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Thursday 22 April 2021

Snappy Operas Goes Digital

Like all arts organisations during ‘Covid-times’, we have approached our work slightly differently this year, and that’s meant going digital with our flagship schools’ opera programme, Snappy Operas.

At the start of the year, we announced plans for two new Snappy Opera commissions with composer Raymond Yiu and writer Russell Plows to develop  an opera with children from Hull, and composer Pippa Murphy and singer-songwriter Karine Polwart  to create a new piece with children from North Tyneside (you can read the full announcement HERE).  The Snappy Opera commissioning process usually involves our creative teams visiting partner schools and exploring ideas and testing material with children in a truly collaborative devising process. Unfortunately, the national lockdown put a halt to our planned April and June workshops .  

With the new operas scheduled to premiere during the Snappy Opera Festival 2021, we were determined that the commissioning process would have children at its creative heart, shaping themes, stories, design and musical content just like in any normal year. Our producer, Marc Dunleavy, created a set of videos and activity packs for teachers across North Tyneside and Hull to use in-school with key worker and vulnerable children and also to send to children learning from home. These activities jump-started the children in generating material that our creative teams could use in developing ideas for the new Snappy Operas, and we received some fabulous responses.  

When schools returned in September, we needed to bring composers, writers and children together to develop their great ideas but restrictions across the UK made in-person visits impossible.  We needed a different approach, so Karine, Pippa, Raymond and Russell, along with our Snappy Opera designer Anna Bruder and programme consultant Freya Wynn-Jones, created a series of video ‘tasks’ which our partner schools – Holystone Primary School in North Tyneside and Kingswood Parks Primary School in Hull – could use to explore their ideas further.  Using 2020’s most popular tool (Zoom) we connected everyone together to delve deeper and made sure that every child’s voice was heard.  

These remote workshops allowed us to explore different ways of delivering creative activity.   As well as using a fully remote approach, we also delivered some workshops using a hybrid model, with some of the team on-screen and a music leader live in the classroom with the children (maintaining social distancing, of course) to make sure they had the best possible experience.  

This experience has now fed into our planning for the Snappy Opera Festival 2021 and although we hope to be safely back in school with the children this   summer, we have a backstop of remote activity and are prepared for any eventuality! 

It is not just our activity with  children that’s gone online  this year.  Mahogany Opera recently recruited a new team of Snappy Opera Delivery Artists - Music Directors, Stage Directors, Pianists and Project Coordinators and made the whole recruitment process digital. Information sharing sessions, interviews and group training all took place using zoom. We played games, had in-depth discussions, stretched some creative muscles and shared best practice in how to engage people remotely. This enabled us to bring together creatives from across the UK easily and in a personal way that otherwise  could not have happened during Lockdown 2.0!

The new Snappy Opera commissions are receiving their finishing touches as this is written and we can’t wait to share them with everyone.  Watch this space for more details about the Snappy Opera Festival 2021 – aliens, plastic ducks, dogs and brighter, whiter smiles are guaranteed to bring everyone some joy after this difficult year! 

It is not just Snappy Operas which has received a digital touch this year.  Back in March we were about to present our Various Stages showcase when the pandemic took hold. Still wanting to share the great projects we had supported, we created a series of blogs, musings and discussions which were shared digitally through our website and social media channels. You can see these through our website HERE. More recently, in October we trialled a new online forum. This was an opportunity to share insights, explore ideas and open up the conversation around our work to a wider and more diverse group of friends, colleagues, supporters and partners. The trial was a huge success, and we look forward to announcing further details of a regular series of events in the New Year – be sure to sign up to our mailing list to receive the news first! 

 
We have approached our work slightly differently this year, and that’s meant going digital...
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