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Making Music: Opera North launches new online activities to inspire all ages

  • Opera North’s Little School of Music: encouraging 5 to 11-year-olds to explore music at home
  • Orchestral Academy Online: offering masterclasses and workshops with the Orchestra of Opera North for young instrumentalists
  • ONe-to-ONe: bringing virtual solo performances into people’s homes
  • Virtual Choirs: From Couch to Chorus returns, with Step Into Singing providing special sessions for people living with persistent pain

Opera North continues its commitment to bring music and performance into the lives of people across the country with the launch of a suite of digital initiatives designed to promote wellbeing and aid learning during the current lockdown and beyond.

With performance to an audience in person not possible under the current restrictions, the Company’s online offering includes programmes to keep children entertained and engaged with music in the home, alongside feelgood initiatives for adults to raise spirits and encourage connection. The hugely successful singing workshops From Couch to Chorus return for a third time, with over 90 per cent of those who took part in the Festive Edition saying it had a significant impact on their wellbeing.

Opera North’s Little School of Music

Available now:

With most children currently being schooled at home, Opera North’s Little School of Music offers a series of free interactive ‘pick and mix’ videos designed to encourage families to explore the world of music together.

Aimed at primary aged children, the programme takes youngsters on a journey of discovery through a range of activities including games, quizzes and music-making using parts of the body or items lying around the house. The resources have been created using the expertise of the tutors involved in the Company’s award-wining In Harmony project which has been running for over seven years in primary schools across Leeds. While the videos do include a learning element, the emphasis is on enjoying a break from traditional lessons, with families being encouraged to share their creations on social media afterwards. The resources will also be offered to schools free of charge.

Orchestral Academy Online

Starts: Monday 15 February. To sign up:

“The tutors were all lovely and friendly and gave really useful feedback.” – Participant, Summer Strings Academy 2020

The pandemic has led to the suspension of many of the usual orchestras and ensemble groups for young musicians, impacting both musical development and social interaction. To encourage them in their learning and to enable them to keep playing in the company of like-minded peers, Opera North has created Orchestral Academy Online. Building on the success of its live equivalents, the online academy provides free masterclasses and workshops led by members of the Orchestra of Opera North. Each one has been devised especially for young musicians aged 10 to 18, studying an orchestral instrument at Grade 4 or above.

The workshops will be held during February half term and will focus on a particular instrument or on an orchestral section, such as woodwind, brass and percussion. Each session has been designed in collaboration with Opera North’s professional musicians to enable participants to celebrate what makes their instrument special and to explore new ways in which to develop technical ability and overall musicality in a friendly, supportive and safe environment.


Launches: mid-February

Inspired by the Song Surgeries which soprano Bibi Heal has been running online with Opera North’s Community Partners, ONe-to-ONe is designed to bring the thrill of performance direct to people’s living rooms.

Starting in mid-February, there will be a chance for community groups, care homes and anyone in need of some lockdown positivity, to have a song or instrumental piece performed for them live on Zoom by a member of the Chorus or Orchestra of Opera North. The free one-to-ones will need to be booked in advance via the Opera North website.

From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring

Starts: Wednesday 24 February. To book:

“It has been a beacon in these difficult times, to have an appointment to meet with other people and do something uplifting.”- From Couch to Chorus participant

Following on from the success of From Couch to Chorus: The Festive Edition which saw 2000 people from across the world take part in some seasonal singing, February sees the return of Opera North’s pay-as-you-feel virtual choir with From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring.

Over the course of four weeks under the guidance of a professional choral director and with input from the Chorus of Opera North, participants will learn uplifting operatic repertoire from Mozart, Verdi and Dvořák, culminating in a session when the whole virtual chorus will come together online. New for this edition are evening sessions so people can choose to attend during the morning or, if more convenient, later in the day. Everyone is welcome, whether they are already a member of a choir or have barely sung a note before. To increase accessibility, the daytime sessions will all be live-captioned and the resources will be available in large print and Braille.

A special series of free fortnightly online singing workshops is also being held for people living with persistent pain as part of the Footsteps Festival 2021. Step Into Singing has been developed in collaboration both with those with chronic pain and specialists in the field. The

focus of each session will be on supporting wellbeing and helping people to live well despite pain using breathing techniques, vocal exercises, mindfulness and a healthy dose of singing.

Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, comments:

“During these uncertain times, we have stayed firm in our commitment to making music accessible to everyone in a variety of ways, from live streaming opera and concerts to encouraging novice and more experienced singers to come together over Zoom for our From Couch to Chorus virtual choir.

“Until we are able to welcome audiences back in person, we remain determined to facilitate a digital engagement with music for as many people as possible, whether they are looking to use it for reflection, inspiration, joy or reassurance. Our hope is that this new suite of digital activity will help those who have taken on the additional burden of home schooling, while also offering some lighter moments for people who may feel isolated in their houses.”

From Couch to Chorus and Opera North’s wider education programme is kindly supported by the Emerald Foundation.