Community participation in opera

Welcome to this first Ormond Opera Blog, where I am talking about singing and the benefits of community participation in our operas in the Richmond borough.  For the past year, we have been working on music making within the Richmond borough, where no other professional opera company hangs its hat. 

Community participation: the ladies from the Ormond Opera Community Chorus in Richmond.

Yes, it’s true that the Opera House at Covent Garden is only a short journey away, but for those people who either don’t like travelling into London, or who could just do with a break from the Big Smoke, we offer entertainment around the Richmond borough at professional level.

However, we also love to involve our supporters in our events !  Our first full scale production was Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, and we invited some local community singers to get on board and to participate in the show as the chorus, thus creating the Ormond Opera Community Chorus. 

We realise how busy our chorus members would be, as most of them belong to numerous choirs as well as our own, so we went for a non-memorisation approach – ie the chorus did NOT have to learn the music by heart. 

We also felt that staging the chorus would mean additional rehearsals for already time stretched people.  And so, the Ormond Opera Community Chorus were neatly ensconced in the choir pews of our church venue, where they could see all the action, as well as sing the chorus numbers.  Although costuming wasn’t a big thing, we asked people to wear business dress, to fit in with our setting of the City of London.

So how did it go ?  From what everyone was saying to me, both the professional principals and the chorus members enjoyed the experience immensely.  The benefits for the chorus were first: enjoying singing some fabulous music.  The tunes from the Pirates of Penzance are catchy and lots of fun to sing.  They were certainly put through their paces at a few chorus rehearsals !

The second benefit, which many people reported to me, is how much they enjoyed observing the professional principals’ rehearsal process.  Obviously, the principals spent time on blocking and characterisation before the chorus arrived, but once we were all together, the heightened atmosphere helped everyone to up their game, which I believe resulted in an excellent show. 

The chorus were keen to support the principals by singing well, and speaking as one of the principals, I didn’t want to let the chorus down by not doing a good show.  Aristotle was indeed right when he stated that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts!  That is particularly true of community participation in professional opera – and how lovely to have it on our doorstep in Richmond.

Our next event: Come and Sing Faure’s Requiem on 21st May in Richmond.  Book here.  Followed by Madama Butterfly on 12th and 13th November.