Recently, I took part in online event, From Couch To Chorus, and experienced what it’s like to sing as part of an opera chorus.
When I was 15 years old, I sang in the Priory School for girls’ choir.
I did not realize that I would sing with the chorus of Opera North some 50 years later.
Since the school choir, I have sung with groups of women.
This would be outside, or inside, the Greenham common Air Force base.
Greenham Common women’s peace camp is where I learnt the power of song.
Greenham Common Air Force Base is now closed and partially reverted to Common Land.
Singing in my 60s
No, I’m not a high achieving singer.
Yet a week ago I was one of 650 singers, aged 23 to 88 who took part in the Opera North 5th #FromCouchToChorus.
Up to 80 of the 650 of us were singing in Leeds at the Howard assembly room.
Before the live performance the singers in Leeds participated in a side-by-side rehearsal at the Howard Opera Centre, with the Chorus of Opera North guided by vocal coach Marie Claire Breen.
Here, the closeness to the quality of tones from professional singers sharpened my peace camp trained vocal cords to some degree, I think.
Once we ready for the live performance the couch to chorus participants sat across from the chorus of Opera North. The zoom singers were on video screen. We were all conducted by Oliver Rundell, Opera North Chorus Master.
I cannot find enough adjectives to describe how amazing this was.
I was surrounded by buzz, excitement, gorgeous melody, powerful bass and soprano voices, laughter, smiles, humour, and an incredible feeling of cohesion between the many including the zoom participants from around the world.
The live stream is accessible here
The live concert followed a series of threes zoom rehearsals, separated according to voice type, and guided by expert vocal leaders Marie Claire Breen and Matt Roughley.
Those of us singing in Opera North’s ‘From Couch to Chorus’ could be complete beginners, to people like me with some experience singing and reading music, to experienced choir-goers.
The ability to read music was not a requirement; neither was knowledge of your voice type.
We were given everything needed for the incredible experience of singing in an opera chorus mainly from our own homes!
The Beginnings of #FromCouchToChorus
Opera North initiated #FromCouchToChorus during COVID-19 lockdown.
The early story is available to read in Yorkshire Bylines.
This article quotes Jacqui Cameron, Education Director at Opera North:
“With this project, we aim to give everyone a taste of what it’s like to be a member of an operatic chorus, learning exciting repertoire and developing singing skills as part of a group. In these times of social distancing, we’re not able to hold the sessions face-to-face, but we know from our experience with Sing ON, that participants still find it uplifting to be part of a virtual choir.
From Couch to chorus: Sing into Spring 2023
This year, From Couch to Chorus was back! Over three weeks this March we sang to spring.
Opera North “Get a taste of what it feels like at the centre of the drama with Verdi’s ‘Gypsy’ and ‘Matadors’’ choruses from La traviata.
Then travel to Spain and join the ‘Anvil Chorus’ from Verdi’s Il trovatore, with its rousing tune and rhythmic feel.
Finally, it’s time to celebrate with the ‘Chorus of Wedding Guests’ from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor.
“The course will culminate with a live streamed finale event on Wednesday 12 April where you will get a chance to sing along live with the Chorus of Opera North.
“Since its first edition in November 2020, over 3,800 people from all over the world have joined us to take part in our award-winning online course. We can’t wait to welcome singers old and new!
The Love of my singing began around age 15, the empowerment of singing began with massive women’s protests, the strength of singing is everywhere.