Hidden Valley Workshops

Composer and Conductor Richard Barnard tells us about his adventures in Bristol schools this May: It's been a busy few weeks visiting schools across Bristol to introduce children to The Hidden Valley opera and work with them creatively. I've been delighted with how they've gone, and I'm hugely grateful to the school staff for their enthusiasm and support, helping us pack such a lot in to each workshop! Across April and May we worked with over 300 children and here is where we went: Horfield Primary Cotham School Merchants Academy St Patrick's Primary St Mary Redcliffe and Temple School Almondsbury Primary Redmaids Juniors Henleaze Primary (delivering 2 workshops with around 90 children) and we also did a session at Colston Hall foyer! For each workshop, harpist Julia Hammersley and I were joined by a singer from the show, Laura Pooley (Ariene), Aled Powys Williams (Dewi) or Matt Ward (The Crow). We told them the Hidden Valley story, weaving in live excerpts from the opera.

We were so thrilled by how engrossed the pupils were, which is testament to Alan Harris's beautiful story. They all loved hearing the harp and voice close up (asking lots of question about the harp!) I left the story on a cliff hanger... what will Dewi decide? The children then created their own songs about Dewi's dilemma and began pieces of group artwork which will form part of the Hidden Valley opera design. It was great to hear such different responses and ideas to writing their songs. They took different perspectives, emotions and moods, some adding actions, dynamics and vocal harmonies.

An important part of the process was helping young people to have the courage to suggest ideas, sing, improvise and compose in front of other people. I hope that we have given pupils an insight into opera, making them part of a new professional production in their city, and inspiring them to come and experience it live! Check out more pictures of the workshops at Horfield Primary when you have a moment. The Hidden Valley will be performed at St George's Bristol on 29th & 30th June and 1st July. Book your tickets now!