Opera North (ON) has launched four new digital initiatives designed to promote wellbeing and aid learning during the current lockdown and beyond, the Leeds-based company has announced.

With live performance in front of an audience not possible under current coronavirus restrictions, ON’s online offerings will include projects “to keep children entertained and engaged with music in the home, alongside feelgood initiatives for adults to raise spirits and encourage connection,” the company said in a statement.

First is Opera North’s Little School of Music. This unique project is aimed at primary-school children and offers a series of free interactive videos demonstrating a range of activities including games, quizzes and music-making using parts of the body or items lying around the house.

The resources have been created by tutors involved in the company’s award-winning In Harmony project which has been running for more than seven years in primary schools across Leeds. The emphasis is on enjoying a break from traditional lessons, with families encouraged to share their creations on social media. The videos will also be offered to schools free of charge.

The Orchestral Academy Online, which started on Monday 15 February, has been especially devised for young musicians aged 10 to 18 studying an orchestral instrument at Grade 4 or above. The project will provide free masterclasses and workshops led by members of the Orchestra of Opera North.

The workshops will be held throughout February half term and will focus on a particular instrument or orchestral section. Each session has been designed in collaboration with Opera North’s professional musicians to enable participants to find out what makes their instrument special and to explore new ways in which to develop technical ability and overall musicality.

Running to 27 February, ONe-to-ONe is designed to bring the experience of live performance to people’s living rooms. The project will offer community groups, care homes and anyone in need of some lockdown positivity the opportunity to have a song or instrumental piece performed for them live on Zoom by a member of the Chorus or Orchestra of Opera North. These free mini-concerts need to be booked in advance via Opera North’s website.

This month also sees the return of Opera North’s popular pay-as-you-feel virtual choir. From Couch to Chorus: Sing into Spring starts on 24 February. Over the course of four weeks under the guidance of a professional choral director with input from the Chorus of Opera North, participants will learn operatic repertoire from Mozart, Verdi and Dvořák, culminating in a session when the whole virtual chorus will come together online.

New for this edition are evening classes so people can choose to attend during the morning or, if more convenient, later in the day. The daytime sessions will all be live-captioned and the resources will be available in large print and Braille.

A special series of free fortnightly online singing workshops is being held for people living with persistent pain, as part of the Footsteps Festival 2021. Step Into Singing has been developed in collaboration both with those with chronic pain and specialists in the field. The focus of each session will be on supporting wellbeing and helping people to live well despite pain using breathing techniques, vocal exercises, mindfulness and a healthy dose of singing.

Led by soprano Marie Claire Breen, sessions take place on Zoom and last an hour from midday. The next class is on 23 February and they run till 20 April.

Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, commented: “During these uncertain times, we have stayed firm in our commitment to making music accessible to everyone in a variety of ways, from live streaming opera and concerts to encouraging novice and more experienced singers to come together over Zoom for our From Couch to Chorus virtual choir.

“Until we are able to welcome audiences back in person, we remain determined to facilitate digital engagement with music for as many people as possible, whether they are looking to use it for reflection, inspiration, joy or reassurance. Our hope is that this new suite of digital activity will help those who have taken on the additional burden of homeschooling, while also offering some lighter moments for people who may feel isolated in their houses.”



ONe-to-ONe offers personal performances to be enjoyed at home over Zoom (Robert Workman).