Pupils join opera company and renowned composer for Covid songs

Pupils recording the Song Cycle at St Francis, St Michael’s and Sprowston schools.

Pupils recording the Song Cycle at St Francis, St Michael’s and Sprowston schools. - Credit: Into Opera

Hundreds of children at six primary schools in Norwich are set to share a message in song about the coronavirus pandemic.

Pupils have been working with Into Opera and internationally renowned composer, Will Todd, to develop a major artistic song cycle that captures a slice of social history and encourages youngsters to share their thoughts and feelings about the impact of Covid-19.

Sprowston Junior Rehearsing the song 'Little Things' outdoors.

Sprowston Junior Rehearsing the song 'Little Things' outdoors. - Credit: Into Opera

To follow coronavirus guidelines, schools transformed offices into mini-recording studios and even wheeling pianos into the playground to enable larger groups to sing and rehearse together.

Mr Todd, who has previously worked with the Welsh National Opera, The Halle Orchestra, and the BBC Concert Orchestra, said: “It’s been incredibly moving to work with the words which the children have shared with us. 

Recording at St Michael's V.A. Junior School.

Recording at St Michael's V.A. Junior School. - Credit: Into Opera

“I hope that what these children in Norwich have to say can be an inspiration to everyone who hears them singing these songs.” 


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During lockdown in July, both children at home in school participated in virtual workshops with Into Opera producing poetry, letters, journals and artwork about their lockdown experiences.

Into Opera artistic director, Genevieve Raghu.

Into Opera artistic director, Genevieve Raghu. - Credit: Into Opera

These went on to be curated into lyrics by Into Opera’s artistic director, Genevieve Raghu and performance poet Adisa the Verbalizer then set to music by Mr Todd.

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Ms Raghu said: “The public response to the pandemic seems to have been dominated by adults and politicians. We’ve not heard very much from children at all.

Virtual workshop with Will Todd and Genevieve Raghu at St Michael's V.A. Junior School.

Virtual workshop with Will Todd and Genevieve Raghu at St Michael's V.A. Junior School. - Credit: Into Opera

“I wanted to develop a project which would give children a voice and encourage them to dig deep emotionally.” 

The six songs produced forms a song cycle titled 2020: You Won’t Hold Me Back!. It will receive a virtual premiere on YouTube along with a pre-recorded Q&A with artists and teachers on Thursday, December 17.

St Augustine’s Catholic Primary School, The Bawburgh School, Falcon Junior School, St Francis of Assisi Catholic Primary School, St Michael’s V.A. Junior School, Sprowston Junior School took part.

St Michael's V.A. Junior School rehearsing the song 'Heroes'.

St Michael's V.A. Junior School rehearsing the song 'Heroes'. - Credit: Into Opera

St Francis of Assisi deputy headteacher Claire Furness said: “The children are so excited that their words, their feelings, their emotions have been put on to paper…it’s not only increased their self-esteem but it’s shown them that their thoughts are valued.” 

Sarah Claflin, deputy headteacher St Michael’s, said: “As a result of this project, there is a great sense of achievement in the school and so much joy at a time when it could have been very different.”

Virtual workshop with composer Will Todd.

Virtual workshop with composer Will Todd. - Credit: Into Opera

* The virtual premiere of 2020: You Won’t Hold Me Back! will take place on Thursday, December 17 at 2pm. To watch (no charges apply), visit www.into-opera.org.uk/2020

Pupils at St Michael's V.A. Junior School rehearsing '2020_ You Won't Hold Me Back!'.

Pupils at St Michael's V.A. Junior School rehearsing '2020_ You Won't Hold Me Back!'. - Credit: Into Opera

Recording at St Michael's V.A. Junior School.

Recording at St Michael's V.A. Junior School. - Credit: Into Opera


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