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On a high note

Schools get offers from all sorts of theatre groups. At one end of the scale there are the "hit-and-run" entertainers, in and out in half a day.

At the other end are those willing to be in for the longer haul, and few hauls are as long or likely to gather in more educational goodies than the year-long partnership between North Ayrshire's primary schools and Scottish Opera Education.

The aim was for teachers, children and company to create a new opera together, given guideline themes of citizenship and the environment. The creative work was handed to director Iain Piercy and composer Karen MacIver to be formalised into libretto and score for rehearsals to begin.

The project began last February with a workshop for 30 teachers at Scottish Opera's education centre. The teachers were self-selected, all teaching some form of arts to P3, the target group.

The long haul then began with weekly workshops with SOE practitioners, building the teachers' and children's skills in music, drama, dance, prop-making, directing techniques, basic stage management skills and even film-making.

From this grew personal and social development work, with the teachers creating arts teaching packages for themselves and others to use next session, and a third phase of rehearsal for the performances in the Vikingar! Centre in Largs next week.

Because of the sheer size of the project - more than 400 children from 18 primaries - SOE shared the work among three clusters and each cluster of six schools will give two performances.

For Linda Campbell, headteacher at Fairlie Primary, the performance will round off a "thrilling" year. "The day with Scottish Opera was really exciting - we learned loads. We are a small school, so the cluster idea was brilliant," she said.

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