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 Howard Opera Centre, offering a range of inspiring activities there and elsewhere in the city over the coming months.

Over 300 places are available for children who sing, play an orchestral instrument or simply love being creative, with opportunities to learn from, and play alongside, members of the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera North and education specialists from the In Harmony team.

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The new education facilities nearing completion in the Howard Opera Centre © Tom Arber

Young Singers

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 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

Now more children from the age of 8 are being given the opportunity to become a part of the Opera North Youth Company with auditions being held this summer. 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.

“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

Exciting opportunities coming up for young instrumentalists include, for school age orchestral players, a Woodwind and Horn Academy from 1-2 June and a Brass Academy from 3-4 June, both at Yeadon Town Hall in Leeds.

Young string players will be able to enjoy an immersive 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.

Opera North Orchestra Academy © Justin Slee

Young Creatives

For 8- to 11-year-olds with a more general interest in theatre, the Company’s popular Opera North Creative Camp returns this summer 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.

Opera North Creative Camp 2020 © Tom Arber

Booking is open now for all activities, with young people also able to register for auditions where these are required. All activities will be designed specifically for COVID-safe learning according to the latest government advice and to keep participants and staff safe throughout.

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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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