I felt very proud as I danced down the aisle", said nine-year-old Claire Ovenden. And rightly so, for Claire had managed her role as one of the singing shepherds in the nativity opera, A Gift at Christmas, with skill. The production was mounted by the recently revived Kent Opera in St James's Church, Egerton, and involved 60 children from five schools.
Johanna Platt's libretto proved accessible and sometimes witty, while the music, composed and conducted by Ruth Byrchmore, showed some originality in its melodic shaping and use of dissonance. Becky Chesson was convincing as the Angel Gabriel, and Hannah Griffith played Sam, the angel sent down to earth for singing wrong notes in the heavenly choir, with panache. Choreography used the limited space well, although the country dance needed more rehearsal. And chorus work was well projected despite occasional intonation problems ("I sing of a maiden", for example).
Afterwards, I asked nine-year-old Hannah Griffith how she had felt, playing Sam. "I was really nervous, but excited", she said. "I enjoyed it because I've never been in an opera before and I had lots of things to do".
Congratulations to the new Kent Opera on a successful education project.
Kent Opera Education, Pembles Cross, Egerton Ashford, Kent TN27 9EN (0233 76237).