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Hundreds of children in the south west to perform community opera

  • Date: 18 July 2014
  • Area: South West
Model representation of Noah's Ark and animals

Herve’s Ark, Submission to Project Noye 2014 online gallery. Credit: Courtesy of Project Noye 2014

Nearly 500 hundred local schoolchildren, alongside professional musicians, will be giving a unique performance of Benjamin Britten's opera, Noye's Fludde, to an audience of well over a thousand in Bath on Saturday 19 July.

The production is the culmination of a six month educational and community project managed by a first time collaboration of Arts Council England National portfolio organisation, Kneehigh Theatre; the Philharmonia Orchestra and Conductor Charles Hazlewood.  Project Noye 2014 is supported with an award of £40,000 from Arts Council England's National-lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme.

Noye's Fludde was written by famous British composer, Benjamin Britten.  The opera was Britten's interpretation of an ancient Miracle Play that was performed in communities - particularly in the Somerset area - to tell the story of Noah's Flood. Using simple core melodies and anthemic hymns, the story is beautifully and plainly told, an opera for everyone.

Pupils at Brookside Community Primary School in Street, Somerset make up the nearly 500 strong Animal chorus for the opera. The children, aged 4 to eleven, have been working with professional musicians and the artistic team - Director, Simon Harvey of Kneehigh; Conductor, Charles Hazlewood and Designer, Rossana Vize - over the last six months, experiencing first-hand what it feels like to be part of an opera.

Simon Harvey has provided inspirational drama workshops at Brookside school. Charles Hazlewood, who loves working with young people and creating new ways of looking at what we can do with music, has managed rehearsals with the children and will conduct the spectacular final event. Rossana Vize has been responsible for the visual element, devising the Ark itself and working with the children to create fabulous, colourful animal banners to animate the show.

Alongside the work at Brookside School, an online programme - providing information on Benjamin Britten, opera, the participants, and other cross curricular activity - is engaging the extended community. Everyone is encouraged to take part by sending in art work, learning the songs, learning about opera, coming along to the production or just signing up as a Voice of the Flood - a member of the Project Noye 2014 virtual global family.

Performed at Bath and West Showground, the production - part-pageant, part-carnival - will be an interactive affair, with audiences invited to join in where they know the songs. Noye's Fludde was originally written to be performed by and for communities, in non-theatre spaces so the cathedral-like barn at the show ground is a fitting venue. 

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: 'This production will be a real testament to the value of new and exciting collaborations. We strive to ensure that our Grants for the arts awards really make a difference to people and their communities, as well as offering children and young people the opportunity to be involved in and inspired by arts and culture. Project Noye is a great example of this and we look forward to seeing the legacy of engagement and enjoyment that a project of this scale and depth will inevitably bring.'

Charles Hazlewood, Conductor, Noye's Fludde said: 'This really has to be one of the most exciting community opera projects around. We have truly created an authentic pop up opera company with the very finest professional core and a body of turbo charged talent that is formidable and exceptionally exciting. This is what 21st Century opera is about! No messing, we are telling Britten's story of Noah in the heart of the farming community here in Somerset, just a few miles from the area that was devastated by flooding six months ago...and it's a story that will resonate far and wide.

'We are proving that opera is a meaningful voice of expression for the here and now, no compromises, the real thing, with real people, drawn to the genre in its purest form....in a contemporary and accessible setting...and even better, it really doesn't matter if it rains on the day, we've got it covered at the Bath and West in our fabulous barn, Edmund Rack!'

The project has worked in support of FLAG (Flooding on the Levels Action Group) and in February gave a special performance for members of the Somerset Levels community with a fundraising concert by the South Bank Sinfonia. Project NOYE 2014 raised over £3,000 for FLAG.

Noye's Fludde takes place at 1pm on 19 July at Bath and West Showground, Shepton Mallet, Somerset. Find more detail here.

The show will be followed by live music on the green, food and drink, and plenty of activities to keep all ages happy.

Find more detail on Arts Council Grants for the Arts scheme here