Six months' efforts will go on show when the curtain rises on the Opera For All schools' premiere. Brian Hayward reports
Scottish Opera For All has followed through on its pledge that its new headquarters in Edington Street, Glasgow, would be put to good educational use. The first six-month programme of expressive arts for schoolchildren ends on Monday with a performance at the Theatre Royal. A packed house is guaranteed. The theatre seats 1,500 and the 150 pupils taking part are allowed just 10 tickets each. They had to be restricted - one girl asked for 53.
The enthusiasm has been huge, especially in the 13-16 age group, who volunteered in such numbers that Opera For All had to double its provision for them. From January, tutors took classes weekly for Primary 2-4 and P5-7, and twice weekly for Secondary 1-4.
After the necessary skill-building, the groups devised 10-minute presentations derived from two operas in the main company's repertoire, The Magic Flute and Ines de Castro. On Wednesdays the seven-year-olds have been weaving a snake dance, with hoops and streamers, to the strains of Mozart, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays their seniors have been pondering James MacMillan and the events of 14th-century Portugal.
These presentations will be complemented on Monday with dance and song. Maxine Railton has choreographed music by Peter Warlock for the dance group, and the second part of the performance will be choral.
This will be the first public sighting of an important musical initiative in Glasgow. The city council and the British Federation of Youth Choirs have funded animateur Anne Murphy to stimulate choral singing in Glasgow. Quartering the city, and working closely with the principal teachers of music in 17 secondary schools, she has led workshops for about 100 singers from S4 upwards. Because Glasgow has ring-fenced money for children to work with professional companies, this embryonic Glasgow Schools Choir could be offered a partnership with Scottish Opera For All.
Ross Stenhouse (of Hopscotch) and Opera For All music director David Munro have collaborated to create a song cycle about the Clyde, beginning with the rain at Leadhills, and ending with the city. Forty members of the city youth choral groups will premiere the piece on Monday.
For the young people on stage, the curtain fall will end this year's work, but for the arts educators it brings only an interval. Anne Murphy is planning to add a primary schools choir to the secondary choral work next year, and Opera For All director Jane Davidson already sees the seeds of a young people's music theatre company.
The expressive arts workshops were sponsored by Marks and Spencer