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Young People: Performing Together

The  recent public performance of Eugene Onegin was the first time the Opera North Youth Orchestra and Opera North Youth Chorus had performed together. With auditions being held next month, the young people shared their thoughts on both ensembles.

Opera North Youth Chorus is the ensemble in the Opera North Youth Company for young singers aged 16 to 19 years. Sammy Mills has been singing with them for five years and was selected to sing a solo in Eugene Onegin. For him, being a member of the Youth Chorus has been a really positive experience:

”It’s been really great to be in this environment with all these talented people. Being able to help each other out, being in an ensemble, being conducted, being told how to make my scores and also doing all the work on movement and drama has been incredibly helpful.”

Sammy has secured a full scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music from September 2023.

Abby McHale and Sammy Mills dance together in rehearsal for Eugene Onegin © Justin Slee

For Abbie McHale, who is in her second year of ONYC, the best things about the ensemble are getting to do different projects, working with the Chorus of Opera North and making new friends:

“I have really enjoyed the Eugene Onegin project and working with the professional Chorus and with the Youth Orchestra. It’s very interesting to work together and it feels good when the end product is done.

“It’s really nice to have so many people involved in a big performance. Working with a professional chorus helps you think about what you’d like to do in the future. It’s definitely inspired me.”

Bess Cook-Miller in rehearsal for Eugene Onegin with the ONYO © Justin Slee

Opera North Youth Orchestra was established in 2021 as a pre-professional ensemble for young musicians at sixth form or university already playing at Grade 8 or above. The aspiring instrumentalists meet on selected weekends in Opera North’s rehearsal rooms to prepare challenging repertoire under the guidance of conductor Oliver Rundell and are mentored by members of the Orchestra of Opera North.

Bess Cook-Miller, violinist, is currently studying music at Cardiff University. She has been a member of the Youth Orchestra from its inception:

“It has taught me a lot about the professional experience of playing in an orchestra, learning repertoire and working alongside people. It’s really exciting. I’ve learned loads.

“The quality of the ensemble is really, really high. It’s great for networking as well, as it brings together students from various universities and conservatoires which never usually happens – and the contacts and connections with Opera North are incredibly valuable.”

Tenor trombonist Wiktor Plaza (left) rehearses Eugene Onegin © Justin Slee

Playing in Eugene Onegin has been “a phenomenal experience” for tenor trombonist Wiktor Plaza, who is a music student at Leeds Conservatoire.

“This group is definitely a wow. I’ve gained an understanding of different points of view and learned communication, not just within the brass department but in general. It’s been quite a journey going from playing Sibelius and Verdi symphonies to performing an opera and playing alongside professional singers – you don’t want to look bad in front of them!”

Rose Linane, viola, who is studying at York University, agrees that ONYO has helped her acquire some valuable skills which will stand her in good stead for the future:

“I have definitely gained confidence, speaking with other sections and different people from different places. This orchestra offers unity and friends in a very good and supportive atmosphere. It’s also given me an insight into the possibilities here in an opera house: seeing how it all works and getting to know the system.”

The ONYO and ONYC rehearse Eugene Onegin © Justin Slee

Trumpeter Leo Parry is currently a student at the Royal Northern College of Music:

“I remember the first Youth Orchestra rehearsal I went to. I had played with an orchestra before, but during COVID-19, I’d totally forgotten how it felt as it was just about me and my practice. It was a timely reminder that music is made by lots of people coming together.

“It’s a really great thing to enjoy other people’s talent and to be reminded that we’re all part of something greater: the coming together of a team to produce something for an audience to enjoy.”

Auditions for the Opera North Youth Orchestra are taking place in Leeds on Sunday 23 April with anyone interested asked to apply by 9am on Monday 3 April. Auditions for the Opera North Youth Chorus will be held on Wednesday 26 April, Wednesday 3 May and Thursday 13 July with an online option available.

Apply now

Opera North’s work with young people enabling them to practice and perform together is generously supported by the Keith Howard Foundation, The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation, Whitaker Charitable Trust, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable, and Leverhulme Trust for Arts Scholarships.


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