From Couch to Chorus is a new online series of workshops in which participants can learn how to sing opera. It will be launched later this month by Leeds-based company Opera North.

Starting on Monday 20 July, the hour-long teaching sessions will be held on Mondays and Tuesdays over four weeks to Tuesday 11 August. A special online performance is set to take place on Wednesday 12 August.

The classes will take place over Zoom, with participants being taught operatic excerpts by a professional choral director, with input from members of the Chorus of Opera North. Each session will be specifically prepared for soprano, alto, tenor and bass voices.

By the end, it is anticipated that the choir will be able to sing choruses from Bizet’s Carmen (1875) and Smetana’s The Bartered Bride (1866), as well as the rousing ‘Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves’ from Verdi’s Nabucco (1842). In the final session, singers from all vocal parts will join together online to perform a full virtual chorus.

A variety of resources will be used to help people master the basics of opera quickly and easily, whether they have previously sung with a group or not, and a recording will be sent to participants after each workshop. No previous experience or ability to read music is required, Opera North said in a statement, and help will be given for anyone not sure which session to join.

The idea for the project grew out of the popularity of Sing ON, weekly face-to-face singing sessions which Opera North held in a variety of venues around Leeds prior to social-distancing restrictions. The Education team continued to deliver these lessons online, with feedback showing how much they have been appreciated by people who might otherwise feel lonely and isolated during lockdown.

“With this project, we aim to give everyone a taste of what it’s like to be a member of an operatic chorus, learning exciting repertoire and developing singing skills as part of a group,” Jacqui Cameron, Opera North’s education director commented. “In these times of social distancing, we’re not able to hold the face-to-face sessions, but we know from our experience with Sing ON that participants still find it uplifting to be part of a virtual choir.

“Holding From Couch to Chorus online will give people a chance to sing with friends who live in other areas and who they may not be able to see at the moment – and to make new ones from across the country and further afield.”

To participate in From Couch to Chorus, you will need to sign up via Opera North’s website. The sessions will work on a ‘pay-as-you-feel’ basis, with participants asked to donate however much they like in the checkout stage and before or after each workshop. You can also contact Opera North’s Lifelong Learning team for help in determining your voice type.



Kiss Me, Kate performed by the Chorus of Opera North. (Tristram Kenton).