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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Ulster Touring Opera lends its voice to Fermanagh schools

“It’s different compared to the stuff we do at school” – that’s what primary seven pupil Ava said about a recent opera workshop in County Fermanagh.

Ava attends Jones Memorial PS in Enniskillen, one of a number of schools in the county which have attended singing sessions run by the Ulster Touring Opera (UTO).

The company, along with the Fermanagh Choral Society, was awarded funding from the Northern Ireland Arts Council’s Rural Engagement Arts Programme.

The workshops are taught by two opera singers and a pianist from UTO to give children from rural primary schools the opportunity to try opera-based activities, such as singing and drama.

Ava, Bradley and Lacey from Jones Memorial PS in Enniskillen

Bradley and Lacey were among the 23 choir members from Jones Memorial who spent the morning testing their vocal range.

Bradley, also in primary seven, said he was excited to experience opera, while primary four pupil Lacey said she was was looking forward to singing on stage.

“I’m looking forward to having fun, to singing with the choir or by myself,” she added.

Armand Rabot from Ulster Touring Opera

Armand Rabot is a member of UTO and will be appearing in its upcoming production of The Barber of Seville.

He said he hoped the workshops would expose a wider audience to opera.

“When I was young, growing up near Liverpool, I didn’t have a clue about opera or anything like that and it’s now what I do the most,” he said.

“It’s my job and it’s what I love and we’re trying to get that passion into young kids from an early age.

“There’s a massive creative and collaborative process in opera and that’s fantastic for kids to get involved with.

“And just the ability to be creative and not, you know, pushed into a box is fantastic for them.”

But what do the children think about opera?

“The overwhelming response has been fantastic from the kids, and it’s been very very easy to get them to really love it,” he said.

Twenty-three children in the school's choir took part in the workshop

Jones Memorial vice-principal Roberta Bailie, who brought along the choir, said it was important that her students heard about “how exciting music is and how exciting singing is”.

“It was just too good an opportunity to miss,” she continued.

“You’re giving them opportunities to develop their singing strategies, their drama strategies and just working as a team. It’s lovely to be able to do it after Covid.”

The workshops, which are taking place at the Ardhowen Theatre, will run until 16 February.

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