they heard me, there had been such an improvement in two months. I explained a little about my voice loss, and the fact they were hearing a 5 month voice, rather than a 3 month voice, and they decided to take me onto their programme. YAY!

I can pinpoint the decision to join the Stuttgart Opera as the start of my career proper.
Soon after accepting my place in Stuttgart, I was offered a place on two courses with the Solti Accademia Bel Canto. Firstly a week in Venice on their course for pianists, on which six singers are used a guinea pigs. Then on their course for singers in Tuscany in July, working with some of the best coaches and singers for a few weeks in the Italian sun. Not a difficult time.

Stuttgart turned out to be the making of me. Over my year as a young artist I performed in seven different productions, and over 50 nights on the stage. I sang small and medium roles in German, Italian, French and Russian and just loved the life of working in a full time opera company. The years real highlight came in my last couple of months, when I was covering/understudying the role of Ferrando in Così fan tutte. (Having sung it at Jackdaws in English the music was all there but I needed to fill in the words with the Italian.) I was just in the right place at the right time as the person I was covering ended up being sick for the last two performances and I got the call. Out of seeming despair and the end of a career before it had even started in the summer of 2013, I was now, less than two years later, singing one of the major Tenor roles on stage in a major European opera house.

I owe a lot to the people in Stuttgart, not least the head of the Opera studio there at the time, Bettina Giese, and I was very grateful that at the end of my year in the studio they kept me on a half fixed contract for another season. This meant that I would do a three productions in Stuttgart in the 2015/16 season, two I had done the previous season and one new one, but also allowed me to work elsewhere and I was thrilled to be able to sing the role of Belmonte in Mozart’s Die Entführung aus dem Serail for the first time, in a new production in Bregenz, Austria. So in addition for 5 months in Stuttgart, I spent a lovely three wintery months in Bregenz, on the edge of Lake Constance and the Alps. Such a beautiful part of the world. It was also conveniently placed, a four hour train journey away, for me to step in last minute for a few more performances of Così fan tutte at Stuttgart, who then offered me my own performances for the following season.

Around this time I picked up an agent, Jonathan Groves and Helen Hogh at Ingpen and Williams (which soon became Groves Artists), and through them auditioned for English National Opera in summer 2016. Having developed my career away from the UK for two years I was glad that ENO asked me to cover Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni for a new production in autumn 2016. Before this came around, I ended up singing Così fan tutte once more, in the UK and France with Diva Opera, by this point singing Ferrando in Così was almost second nature. At ENO for the Don Giovanni I was covering Allan Clayton, a singer I have always admired and looked up to, and it was great to be working in London. To top it off, Allan was unfortunately taken sick for a few days during the run and I stepped in for two performances, making my London professional operatic debut and receiving a glowing review in Opera magazine for it. An unexpectedly positive start to the 2016/17 season. This was soon followed by my first studio recording as a tenor soloist, singing the role of Alfred in The Mountebanks with the BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by John Andrews.

Tom Elwin in the Il ritorno d'Ulisse with Grange Festival

Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Grange Festival)
© Robert Workman

The 2016/17 season then became the year of the ‘jump in’, as I found myself stepping in last minute for the whole run of, you guessed it, Così fan tutte with a company called Teatro Barocco. Having received the call just five days before their opening night, I flew out to Vienna and speed learned the production before seven performances in the theatre at the Schloss Laxenburg, a venue used by Mozart himself and an incredible experience. Being in Vienna, and singing Mozart there, was a career highlight and on the back on the contract I was invited back for a production the following season, in early 2018. I went from Vienna directly to Stuttgart, for the production of Così fan tutte I had been booked for a year beforehand, and while I was there I was asked to step in as Telemaco in the new Grange Festival’s first show, The Return of Ulysess, with rehearsals starting just after the end of my Stuttgart contract.

I still remember Jackdaws very fondly, and genuinely consider many of the things I learnt in that week to have been hugely beneficial

Having sung mostly Mozart for much of 2015/16 and early 2017 it was fun to explore Monteverdi for a few months, and also to perform in an English summer opera festival. I was then thrilled to sing my first BBC Prom concert later in the summer but having gone from contract to contract since starting in Stuttgart in September 2014, I was glad for a little time off in the autumn of 2017.

Time off for freelancers is a difficult thing to come to terms with sometimes. It means we don’t have income… but on this occasion it was a much needed break and I knew that I had my contract back in Vienna in early 2018, and also a few performances with the Classical Opera Company who had made me as associate artist for the season.

Sadly, for various reasons, the contract in Vienna did not work out and I was out of pocket by quite a lot of money. Despite working almost non stop for three years up to that point, much of the income had been young artist level fees and I was in no position to lose out on that sort of money. The cancellation really knocked me sideways. My agent managed to get me a little work to fill the time, covering again at ENO in early 2018, but the income lost was never replaced and I have felt that ever since.

Not only did the financial hit affect me, but I slightly lost confidence at this moment too. I didn’t want to be covering, and losing the chance to sing a role again in Vienna felt like a slight on me – though it wasn’t of course. I suspect this confidence loss was felt by audition panels, and I just lost out on a few jobs after this.

It came as a relief then to be invited back to Bregenz again, where I was to sing Jaquino in Fidelio in early 2019, and soon after getting this news I successfully auditioned to be part of Barbara Hannigan’s Equilibrium Young Artist initiative, a mentoring programme including well paid performance opportunities with Barbara conducting.

The Bregenz experience was a slight disappointment compared to the first time there. A number of things contributed to this. The first time I was there the cast were more sociable, and there were more English speakers. It was also a bigger role, a role I enjoyed more and the apartment I was in the first time was better placed for the lake and mountains and the town centre. I left Bregenz the second time slightly less in love with the town than I was the first, and went directly to Munich for two Mozart requiem concerts with the Munich Philharmonic and Barbara Hannigan. This turned out to be a genuine career highlight, something I will always remember.

My final contract of the 2018/19 season was singing the role of Sam Kaplan in Street Scene at the opera in Cologne. Street Scene has a huge cast, and this was a wonderful production with some great colleagues both on and behind the stage. Cologne is a really great city to be in and I was living quite centrally for two months. Yet, with Bregenz running into Munich running into Cologne, I hadn’t really been home for most of the first 6 months of 2019, so was glad for a few months at home that summer.

A few months at home turned into singing the role of Nemorino in The Elixir of Love for a new opera company, Into Opera, set up by a friend I had met at the Grange Festival. I actually sent an abysmal audition tape over from Cologne, but thankfully the conductor for the production was John Andrews who already knew my singing from the recording I had done with him in 2017. We performed the show in a Barn just outside Norwich, to 150 very willing audience members a night. A lovely team of people again and a good end to the 2018/19 season.

ETO Cosi fan tutte Tom Elwin

ETO Spring 2020 Così fan tutte
© Richard Hubert Smith

Which brings me onto this season… 2019/20. A lighter autumn saw me spending a few days in Venice performing at an Opera Gala, and a couple of weeks in Brussels workshopping new productions of the Da Ponte/Mozart operas. I sang my first, and a week later second, Verdi Requiem and then stepped in very last minute to sing Finzi’s Dies Natalis live on BBC Radio 3 from Maida Vale, with the BBC Concert Orchestra. The main contract for the season though came in the spring of this year, with the English Touring Opera tour of Così fan tutte (yes… that one again) and Bach’s St. John Passion.

Many things attracted me to a tour with ETO. Not least the chance to perform so many times all around the country. So it was a real sadness when the tour was cancelled after just two venues. I have had my ups and downs career wise, and I know we will all come out of the pandemic at some point. Life will continue, music and art will continue and thrive. But it hasn’t felt easy and I would be lying if I didn’t admit to having significant career doubts over these months.

ETO Spring 2020 St John Passion
© Andreas Grieger

Happily, there seem to be shoots of hope within the industry and I am hopeful for some performances in the near future. I have enjoyed the time at home with my wife and our dog. I have also enjoyed the time to focus on my singing practise and also get fit, but I will jump at the chance to sing on stage again.

I still remember Jackdaws very fondly, and genuinely consider many of the things I learnt in that week to have been hugely beneficial over the following nine years of my burgeoning career.

Seclusion Discs – Owain Browne

Seclusion Discs – Owain Browne

Music has been a very important part of my lockdown experience. At first there was silence: long-anticipated projects cancelled

The Team Mascot Scores!

The Team Mascot Scores!

OperaPLUS 2018: The Team MascotAfter three weeks of OperaPLUS, with workshops and performances across Somerset and Wiltshire, the team sang their final note of the 2018 project last Friday.

The five performances involved hundreds of children from 13 schools, not to mention siblings, classmates and school-friends in the audience, singing alongside the professional singers in the full-length production of “The Daughter of the Regiment” performed in their own school halls.

“I can honestly say, that in all the years I have been working in schools, The Team Mascot was one of the best arts projects I have had the privilege of being involved with.” – Music lead of a participating school

‘The Team Mascot’ is Jackdaws Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg’s interpretation of Donizetti’s operatic comedy. All performances were semi-staged, sung in English and performed “in the round” to make them as accessible as possible, from first time opera goers (and there were a lot of them!) to seasoned listeners.

Some of our favourite feedback from the OperaPLUS shows…

  • OperaPLUS feedback“I am writing to say you have inspired me to want to listen to more opera”
  • “You have built up a truly inspirational opera project and you should be incredibly proud of what you are doing.”
  • “Thank you for giving my friends and I one of the most memorable moments of our lives.”
  • “The opportunity helped us to see what opera is really like. The performance was brilliant and the atmosphere was great.”
  • “I never knew I would ever have a chance to sing opera”
  • “Everyone was a little afraid of opera but all of us loved it at the end.”
  • “You produced a very professional opera which was musically impressive and did not patronise your young chorus or your audience!”
  • “It was the most captivating, imaginative and engaging performance in which the school children were so obviously included and valued.”
  • “The students and parents were absolutely buzzing and it was something they will all remember for a very long time.

The Team Mascot

OperaPLUS has continued to expand since 2010. This year is the first time this Award-winning music education project has been taken into Wiltshire.

All performances were supported by Arts Council England, the Department for Education, D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust and Jackdaws Music Education Trust. Shows in Somerset are further supported by Sound Foundation Somerset, Frome Town Council and South Somerset District Council. Shows in Wiltshire are further supported by Wiltshire Music Connect and Calne Town Council.

2017 Review

2017 Review

12 months of activity has given us much to talk about. Our Education projects have excelled themselves, reaching thousands of children across Somerset. We’ve won Awards, reached milestones and made some wonderful music.

Jackdaws Receive the AwardWe started 2017 with our first large-scale project of the year, Year of Recorder, with Recorder virtuosi Anna Stegmann and Tabea Debus. The project told the story of “How the Wren Became King”, using music both composed and improvised on recorders of all different shapes and sizes by children from 12 schools performing en masse at Frome’s Cheese & Grain. Less than two weeks before rehearsals and school visits began, we were delighted to win Best Classical Music Education Initiative 2017 Music Teacher Awards for Excellence for the second year running  for “The Year of…” project. We continue this project in 2018 with a special Year of Brass, working with Onyx Brass Quintet; join us for the Grand Finale Concert on Tuesday 20 March 2018.

Best Classical Music Education Initiative 2017Music Teacher Awards OperaPLUSOperaPLUS (Best Classical Music Education Initiative 2016) revived the successful 2016 production of Donizetti’s The Love Potion, for the composer’s 225th anniversary year with 5 performances with schools across the length and breadth of Somerset in April and May. The humorous and light-hearted tale set on a farm in Somerset of a hopeless lover and his encounter with a trickster street doctor, was a big hit. In 2018, we stay with the work of Donizetti, this time transforming the famous La fille du Régiment into “The Team Mascot”, telling the story of rival football teams and all of the passion that brings.

Song Story focused on the life and music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, telling his story through his music. During the project, 4 Somerset SEND Schools and one Secondary collaborated with Composer William Carslake, Violinist Flora Curzon and Soprano Saffron van Zwanenberg to create an hour-long show, spanning the composer’s child prodigy years through to the tragic unfinished Requiem, encompassing elements of his most famous works played, sung and acted by the group.

On Friday 16 June, the annual Schools Picnic at Jackdaws welcomed 100 children from 5 local schools who all performed and enjoyed a picnic in the Rose Garden. We heard singers, recorder and ukulele players, performing in mixed groups from whole classes down to solo performers. Everyone performed fantastically! Best of all, the rain held off until we had finished our lunch.

Taking the Singing Strategy out of the classroom, the Somerset Singing Festival Frome event on Thursday 13 July was directed by our wonderful singing leader Caroline Radcliffe. It was a heart-warming event, with pupils from schools across the county joining together to sing music they had learnt through the county wide Singing Strategy.

Macbeth at the Jackdaws Summer Production

Macbeth at the Jackdaws Summer Production

We closed the 16-17 academic year with the great news that the first entrants from our Friday club for young people, Jack’s Music Club, had achieved their Bronze Arts Award which they had been working towards through Jack’s. They were the first that Jackdaws have entered for the Award and will now work towards their Silver Award, as the rest of Music Club tackle their Bronze this year. Come and join us on Friday’s at 4.30pm if you want to find out more and make music with other local young people.

At the beginning of the summer holidays our intake of keen young artists were taking part in our Summer Production week. They transformed Shakespeare’s Hamlet, with music inspired by Mahler and set and costume design inspired by graphic designer David Carson.

Judges and Winners of the Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards 2017

With the new academic year came The Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards 2017, which marked the 25th Award since its foundation in 1992. The winner was Mezzo-Soprano Ema Nikolovska and we were very privileged to have Mary Nelson, winner of the Award in 1995, judging the competition, alongside renowned accompanist Christopher Glynn and Soprano and Jackdaws Trustee Rosa Mannion. The audience obviously agreed with the judges as Ema won not only the First-place prize, but the Audience Prize as well.

2018

A very big year for Jackdaws as we will be celebrating our 25th birthday!

We will be marking this in a number of ways so please keep an eye on our website and Facebook page for further information. Wonderfully, Onyx Brass who are leading our Year of Brass are also celebrating a 25th anniversary in 2018, so schools taking part in the project have the chance to compose a birthday fanfare which Onyx will judge and the winner will be invited to play it at our birthday party in June. There will be cake!

Arts Award LogoWe are also very excited to announce now that we are expanding our opportunities for young people with a brand new Explore the Arts Week, during half term. It will be a chance for children from ages of 7-12 to explore, learn and create using different forms of art. The aim is for the children to take their Discover or Explore Arts Awards, the entry level qualifications, over the course of the week. Get in touch for more information!

Remember that you can stay up to date with all our projects, courses and concerts by signing up to our mailing list at www.jackdaws.org.uk or subscribing at the bottom of this page.

Jackdaws wins Best Classical Music Education Initiative… again!

Jackdaws wins Best Classical Music Education Initiative… again!

Jackdaws Receive the Award

L to R: Margherita Taylor, Mark Eden, Helen Reid, Saffron van Zwanenberg, Chris Stell, Sam Jackson.

For the second year running, Jackdaws Music Education Trust has won a prestigious Music Teacher Award for Excellence for Best Classical Music Education Initiative, this year for their large scale education project The Year of…”

Jackdaws, based near Frome in Somerset, retains the award, which is sponsored by Classic FM, having won the same prize in 2016 for their innovative project, OperaPLUS.

Best Classical Music Education Initiative 2017Classic FM DJ Margherita Taylor presented Jackdaws with the award during the ceremony in Sheraton Grand London Park Lane Hotel, Mayfair, on the opening day of the Rhinegold Music Education Expo.

RECOGNITION OF OUR IMPACT

The award, celebrating “The Year of…” as the best Classical Music Initiative in the country this year, is recognition of the incredible impact the project has made to music education in Somerset. In the five years of the project, Jackdaws has worked with 44 schools across the county, engaging with more than 15,000 pupils. With performances and workshops also including teachers, as well as parents, siblings and performers at each of the five Grand Finale performances that number increases to over 30,000 people taking part in this project so far.

Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg, created the project in 2013 in response to a reduction in the number of children learning and continuing to play instruments and also to add strength to & develop the flagship WCET (Whole Class Ensemble Teaching) programme promoted by the National Plan for Music Education. It has become a key project in Jackdaws’ education output, supporting the organisation’s aim to enable creative expression by bringing music to life in an accessible, inclusive and inspirational way.  Ms van Zwanenberg, who was at the ceremony to collect the award on behalf of the Trust, said:

Year of the Guitar

Year of the Guitar Grand Finale Performance, 2014, with the Eden Stell Guitar Duo

Inspiration is usually the spark that lights the fire and in this case, if we want more children to play instruments and to continue to do so to a good level of proficiency and beyond, then access to the best in the world is the way forward. They meet and see amazing musicians doing remarkable things with instruments and playing wonderful repertoire. If we want orchestras in the future and audiences for chamber music and orchestral works, this first step is vital and it has been our privilege to work with such brilliant artists, who are not only masters in their fields but also as passionate about this as we are. This Award is wonderful recognition of their work and the work we do and will continue to do through active and innovative opportunities.We want to thank everybody who voted for us. As a small organisation, we work extremely hard, with limited resources, to ensure that we are able to continue to deliver projects like this. This Award means a huge amount to us – Thank you.

HISTORY

Thank You Carducci

Drawing by Orrin, “Thank You Carducci”

“The Year of…” project was launched by Jackdaws in 2013 with Year of the String Quartet, featuring the Carducci String Quartet. The project took the Carducci Quartet into 14 Somerset schools to perform and give whole class workshops to the children, culminating in the Grand Finale concert. The heart-warming and eye-opening concert in which over 100 pupils from all 14 schools performed en masse with the Carducci demonstrated that children can and do enjoy listening and participating in classical music.

The Year of… project is flexible, and each year introduces children to a different chamber / orchestral instrument; 2014 was Year of the Guitar with the Eden Stell Guitar Duo, 2015 was Year of Percussion with Joby Burgess and 2016 was Year of the Reed with the Gelachter Wind Trio.

Jackdaws invites artists of international standing, with a history of performing to the highest level and who have a special interest in education and out-reach, to take part in the project.

Watch the Year of the String Quartet video…

2017 THE YEAR OF RECORDER

Tabea Debus and Anna Stegmann lead Jackdaws Year of the RecorderThe Music Teacher Award for Excellence comes just in time for the beginning of the 2017 project; school workshops for the Year of Recorder start Monday 20 February, building on the past successes of “The Year of…” with international virtuosi Anna Stegmann and Tabea Debus. The Grand Finale performance, telling the story of “How the Wren became King”, takes place at Frome’s Cheese & Grain, 5:30pm on Wednesday 22 March.

Each school visit begins with a 45-minute interactive performance by the visiting musicians to the whole school. This performance is specially designed to stimulate the children’s imaginations and uses interactive games to excite their curiosity and demonstrate how wonderful these instruments are.

Following this, the musicians work with a smaller group of children to prepare music for the final performance. School teachers also have a chance to learn from the musicians during this workshop, and are supported with free resources including recordings and sheet music for the pieces, all downloadable from the Jackdaws website.

“The Year of…” is supported by Sound Foundation Somerset and has been featured on ClassicFM and in various local press.

Sound Foundation Somerset LogoClassicFM Logo

Workshops start again!

Workshops start again!

The Love PotionHere we are at the start of February, and the Jackdaws year starts with our course bookings in a healthy state. As you will know, much of our work is centred around the projects which we do with Somerset schools and has enabled 15,000 young people to participate in music making over the past five years; the coordination of our two flagship projects in 2017 is now in hand.

Firstly, we have embarked on the Year of the Recorder, which will see children from 10 schools works with inspirational, international Recorder duo Anna Stegmann and Tabea Debus. The project culminates in the recorder players, together with children performing on recorders and other instruments, in a Grand Finale Concert at the Cheese & Grain, Forme on Wednesday 22 March.

Meanwhile, our hugely successful, award-winning singing project OperaPLUS has already entered the rehearsal stage. This week, Artistic Director Saffron van Zwanenberg has been travelling to schools across Somerset to give introductory workshops on the songs and choruses of The Love Potion.

Music Teacher Awards OperaPLUSIn OperaPLUS, the instruments of “The Year of…” give way to voices and song; a highly talented group of young opera singers work with children in schools towards the presentation of five concerts in various locations around the county. The professional cast take the principle roles with the children joining in as chorus. 2017 sees a reworking of last year’s production of The Love Potion (L’elisir d’amore) by Donizetti, to celebrate the composers 220th Anniversary year, made accessible through staging set in a local context.

Both projects offer a once in lifetime opportunity for young people, some for the first time, to work with professional musicians of the highest standard. We hope to see you at a performance!

OperaPLUS is the Best Classical Music Education Initiative

OperaPLUS is the Best Classical Music Education Initiative

Credit Music Teacher Awards 2016

Margherita Taylor (Classic FM Presenter), René Bloice-Sanders (Company Member), Audrey Hyland (Music Director), Saffron van Zwanenberg (Director) and Sam Jackson (Classic FM Managing Editor). Credit: Music Teacher Awards 2016

On the 25th of February, Jackdaws Music Education Trust was presented with a prestigious Music Teacher Award for Excellence for the OperaPLUS project, which won the category of Best Classical Music Education Initiative, sponsored by Classic FM.

We want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who voted for us; all our friends and supporters who took the time to give their backing to the campaign. It is an honour to receive this Award and it is down to your support that we are able to continue to run projects like this.

The award was presented by Classic FM Managing Editor Sam Jackson during a special awards ceremony hosted by Rhingeold Music Education Expo at London’s Jumeirah Carlton Tower Hotel in Kensington. The category of Best Classical Music Education Initiative was decided by public ballot via the Classic FM website.

The award is recognition of OperaPLUS’ outstanding contribution and achievements since its inaugural project in 2010. Every year since then, it has brought high-quality opera into schools across Somerset, introducing countless children and adults alike to the art form in an accessible and inclusive setting. In 2015 alone the project worked with 14 schools with up to 120 children in each of the five performances across the county.

The project brings together primary school children to perform alongside professional opera singers from Jackdaws Young Artist programme, in full length versions of well-known operas, sung in English. For many, it provides a first encounter with a live opera performance.

Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg, created the project when she took up post in 2009. It has become a key project in Jackdaws Education output, supporting the organisational aim to enable creative expression by bringing music to life in an accessible, inclusive and inspirational way. Ms van Zwanenberg, who was at the ceremony to collect the award on behalf of the Trust and the OperaPLUS team, said:

“OperaPLUS is so important to me personally. I loved opera as a child, for the tunes, the stories, the epic struggles and the rib aching comedy. I wanted more children from all backgrounds to have access to this unique art form, I knew that if it was presented in an accessible way they would love it too, and they have never let me down. It also provides vital training for aspiring singers in music education, an area too often overlooked, and lets the communities see the opera through the children’s eyes as they perform alongside the professionals, vitally important as well. This Award is wonderful recognition of the work we have been doing and will continue to do through active and innovative opportunities.

“We want to thank everybody who voted for us. As a small organisation, we work extremely hard, with limited resources, to ensure that we are able to continue to deliver projects like this. This Award means a huge amount to us – Thank you.”

In 2016, OperaPLUS will continue to build on its past successes by presenting a production of Donizetti’s The Love Potion (L’elisir d’amore) with 5 performances this April, involving 18 schools. Each school will work with the cast and production team in a range of workshops to prepare their music for the performance, supported with resources including recordings and sheet music of their parts, all downloadable from the Jackdaws website.

OperaPLUS is supported by Sound Foundation Somerset and Arts Council England and has been featured on BBC Radio Somerset, ClassicFM and in various local press.

OperaPLUS Awards Badge

2015 – Year in Review

Well, what a year 2015 was. Our Education work expanded our reach across to the far side of Somerset with OperaPLUS and in Year of Percussion with percussionist Joby Burgess, and our Piano courses we were voted second place in the Best Piano Courses in the UK in a survey by piano blog the Cross Eyed Pianist.

OperaPLUS

Music Teacher Awards for ExcellenceThe first major project of 2015 was April’s OperaPLUS production of ‘The Stylist of Somerset’ (also known as Rossini’s Barber of Seville). OperaPLUS brings together groups of aspiring young opera singers and primary school children who then work together under the guidance of Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg and Audrey Hyland (Royal Academy) to produce five performances at venues across Somerset. This year, the OperaPLUS project expanded to include over 100 children participating in each performance.

We are delighted that OperaPLUS has been nominated as ‘Best Classical Music Education Initiative’ in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, sponsored by ClassicFM. Please vote for us! (And hurry – voting closes on Friday 22nd January!)

Year of Percussion

Jackdaws Year of Percussion with Joby BurgessJune saw the final performance of another of our large scale projects – Year of Percussion – which gave the opportunity to students from a dozen schools to take part in workshops under the leadership of internationally acclaimed percussionist, Joby Burgess. Their work culminated in a concert held at the Cheese & Grain in Frome, in which the children performed en mass together with Joby who introduced the sold out audience to an unusual array of percussion instruments during the show. This was the fourth year this project has run and which has now involved over 6000 children; we are looking forward to 2016, which continues our journey around the orchestra with ‘Year of the Reed’.

Summer Production

Summer ProductionOur attempts to involve as many young people as possible in a wide spectrum of music based activities continued in July with the ‘Summer Production’. Children between the ages of 10 and 17 spent a week working with Saffron, Will Carslake (music director) and designer Sarah Lawton in which the children chose to perform Macbeth in combination with music by and based on Mozart with design inspied by the work of contemporary American artist Kiki Smith. This is a largely participant driven event and the performance demonstrated the children’s creative skills in acting, music and the various elements of stage design. The final show took place at Frome’s unique Silk Mill on the Friday.

Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards

Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards: Winners & Judges outside the Wigmore Hall 2015Every November our focus moves from the schools of Somerset into London’s Wigmore Hall for the annual Maureen Lehane Vocal Awards, the highlight of our Young Artist’s calendar. Following preliminary auditions, the final seven singers each sang an aria by Handel, a song by Peter Wishart and a piece of their own choosing for the Wigmore audience. Sadley, Oliver Johnston was forced to withdraw through ill-health on the day before the finals, so his place was taken by the first reserve singer, baritone Julien Mellaerts. Astonishingly, with such a short warning, Julien was able to produce the winning performance and walked away with the £2,000 first prize.

Roll on 2016!

Vote for Jackdaws OperaPLUS in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence

Vote for Jackdaws OperaPLUS in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence

Music Teacher Awards for Excellence

EDIT: WE WON!! On 25 February, our innovative project OperaPLUS was presented with the Music Teacher Magazine Award for Excellence for “Best Classical Music Education Initiative”. We want to thank everybody who voted for us and supports our Education work. This is a huge achievement and means a lot to us. [26 February 2016]
EDIT: Voting has now closed for the Awards. Thank you if you were one of those who voted for us – we find out in February if we have been successful! [22 January 2016]

Voting has officially opened for the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence, sponsored by ClassicFM, which sees Jackdaws OperaPLUS, from Jackdaws Music Education Trust, nominated in the category “Best Classical Music Education Initiative”. The Award is recognition of the incredible work this innovative project has done to share high quality opera with children and young people in hard to reach communities across Somerset.

OperaPLUS was the first of many projects created by Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg when she took up the post in 2009:

“It was borne of many different personal experiences which led to a great desire to bring about a combination of outcomes, namely that children and young people have a positive experience of opera and benefit from the well documented effects of participating in music. Young artists receive training and experience in community and education work, in a supported and career enhancing way, children actively participate in performing by singing and acting alongside the professional cast and hard to reach communities have access to high quality opera in an accessible and affordable setting. It was also important to me that the operas came from the mainstream repertoire to give context to the varied, everyday use of this repertoire that the children and audiences hear in their daily lives.”

To vote for Jackdaws OperaPLUS as Best Music Education Initiative, visit the ClassicFM website

What is OperaPLUS?
Jackdaws OperaPLUSOperaPLUS is a key part of Jackdaws Music Education Trust’s work to enable creative expression by bringing music to life in an accessible, inclusive and inspirational way.

The project brings together primary school children and professional opera singers from Jackdaws Young Artist programme, to perform full length versions of well-known operas, sung in English. It is directed by Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg, with the musical direction of Audrey Hyland, Royal Academy of Music professor and vocal coach. The young, professional cast take the lead roles with chorus’ and other roles adapted for performance by the participating children, numbering up to 120 per performance. There are a series of workshops prior to the performances with the cast and director and then the cast and children perform alongside each other in accessible venues in the heart of their communities to large audiences, many of whom are new to opera.

History of OperaPLUS
The first OperaPLUS production was The Magic Flute by Mozart in June 2010, with one performance in Frome, Somerset, involving three local schools. Since then, the project has developed year on year so that in 2015, OperaPLUS was able to present the most ambitious production yet. Working with 14 schools from across Somerset, Jackdaws delivered 5 performances of the Stylist of Somerset (Rossini’s Barber of Seville) in different areas throughout this rural country.

This production was featured on BBC Somerset Radio by Ben McGrail, who used OperaPLUS as an opportunity to ask the public what they thought of opera. The result was overwhelmingly positive which is reflected in the way this project is received by the children and families who participate.
In 2016, OperaPLUS will continue to build on its past successes by presenting a production of Donizetti’s The Love Potion (L’elisir d’amore) with 5 performances including 18 schools. Each school will work with the cast and production team to prepare their music for the performance and are supported with a free set of resources including recordings and sheet music of their parts, all downloadable from the Jackdaws website.

Sound Foundation Somerset LogoOperaPLUS is supported by Sound Foundation Somerset, the Music Hub for Somerset and Arts Council England.

We need all the votes we can get for Jackdaws OperaPLUS as Best Music Education Initiative, visit the voting page on the ClassicFM website.ClassicFM Logo

OperaPLUS Nominated for Best Classical Music Education Initiative

UPDATE [17 December 2015]: Voting is now open! Please visit ClassicFM to vote for OperaPLUS as “Best Music Education Initiative”

Jackdaws OperaPLUS has been nominated in the Music Teacher Magazine Awards for Excellence in the category “Best Classical Music Education Initiative”. The award, sponsored by ClassicFM, is recognition of the incredible work this project has done to share high quality opera with children and young people in hard to reach communities across Somerset.

OperaPLUS was the first of many projects created and set up by Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg:

“It was borne of many different personal experiences which led to a great desire to bring about a combination of outcomes, namely that children and young people have a positive experience of opera and benefit from the well documented effects of participating in music. Young artists receive training and experience in community and education work, in a supported and career enhancing way and hard to reach communities have access to high quality opera in an accessible and affordable setting. It was also important to me that the operas came from the mainstream repertoire to give context to the varied, everyday use of this repertoire that the children and audiences hear in their daily lives.”

OperaPLUS is a key part of Jackdaws Music Education Trust’s work to enable creative expression by bringing music to life in an accessible, inclusive and inspirational way.

The project brings together primary school children and professional opera singers from Jackdaws Young Artist programme, to perform full length versions of well-known operas, sung in English. It is directed by Jackdaws Artistic Director, Saffron van Zwanenberg, with the musical direction of Audrey Hyland, Royal Academy of Music professor and vocal coach. The young, professional cast take the lead roles and the chorus’s and other roles are adapted for performance by the participating children, numbering up to 120 per performance. There are a series of workshops prior to the performances with the cast and director and then the cast and children perform alongside each other in accessible venues in the heart of their communities to large audiences, many of whom are new to opera.

OperaPLUS Stylist of Somerset

The Stylist of Somerset, OperaPLUS 2015

The first OperaPLUS production was The Magic Flute by Mozart in June 2010, with one performance in Frome, Somerset, involving three local schools. Since then, the project has developed year on year so that in 2015, OperaPLUS was able to present the most ambitious production yet. Working with 14 schools from across Somerset, Jackdaws delivered 5 performances of the Stylist of Somerset (Rossini’s Barber of Seville) in different areas throughout this rural country.

The production was featured on BBC Somerset Radio by Ben McGrail, who used OperaPLUS as an opportunity to ask the public what they thought of opera. The result was overwhelmingly positive which is reflected in the way it is received by the children and families who participate.

In 2016, OperaPLUS will continue to build on its past successes by presenting a production of Donizetti’s The Love Potion (L’elisir d’amore) with 5 performances including 18 schools. Each school will work with the cast and production team to prepare their music for the performance and are supported with a free set of resources including sheet music and recordings of their parts, all downloadable from the Jackdaws website.

OperaPLUS is supported by Sound Foundation Somerset, the Music Hub for Somerset and Arts Council England.

Jackdaws logoExternal Links

Music Teacher Awards for Excellence Nominations

ClassicFM

BBC Radio Somerset

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