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Snappy Operas: Haverhill Days

This autumn, workshops for Snappy Operas with young people across the country have been underway. In Suffolk composer Luke Carver Goss and writer Ian McMillan have been working with Place Farm Primary Academy. Ian shares some of his thoughts on the experience.

This is how creativity should work, I reckon. There’s a school hall in the Suffolk town of Haverhill and some children are filing in. There’s a piano. There’s a flipchart and pens. There are stacks of paper. There’s autumn light streaming in through the windows like and idea. There’s a poet. There’s a composer. There’s a musical director who will fire the room with an electric combination of excitement and discipline. There’s a pianist who will lift the tunes we are about to invent and carry them into the waiting air. There are other adults scattered around the room who will become willing participants in the magic that is about to happen.

The composer (and my good pal and co-veteran of many a hard engagement in the village halls and theatres and, yes, school halls of the land) Luke Carver Goss and I are here to work with the people in the room to create the first ideas for our Snappy Opera. After a couple of daft poems with choruses to get us in the mood, it’s down to the business of creativity, which makes the air crackle and the brain quickstep.

Luke Carver Goss with young people from Place Farm Primary Academy
Luke Carver Goss with young people from Place Farm Primary Academy. 

We haven’t decided much in advance because that isn’t the way we work: in all our gigs we make at least one song up with the audience and I like the moments of collaborative making and mayhem that ensue. All Luke and I know is that somehow there will be hunters in this Snappy Opera, and there might be some kind of magical tree. We thought of that in the car on the way, and it’s marinating in our separate but almost conjoined brains.

So, standing at the flipchart, I write down the phrase ‘We are the hunters’ and we talk about how we might turn that into a song; we all repeat the phrase a few times, saying it and then, with the aid of Luke’s accordion pounding out a beat and a melody, we give it a tune. Then there’s the pause between the first line and the second, like the moment before a sunrise. I ask the room what the second line could be. We imagine the hunters with their bows and arrows and they seem to come into the hall and sit with us.

Ian McMillan

Snappy Operas is a national project for young people creating ten new mini-operas. We’ll be performing Luke and Ian’s piece alongside four others across the country in spring next year. 


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Snappy Operas writer Ian McMillan shares his experiences working with young people in Suffolk. 
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