Birmingham is home to one of three Youth Opera companies led by Welsh National Opera. During lockdown, we were delighted that youth opera members from South Wales, North Wales and Birmingham have continued to meet with us, virtually, learning new ways of working via digital technology, gaining skills in performing and recording themselves from home. This presented a unique opportunity for each of our WNO Youth Opera groups to come together (virtually) for the first time to perform the song: I Shall Not Live In Vain, shared in this video. The underlying message of this poignant song is all about helping others and is taken from the Emily Dickinson poem ‘If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking’.
WNO Youth Opera is one of many opportunities in a growing programme offered by WNO in the West Midlands. Over the past three years we have worked with eight primary and special schools in the north of Birmingham, offering weekly creative activities that introduce children to the world of opera, while teaching key singing and performance skills. The most keen performers are then signposted to WNO Youth Opera.
Working in partnership with the Black Country Music Education Hubs, we expanded our reach, creating new opportunities for young people in secondary education to learn about opera, enabling aspiring singers and performers to perform their own opera accompanied by an ensemble of young musicians from the Music Service Youth Orchestras.
Before the national lockdown happened, we had begun working with refugees and their young children to provide a fun creative space for families to discover and explore the art of storytelling through music. This, along with many of our established activities, is postponed for now but as a company we remain deeply committed to reconnecting with children and young people by making use of our new digital capabilities as well as exploring the more creative aspects of opera such as composing, song writing and design.
Once it is safe to do so, WNO’s orchestra and singers will be returning to Birmingham Hippodrome to share some popular favourites from the world of opera with children and families at our fun-filled schools and family Concerts. We will also be launching a new touring concert for young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, developed in partnership with the young people and staff and Mayfield’s special school.