Out of the Shadows

Friday, 16 April 2021

Youthful opportunities: musical activities for young people and more from Opera North, the Liverpool Phil and Welsh National Opera

Opera North Orchestra Academy (Photo Justin Slee)
Opera North Orchestra Academy (Photo Justin Slee)

Nowadays, community engagement for professional music ensembles (orchestras, opera companies, choirs, etc.) does not involve simply going into schools talking to and playing to children and coming away again. Many companies have long-term involvement in a myriad of youth projects, providing opportunities for youth music engagement which are often not available to young people in today's climate of poor music provision in state schools. Both Opera North, in Leeds, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic have recently announced opportunities for engagement at a musical level in a variety of projects, whilst Welsh National Opera's community engagement programme has recently been supported by a grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

In Leeds, Opera North is preparing to open its redevelopment project the £18 million Howard Opera Centre this Summer, which includes a new Education Studio which will be the home to several initiatives including projects with the Opera North Youth Chorus, the Opera North Children’s Chorus and Opera North Young Voices. Children from the age of 8 to 19 years can join the Opera North Youth Company; 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.

Opera North Children's Chorus perform The Spiders' Revenge (Photo Tom Arber)
Opera North Children's Chorus perform The Spiders' Revenge (Photo Tom Arber)

Intrumental opportunities include a Woodwind and Horn Academy and a Brass Academy at Yeadon Town Hall in Leeds, giving school age orchestral players the chance to learn from, and play with, members of the Orchestra of Opera North and Opera North education specialists. For young string players there is an immersive 4-day Strings Academy in the Howard Opera Centre while, for young musicians playing at grade 7 and above, the Opera North Summer Orchestra Academy will run in August. 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. 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.  

Further information from the Opera North website.

Liverpool Philharmonic youth orchestras
Liverpool Philharmonic youth orchestra

In Liverpool, there are eight different ensembles that the Liverpool Philharmonic is recruiting for,  both choirs and orchestras, from the Resonate Youth Philharmonic (for children grade 2 and above) to Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra (for ages 13 to 21 at grade 7 and above), from Liverpool Philharmonic Children’s Choir (for children in years 5 to 7) to Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Choir (for singers ages 18+ who can read music and sight-sing), and not forgetting Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Brass Band (for ages 13 to 21 at grade 7 and above).

And young instrumentalists are invited to “Come and Play” with Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Orchestra on Zoom Wednesday 21 April at 6pm to find out more about the orchestra, how you can join, meet current members, and make music together. Register here

They are also calling for composers, and there is the Rushworth Young Composers & Songwriters (for aspiring composers aged 14 to 18) and the Rushworth Composition Prize (for Northwest composers aged 18 to 30)

Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir
Liverpool Philharmonic Youth Choir

Further information on all the Liverpool Philharmonic's youth ensembles from their website.

Welsh National Opera (WNO) has an extensive community engagement programme including two youth opera companies, with regional groups for 6 to 18 year olds in South Wales, North Wales and Birmingham, and the Youth Opera Young Company which offers training and performance opportunities to young singers age 18 to 25, plus two Community Chorus programmes (one in Cardiff, one in Llandudno), and choirs for people with dementia and their carers and story-telling activities for refugees and asylum seekers. One such is WNO’s Cradle Choir based in Milford Haven since autumn 2019; working with Torch Theatre, Havenhurst Day Centre, Pembrokeshire Association of Voluntary Services and Pembrokeshire County Council, the group initially met in person weekly, bringing more than 40 people to sing together and now meets online and it has also held dementia friendly training with local schoolchildren.

Welsh National Youth Opera Sing Club (Photo Kirsten McTernan)
Welsh National Youth Opera Sing Club (Photo Kirsten McTernan)

WNO has one of the highest levels of participation figures of opera companies in the UK. In 2019/20, pre COVID-19, more than 55,000 people took part in WNO engagement activities. And the teams have successfully maintained many programmes during lockdowns by moving them online.

Full details from WNO's website.

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