Glyndebourne celebrates 30 years of pioneering education work in 2016

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Glyndebourne will celebrate 30 years of its education department in 2016, culminating in a celebratory event this autumn.

Formed in 1986, under the leadership of Katie Tearle, with the initial aim of complementing Glyndebourne’s touring activities, the department has expanded to deliver a year-round programme of work and is responsible for a large percentage of Glyndebourne’s new commissions, many of which are performed on its main stage.

Current projects include Performances for Schools; Glyndebourne Youth Opera (GYO), providing workshops and performance opportunities for local young people; a community-based music and dementia project Raise Your Voice; pre-performance talks and events and a Young Composer in Residence post, currently held by Lewis Murphy.

During the past 30 years of education work, Glyndebourne has:

  • Commissioned 32 composers including Julian Philips, Lynne Plowman, Orlando Gough, John Lunn and Jonathan Dove, whose first opera Hastings Spring was commissioned in 1990
  • Given 3,000 amateur singers and instrumentalists the chance to take part in performance projects
  • Enabled 30,000 school pupils to experience the exhilaration of watching fully-staged opera through its Performances for Schools programme, established in 2006.
  • Won four prestigious awards for its education projects, including two Royal Philharmonic Society awards, and been shortlisted for a further four accolades

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “The education department at Glyndebourne has been a pivotal part of the organisation’s success and outstanding reputation, not just in England, but internationally. Over the last 30 years the education team has had an important role in introducing opera to new and diverse audiences – across all ages and backgrounds – helping to enhance their enjoyment and understanding of this artform. I look forward to seeing this work continue to flourish in the future, supporting early career professionals to realise their ambitions and building audiences for opera.”

Stephen Langridge, Artistic Director at Gothenburg Opera, worked on education projects at Glyndebourne during the 1990s and 2000s, during which time he directed two youth operas commissioned by Glyndebourne for the main stage – Misper (1997) and Zoë (2000).

“The great thing about working with the education team at Glyndebourne was that we always felt close to the centre of the company. The work was supported and understood as a crucial part of the company’s mission,” he says. “My contribution started in the old house in 1987 and continued via creative projects in schools, universities and prisons to Misper and Zoë, in the new house. These projects were all valuable in themselves, but also helped to shape my personal view of the meaningful way an opera company can meet and create with its community, and a development of thought and practice which, three decades later, has profoundly influenced the work we are doing in Gothenburg.”

To mark the anniversary, Glyndebourne has launched the Glyndebourne Education Alumni scheme to reconnect with as many people as possible who have participated in its projects.

Freya Wynn-Jones successfully auditioned to be part of the youth opera Zoë in 2000 and was a soloist in Glyndebourne Youth Opera for several years. Today she remains closely involved with Glyndebourne as a director of GYO and the dementia project, Raise Your Voice.

“I remember the first moment I became aware that I could audition for an opera, that opera could be for someone like me. There was a poster on the board in my school’s drama room for Zoë, a Glyndebourne Youth Opera. I wasn’t sure I’d like opera, I’d certainly never heard any, but my drama and music teachers encouraged me to audition – I don’t think any of us realised the world it would unlock for me. I now work as a director with Glyndebourne Youth Opera and Raise Your Voice. The work we do makes a difference – I am acutely aware of this because I know the difference it made to me, a young 13 year old from a low-income family, desperately trying to make sense of her place in the world and finding it at an opera-house.”

Glyndebourne will also mark the anniversary with the launch of two new awards for gifted young singers who have taken part in education projects with Glyndebourne.

The Gus Christie Award will be presented to a young singer who has demonstrated outstanding vocal talent. The second award, yet to be named, aims to assist in removing financial and access barriers that may be preventing the recipient from fulfilling their vocal potential.

The awards will be presented at a celebratory event taking place at Glyndebourne in the autumn of 2016.

Gus Christie, Executive Chairman of Glyndebourne, said: ‘Glyndebourne has always sought to nurture new and emerging artists. Through our education work we extend this into the local community. It’s fitting that in the 30th anniversary year of this work we are reaffirming our commitment through the inauguration of these two new awards to support talented young singers to develop their potential.’

Among the education projects taking place in 2016 are:

  • The world premiere of Nothing, a new opera by composer David Bruce and librettist Glyn Maxwell, featuring a chorus of young singers from Glyndebourne Youth Opera and talented young instrumentalists playing alongside Southbank Sinfonia
  • A Glyndebourne Youth Opera performance of new compositions by Glyndebourne’s Young Composer in Residence Lewis Murphy, inspired by the 2016 Glyndebourne Festival production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • A partnership with Battle Festival and De La Warr Pavilion to commission a major new contemporary opera by the internationally acclaimed composer Howard Moody as part of the Root 1066 International Festival to mark the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.