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Knight Crew youth opera

  • Date: 28 September 2010
  • Artform: Music
  • Area: South East
Knight Crew, Glyndebourne Touring Opera and Education, 2010 Knight Crew, Glyndebourne Touring Opera and Education, 2010, Photograph: David Illman

Aspiring teenage singers from East Sussex and Brighton & Hove performed in gangland-inspired opera Knight Crew, the latest youth opera from Arts Council England regularly funded organisation Glyndebourne Touring Opera & Education.

The opera, based on the King Arthur myth, premiered at Glyndebourne in March 2010.

A total of 52 young singers aged 14 to 19 years old got the chance to perform a full opera on the world-famous Glyndbourne stage as the Knight Crew chorus. The performance involved six professional singers, an orchestra, and 120 young people and adult participants from the community.

Knight Crew tells the story of Art, a teenager who is initiated into a gang called the Knight Crew, his rise to power and the war with rival gang Saxons. It is a tale of betrayal, revenge and death, adaptated from the Nicky Singer novel in a co-commision with Singer, composer Julian Philips and director John Fulljames.

Glyndebourne Touring Opera & Education raised over £400,000 towards the project. Arts Council England supported Knight Crew with a Grants for the arts award of £100,000. Other funders included East Sussex County Council, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, PRS Foundation, other trusts and foundations and private donors.

Choir master, Gareth Malone, of BBC2's The Choir, led a talent search across East Sussex in which 450 young people from schools, colleges and youth groups across the county auditioned for a place. It was this behind the scenes process that featured in Gareth Malone goes to Glyndebourne, the three-part BBC2 documentary series, that aired at the end of June 2010.
We spoke to two young people who shared their thoughts on how being part of Glyndebourne's Knight Crew chorus changed their lives:

'I had never experienced opera or any singing activity before Knight Crew,' says 16-year-old Alex, who was 15 when he got involved.  'I played the part of a member of the Knight Crew, a street gang fighting off a rival gang, the Saxons.

'I really enjoyed the experience and it has made a big impact on my life. Since the performance, I am determined to pursue performing arts in college, university and hopefully as a career.'

Lydia, a 14-year old chorus member, had received  singing lessons before and taken part in singing competitions but had never taken part in an opera.

'Being part of Knight Crew realised my dream to be on stage!' she said. 'It was inspiring, and it boosted my confidence in everything in life.'

Both singers were 'discovered' in recruitment workshops, one in a school in Eastbourne and one through an open workshop at a youth centre.

Knight Crew was also linked to the new creative and media diploma (National Skills Academy for Creative and Cultural Skills - NSA), which centres on work related learning for 14 to 19 year olds. It gave young people a chance to learn first hand about the industry in preparation for the real world of work. 

Knight Crew premiered at Glyndebourne on 4, 5, and 6 March 2010.

To learn more about the Knight Crew production, see