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School unites with community to tell Noah’s Ark story through opera

March 1st, 2016

Schoolboys are transforming into a multitude of beautiful animals to tackle an ambitious community opera with help from local musicians.

Pupils at The Grange will be performing as lions, tigers and bears among 47 other creatures as they retell the story of Noah’s Ark through Benjamin Britten’s multifaceted show, Noye’s Fludde.

Taking place at The Blake Theatre on March 17 and 18, the immersive extravaganza – which has been described as ‘Britten meets Blue Peter’ – is the perfect way to introduce youngsters to classical music.

Alongside every boy at The Grange, 50 extra musicians including senior pupils from Monmouth School, recorder players from the town, and a professional string quartet are also part of the cast.

Professional opera singers will play the parts of Mr and Mrs Noah.

noyes1Joe Walton, music coordinator at The Grange, said: “This is very different to a musical. It’s an opera written for a local community to perform. It’s written to be a piece that everyone can take part in, particularly children. There are around 130 boys at The Grange and 100 will be animals forming the chorus.

“The rest of the boys are playing strings, brass and percussion instruments – including one created from sandpaper. One student, Theo, will be creating the sound of rain with suspended mugs. The mugs work in a similar manner to a xylophone. Thankfully Theo is a pianist as well, because it’s quite hard to do.

“A true community element to the performance is the handbells which are being played by Grange staff. The beautiful instruments have been generously loaned to the school by Raglan based handbell group, Millenium Chimes.”

Luckily for the pupils, who range in age from seven to 11, trainee art teachers from UWE in Bristol volunteered their time to help create the impressive range of animal masks.

“Our art teacher Simon Huson is also a lecturer at the university and he set his students the task of creating the templates of each animal mask,” Joe added.

“They came in for two full days and worked with the boys to make these brilliant masks, which the boys have been decorating since September. It has been a really lovely element in creating the show. We have every bird you can think of, including two striking curlews. My favourite masks are the hares – they’re brilliant.”

Planning the show as a school community began in July last year.

He continued: “It’s really exciting to see it all coming together – and a little bit daunting! The boys have learnt so much from being involved with this. They have learnt that it takes a lot of hard work to create something meaningful on such a scale.

“They’ve seen the fabric of it being woven together in school time to create this huge collage. They’re learning about classical music and opera, the story of Noah’s Ark, while learning to understand the medieval text and the rich and elaborate 19th century words for the hymns.”

The show’s director and Grange drama teacher, David Murray, has set up The Blake’s stage to make the audience feel as though they are truly part of the performance.

“It is very immersive,” Joe said.

noyes4“The animals will be marching through the audience to board the Ark, and God (played by Mr Murray) will be wandering between the seats. Music will be coming from all over the theatre. This definitely won’t be a typical opera experience.”

Tickets cost £10 for adults and £5 for children and the performance lasts for one hour, starting at 7pm. Click here to book or call The Blake Theatre on 01600 719 401.

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