As Opera North's new concert staging of Turandot opens at Leeds Town Hall, we spoke to a group of children who will be singing on the main stage for the very first time during the production.
The young singers are all pupils at Low Road Primary School which became the second school to join the In Harmony Opera North community residency in September 2015. As well as giving every child the opportunity to learn to play an orchestral instrument, the residency also enables pupils to perfect their singing skills and to master musicianship more generally.
For the 9 and 10-year-olds appearing in Turandot, the singing bug really took hold and they formed the Low Road Chamber Choir which meets on a Friday after school. Their commitment has now paid off with the opportunity to join members from the Opera North Children’s Chorus for every Turandot performance, both in Leeds and on tour.
Opportunities like this are what makes In Harmony so special. The children have never had the chance to do anything like this before. The magnitude of going on tour to nationally renowned venues and working with singers and orchestral players of the highest calibre can never be underestimated.
— Andy Gamble, Executive Headteacher, Low Road Primary School
We asked some of the children from Low Road Primary School who are taking part, Venkat (9), Polyana (9), Tanishka (10) and Hayden (9), what they thought about joining the Company of Opera North for Turandot.
What did you think when you discovered you were going to get the chance to perform and tour with Opera North?
It was amazing. I honestly didn’t think it was real. I never imagined I'd take part in an actual production.
Had you heard of Turandot before you started singing in it?
Only because we sang it during choir. James (Choral Delivery Artist, Opera North Education) taught us the words in English first which really helped when we started singing in Italian because at least we already knew the story and what the words meant.
What’s it like singing in Italian?
It feels weird. It’s good though because no-one in your family knows what you’re singing. It’s particularly funny when my little 4-year-old sister tries to copy me!
What are you most looking forward to?
All of it, but especially going on tour as none of us have ever been to any of the places before. It's also been fun making new friends.
It’s like being in a proper concert with all this amazing music around you. It’s very loud though! It was great when the Chorus started clapping us - I felt so proud.
Do you feel nervous?
Most of the time it's fine. I only really feel nervous when the rehearsal stops for a moment and everything goes quiet. It'll be frightening but amazing when we're actually singing on stage in front of an audience, although I think it'll be harder when we know our family and friends are watching.
How much rehearsing have you had to do?
I’ve been keeping count and we’ve done 15 rehearsals so far. We’re often listening to everyone else, as we're not singing all the time, but I’m definitely not bored yet!
This is all about making the ordinary, extraordinary. I’m hoping this will create lifelong memories for the children taking part, giving them an experience they’ll never forget. That’s one of the best gifts we as educators can give any child.
— Andy Gamble, Executive Headteacher
You can catch the In Harmony children at the Leeds performances of Turandot and on tour at Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, Hull City Hall, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and Sage Gateshead throughout May.
Turandot at Leeds Town Hall - Tristram Kenton
The pupils at Low Road Primary School - Opera North
Opera North Children's Chorus - Justin Slee