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"Amazing": the ONCC tell us about their theatre debut

The Opera North Children Chorus travelled to the historic Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond recently to perform the premiere of Don’t Call a Dragon a Worm! – a performance which also marked their theatrical debut.

The piece had been written especially for the children’s choir by actor and director Anthony Haddon and brought together members from both the Leeds and Newcastle groups. We caught up with some of the young singers afterwards to see what they thought of the show.

The ONCC in final rehearsal for Don't Call a Dragon a Worm at Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal © Richard Jemison

Akele, 11, has been with the ONCC in Leeds for nearly four years. She has performed on stage before but particularly liked the intimacy of the Georgian theatre and the way the performance included all the young singers and the audience:

“Sometimes when the audience is watching a performance, they can get bored, but in this performance, they were included. And I liked that we co-operated together and worked together in the performance. I really liked that.”

Gabrielle, 12, has been coming to ONCC in Newcastle since it started three years ago. She says singing in the seventeenth century theatre was “pretty cool”. For Rive, 10, who joined the choir more recently, it was a dream come true:

“It was amazing – I’ve always wanted to be able to sing in theatres and it made my dream a reality.”

ONCC perform Don't Call a Dragon a Worm at Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal © Richard Jemison

The children were joined on stage by Anthony who narrated the piece, and accompanists Sylvia Hallett on accordion and Polly Virr on cello. For the performance, the young singers wore coloured gloves to represent different parts of the dragon’s body, with red being used for the mouth, and blue, yellow and purple for the creature’s limbs.  As one of the parents commented:

“I love the way they represented each part of the body. It was very clever as it made them come together in a way that didn’t take away the importance of each person but, at the same time, gave them all a voice . I just loved it.”

Another audience member agreed:

“There was really creative use of costume and imagination to make all the images – proper theatre!”

ONCC perform Don't Call a Dragon a Worm at Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal © Richard Jemison

For Leeds member Casey, 10, the best bit about the show was the song ‘My Complaint about Mozart’ which was Rive’s favourite too. It featured a tune from The Magic Flute and saw the dragon accusing Mozart of writing a rubbish opera – perhaps not surprisingly as the dragon is killed at the start of it! Casey has only been with ONCC since the beginning of the year, but Don’t Call a Dragon a Worm! has definitely given her the performing bug:

“I’d like to be part of more shows. Yes, I’d love to!”

Anthony Haddon and the ONCC performing Don't Call a Dragon a Worm at Richmond's Georgian Theatre Royal © Richard Jemison

The young singers are all passionate about being members of ONCC and have plenty of advice for anyone who is thinking about joining:

Akele: “I would tell them, I understand you’re nervous but there’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s a kind environment, it’s a safe place and you’re doing something you love, so you shouldn’t be scared.”

Rive: “Some people I think don’t want to sing because they think they’ll be judged or something but in Opera North choir, you’re not judged at all. We just all enjoy singing … it’s a place I always want to go.”

Casey: “I’ve met some really, really cool people. When I didn’t know anybody, I just found someone and said ‘hi, can I be your friend?’ and that really worked out. It’s a really safe place so you can actually do that.”

Gabrielle: “Definitely join!”

ONCC meets on a weekly basis at Yorkshire Dance, Leeds, and the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, with auditions held twice a year.

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