Laughton Community Primary School — The Magical Music Tree
Find out more about our Year of Snappy Operas, and what the future has in store for our flagship young people's programme...
Following the success of the inaugural Snappy Opera Festival in 2019, Mahogany Opera began planning for the second Snappy Opera Festival, scheduled to take place in the summer term of 2021 working with new and existing partners in areas of low arts engagement. Through these relationships we hoped to deliver a project identical in structure to the 2019 Festival, identify schools whose young people would benefit from the project, provide them with new skills and life changing experiences, and bring the young performers and new audiences together in professional venues to celebrate the joy of opera.
In 2020 the whole world was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and in March 2020, with the introduction of national lockdowns and the closure of most schools and businesses, planning had to be put on hold. Not knowing how long the disruption might last, we began to explore alternative ways the project might work, and with the support of our partners continued to engage with young people remotely, taking the development of two brand new Snappy Operas digital (you can read more HERE).
As disruption continued into the Autumn of 2020, it became clear that delivering a full-scale Snappy Opera Festival in Summer 2021 would not be possible. Varying infection rates and local restrictions meant each of the proposed regions had different concerns, objectives and timescale preferences in relation to the project, so a new structure had to be created to most appropriately support our partners and the prospective participants.
The YEAR OF SNAPPY OPERAS was born.
Responding to feedback from project partners, activity was spread out across an entire year, allowing each partner involved to engage in the project at a time that felt most appropriate to the situation in their region, as well as providing space for activity to be moved should restrictions or infection rates change. This change in project structure also allowed Mahogany Opera and the project partners to offer a more bespoke approach to delivery – testing new ways of working and alternative structures in specific regions to help meet specific aims.
Laughton Community Primary School, East Sussex
Our year began in May 2021, working on a bespoke project in East Sussex to present a Snappy Operas performance as part of the Villages Music Festival in Laughton. The bespoke activity included working with all of the children from years 5 & 6, as well as delivering a series of training sessions with all of the school’s teaching staff to help support wider arts delivery. The project culminated in June with a performance of The Magical Music Tree, a magical moment which brought together the school community for the first time in over 15 months.
Children from Kingswood Parks Primary meet the musicians
In September 2021 we ventured to Hull, working with Hull Music Service to engage 212 children from five schools across the city. Although most Covid restrictions had been lifted by this stage, infection rates were still high in the area, so activity was tailored to ensure everyone remained safe whilst ensuring the children were able to benefit from (and enjoy!) the project to the full – remote sessions were added, smaller rehearsals incorporated and individual performances presented at each school rather than a massed performance. This included the first ever sharing of Teacups & Tentacles – a new Snappy Opera commission created by Raymond Yiu and Russel Plows with children from one of the participating schools. The children still got to enjoy each other’s performances, with an online sharing of recordings of the six Snappy Operas they performed.
Teacher’s CPD Day, Leicester
In January 2022 we turned our sights to the East Midlands, working with LeicesterShire Music to engage the largest number of children from a single region in the project's history – 300 children from four schools in areas of high deprivation in Leicester that had also faced the most challenges as a result of the Covid pandemic. Again, activity was tailored in response to ongoing Covid risks, though we were able to present three public performances across two days in April, allowing all of the schools to share their hard work with their family and friends.
St Mary’s RC Primary School perform Machine Dream
In March 2022 we began delivery of our first Snappy Operas project in Scotland, in partnership with Edinburgh International Festival. The bespoke activity in Edinburgh allowed us to work with our largest single region delivery team – 16 artists in total – allowing us to make diverse connections in the region for future activity. The team worked with four schools, engaging 155 children in the creation of six Snappy Opera performances. Restrictions on public gatherings in Edinburgh were lifted just weeks before the end of the activity, but in time to allow us to present our first gala performance of the year, bringing together all of the schools for a special performance at The Queen’s Hall in May.
Rehearsals – Playhouse Whitley Bay, North Tyneside
The final stop on our tour was North Tyneside, where we collaborated with our partner North Tyneside Music Education Hub to engage 174 children from five schools. Activity in the region had been long in the making, beginning after the Snappy Opera Festival in 2019, so an extended preparation period began in February 2022 – teachers worked with their children (after a remote introduction from the delivery team) over 3 months to introduce them to the arts, opera and Snappy Operas, using specially created resources and links to the wider curriculum, before our teams began in-school activity in April. Our third Snappy Opera project in the region saw us return once again to the Playhouse Whitley Bay for another gala performance which included the English Premiere of Smiles Better – a new Snappy Opera created by Pippa Murphy and Karine Polwart with children from one of the participating schools – a wonderful and fitting end to our Year (well, 15 months) of Snappy Operas.
The Year in Numbers
What next for Snappy Operas?
The Snappy Opera Festival will return in 2024, but in the meantime, we will be working on a new, very special, Snappy Opera commission. Over the next year, Mahogany Opera will be working with the pupils and staff of Sandgate School in Kendal to create a new Snappy Opera with, and for, the entire school population with learning needs and disabilities. We hope this new venture into a specialist school will create a truly inclusive and accessible Snappy Opera, as well as informing our future activity. Be sure to sign up to our mailing list to hear more about how this project progresses. Until then, remember to #MakeItSnappy
I’d like to thank you and your team for providing us with such an amazing opportunity to showcase opera, our pupils’ talents and the Arts to our parents and pupils. What a fantastic pair of performances which were enjoyed by the whole school and the pupils’ parents. To have live music again in school was an additional treat and we are very grateful to you and your team for supporting us through the whole creative process!
I felt very proud of myself… it felt like the best thing in the world.
Young person feedback
It really was a fantastic project, and it filled my heart with joy seeing all those young people shine.
Delivery artist feedback
Snappy Opera Festival collaborators:
Ally Rosser – Mahogany Opera Executive Manager
Bridget Rennie – Mahogany Opera Executive Director
Caroline McKoen – Mahogany Opera Fundraising Manager
Freddie Wake-Walker – Snappy Operas Artistic Director
Freya Wynn-Jones – Snappy Operas Associate Artist
Marc Dunleavy – Associate Producer
Stephen Deazley – Snappy Operas Music Director
Edinburgh International Festival
Hull Music Service
North Tyneside Music Education Hub
Villages Music Festival
Benton Dene Primary School
Hermitage Park Primary School
Holystone Primary School
Langley First School
Laughton Community Primary School
Leith Primary School
Lorne Primary School
Maybury Primary School
Mayflower Primary School
Oldfleet Primary School
Paisley Primary School
Priory Primary School
Queensmead Primary Academy
Kingswood Parks Primary School
Shiremoor Primary School
Sparkenhoe Community Primary School
St Aidan’s Primary School
St Mary’s RC Primary School
Uplands Junior Academy
Kingswood Parks Primary School, Hull
Laughton Community Primary School, East Sussex
Maybury Primary School, Hull
Oldfleet Primary School, Hull
Playhouse Whitley Bay, North Tyneside
Priory Primary School, Hull
Queensmead Primary School, Leicester
The Albemarle, Hull
The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
The Venue, Leicester
Lisa J Coates
Matthew Jansen Giraldo