Suddenly opera is quite cool

15th June 2007 at 01:00
SOME THINGS only get better. For years Scottish Opera has been doing its splendid "opera in a day" in primary schools up and down the country. Now, in The Scootcher Tree, their John Muir project for primary schools in the Dunbar area, it has added creativity to performance and asked the children to help write the book and music.

"It's a completely different format," explains Allan Dunn, director and co-librettist. "The children have made a real input.

"They know a lot about Muir from their school trip to the museum in Dunbar.

We started with rap, because that was the musical form they knew, and then worked forwards to poems and songs, playing lots of word and music games."

Co-composer Karen McIver found fun ways of prompting the children towards musical composition. For example, when she was working on tempo, she asked them if a mountain had a heart, at what speed did they think it would beat?

They wrote melodies and were not too annoyed when she adjusted them for the final score.

Veronica Brunton, P7 teacher at Dunbar Primary, says: "The whole thing was fantastic from start to finish. We had no idea what we were getting - there isn't a lot of opera in Dunbar.

"From the first they were asking for our ideas, for lyrics, for playlets, building on them every week. And then they told us they were going to put it into an opera.

"The ScotOp people were so professional. Teachers cannot match the experts in this kind of work. Our children came up with amazing ideas. They surprised themselves. They think opera is quite cool now. Some of them are even seeing it as a career option.

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