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School and community unite to tell story of Noah’s Ark through opera

April 26th, 2016

Schoolboys transformed into a multitude of beautiful animals to put on an ambitious community opera with help from local musicians.

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

Having taken place at The Blake Theatre on March 17 and 18, the immersive extravaganza – which has been described as ‘Britten meets Blue Peter’ – was a huge hit with two packed audiences.

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 were part of the cast.

Professional opera singers played the parts of Mr and Mrs Noah.

Joe Walton, music coordinator at The Grange, said: “This was 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 were animals forming the chorus. The rest of the boys played strings, brass and percussion instruments – including one created from sandpaper. One student, Theo, created 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 was the handbells which were played by Grange staff. The beautiful instruments were 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.

Click here to view all of the pictures in our Flickr album.

noyes2

Noye’s Fludde Miracle, a poem by Joe Walton, music coordinator at The Grange

A musical miracle over two nights,

With a raging God,

Inspired, raw,

Shedding dark and light

Across a firmament of faces.

A community cast together by Britten’s musical masterpiece.

An epic journey into a storm, set with passion, humanity,

Priceless human moments caught in the blink of an eye…

Animals hover backstage,

gossips wonder,

“What is happening here?” “Where are we?!” “What happens next?”

“I know!” says one… “Bar 76, bar 77!”

Music memorised, internalised, captured forever

By an eleven year old assistant musical director

And his 130 strong primary school cast,

Who have learnt this particular piece for life.

Opera singers fill the stage with power and presence,

Mrs Noye dragged onto an Ark by boys translated into sons and wives,

Transformed by this journey from distraction and chaos

To focused, sparkling joy.

As the storm breaks, community recorder players watch

The top of a broken conducting baton,

Swirling ever higher in the chaos,

To keep the beat across raging percussion, strings,

Voices, crying out,

‘Eternal Father Strong To Save’

Silently, the conductor crying

‘Hands out of pockets!’ to a daydreaming horse

Moments before he brings the boys in.

Final raindrops are heard on slung mugs,

‘til one crashes down

The player hitting silent raindrops

Sounding a new level of commitment

Ravens are sent,

Alert, energised,

Precise

Followed by a rugby playing, ballet dancing dove,

Tip toeing his way over the edifice of sleeping animals,

To a delicate bird call on recorder.

The final drama is captured by

10 hand bell ringing teachers and staff,

Shedding light over God,

‘Keep going guys!’

And they do

A glorious peal of bells emerging as the rainbow is unfurled

The organ sounds from on high

And a community is transfixed by the slow, powerful embrace of

‘What Though In Solemn Silence All’.

God emerges for a final farewell,

‘Where is he now?!’ the conductor cries

Bells peal, mugs tinkle

And a strange magical spell is cast

By eastern Gamelan music,

Recorders, strings, percussion,

Final stillness

Then captured

By an eleven year old trumpeter.

Music internalised,

Unbroken

Until its silent rest.

 

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