Ring Around the World Opera - 2012
Each year the Network schools join together for at least one multi school event, in May 2011 we joined a satellite project to the English Pocket Opera Company's Ring Around the World (RRTW) Opera being run with London schools.
The RRTW opera, part of the London 2012 Festival (the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad), was commissioned from composer Pete Churchill, but was largely created, performed and recorded by children from all of the schools. The final product is now an opera in 162 scenes ‐ one for nearly every major world nation. The opera is a tale of adventure as Hermes and Hera journey around the world, collecting a ‘ring’ of truth from each place they visit. The journey is expressed in different musical styles and song, and was depicted across 32 fully‐staged performances in 6 theatres (4 in London and 2 in Cambridgeshire).
The core opera started and ended in London, visiting China, Greece and Australia at every performance, but the cast of heroes (as part of the story) also visited up to 6 additional countries in scenes created by children, which changed at each of the 32 performances. The 162 children’s scenes were achieved through a 5‐step education project, involving school twinning with one specific world nation, teacher‐training, interactive performances in schools for children, in‐depth artist residency work, and performance in theatres. The core scenes gave rise to 7 sing‐along anthems or choruses (the ‘Ring Songs’), which in total were taught to 60,000 project participants
What did we hope to achieve?
RRTW celebrated the world in the year when the world came to London and harnessed the spirit of the Games for the purpose of cultural and musical expression. The goals of RRTW were that every participant, children, teachers and parents would feel connected to the Olympics and in all project activities, they would engage directly with the spirit and ethos of the Games. The children would have undergone a significant cultural experience that they will always remember as their contribution to London 2012.
The opera project provided an opportunity to:
• introduce students in our schools to opera and transform the ‘not for me’ perception of opera.
• encourage singing and music making - both in, and between, the schools;
• provide an opportunity for students to work with professional composers and musicians;
• provide performing opportunities to young instrumentalists from our schools;
• to celebrate different cultures through song and dance;
• to promote relationships between the Network schools; to celebrate Cambridge’s involvement in the London 2012 Olympics
• provide an opportunity for children, who might otherwise never have had the opportunity, to compose music and lyrics and/or perform in an opera: an open access musical experience for all, not just for those learning musical instruments
• deepen the students’ understanding of musical traditions in other countries
• foster inter-cultural respect and understanding, improving class cohesion.
What did we do?
Each school or tutor group chose a country to be twinned with and began to use the resources available on the RRTW website including: information on each country, the lyrics and music for the 5 Ring Songs, tips on singing and opera, and much more.
Teacher Training and Resources
EPOC led a training session in February 2012 for all staff involved in the project. The aim was to inform and inspire teachers, while empowering them to input into the project at whatever level they felt comfortable. The 3 hour session included: an introduction to the project and the 7 ‘Ring Songs’; an update on EPOC resources and signposting on country research and cross curricular potential; information on teaching opera; and an introduction to the online song‐writing and composition toolkit for the composition workshops.
Whole School Assemblies
A team of EPOC soloists and musicians visited every school in April for a 60-minute opera taster session (‘The Quest for the Rings’). As well as introducing children to opera, Quest for the Rings also introduced Ring Round the World to the whole school by taking them on a musical journey round the world taking in all sorts of musical styles and introducing them to the 7 ‘Ring Songs’. Children who were performing in the opera in most of the schools had already learned the Ring Songs and were invited to sing along as part of the performance.
Song Writing Workshops
At the heart of the project lay the song composition and drama workshops which were held for each performing class or tutor group. Two half-day, in-school workshops were led by an EPOC composer and drama leader. They worked with the pupils to compose their own original song about their chosen country and prepared the pupils for performances. Between workshop sessions teachers or music leaders worked with the class to further develop the songs and dance which they will perform as a group during the opera.
There were four performances of the opera in Cambridge from July 2nd to 5th 2012, two at West Road Concert Hall and two at Comberton Village College, with over 150 students performing alongside professional singers and instrumentalists from EPOC on each of the four nights. Common to all performances were original ‘Ring Songs’ representing UK, Greece, China, Australia and Brazil. In addition, at each performance, students from each school performed a song which had been written and composed during their in school composition workshops.
Each performance was a unique: a journey round the world where students collected the ‘ring of truth’ and performed the rings songs as well as their own school’s composition. At each performance a third of the audience was made up of performers and the rest friends and family of the performers. The audience were encouraged to join in singing the Ring Songs and all Ring Song lyrics were available in the program for each performance.
Many of the pupils prepared art work or other items related to their country in school. These were displayed in the foyer of the performance halls on performance days and were available for the audience to view.
What did we achieve?
- approximately 2300 from the Network schools were introduced to opera
- over 600 pupils learn about song writing and drama
- 48 song writing and drama workshops held in schools
- Pupils composed 20 original songs which they performed to audiences of up to 350 puipls and parents.
Feedback from staff, pupils and parents
The whole school – teachers and pupils ‐ thoroughly enjoyed the assembly and were inspired by the humour and singing that it brought to life.
Class Teacher, Caldecote Primary School, Cambs
Composition and Drama Workshops
The workshops were great. We were slightly anxious at the beginning but Simon and Rachel ‘s efforts and the children’s enthusiasm made our Cuba song such a memorable experience overall. So many of them gained the confidence to perform.
Class Teacher, Hardwick Primary School, (Cuba)
The most beneficial aspects of the project was performing on a large stage in front of a large audience ‐ it was an incredibly moving experience to be part of.’
Class Teacher, Coton Primary School, Cambs (Bahrain)
This is what we most enjoyed about the opera project:
- “Watching one of our class members remain on stage and perform with the actors!”
- “The jokes by EPOC during the performance”
- “Watching the effects and the UV lights.”
- “Being on stage”
- “Watching the other schools perform”
- “Knowing we had written our own song!”
- “An exciting opportunity to be part of an Opera…I never thought I’d have so much fun!”
- “I liked watching all the other schools perform rather than being kept backstage‐ I loved their songs, especially the Indonesian song!”
- “I liked that our class got to go on stage‐ I wish we could do it again!”
Year 5 Pupils from The Vine Inter‐Church Primary, (USA)
What a wonderful project for the children to be involved in! It was a fantastic, lively and contagious production and was especially delightful knowing the children had all written their own beautiful songs. Absolutely loved it!
Parent of a year 5 performer