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Samling Academy Opera - warming up for Albert Herring!

Posted on 26 June 2013

19 JUNE: 9 Weeks To Go…

Led by Samling in partnership with Newcastle and Durham Universities and Sage Gateshead Weekend School, Samling Academy brings together young talent from the North East by offering a series of workshops, masterclasses, individual and ensemble coaching, concert and opera performances.

Several weeks of hard work, costume fitting, note-bashing and photo-shooting in, the cast of Samling Academy Opera’s Albert Herring report on the busy and challenging first stages of preparation for Britten’s exciting masterpiece.

Albert Herring is set in a small market town in England’s East Sussex. The opera begins with Lady Billows’ frantic search for the town’s new May Queen. Halted by her housekeeper, Florence Pike, who reveals the shocking unsuitability of every nominee, it is suggested that perhaps the town should be looking for a King instead…

Light-hearted, yet musically demanding, Britten explores the comic goings-on of a small Edwardian community, immersed within a challenging musical context. The roles demand musicality, vocal control and stamina and, most of all, an acute awareness of fellow performers: that it is the individual parts intertwining as intended, retaining both the comic and the musical, that will allow for a convincing and successful account of Britten’s tale – something our young cast will continually strive towards during the stages of preparation to come!


“My name is Rowan Pierce and I was born and brought up in the North East and took part in Samling Academy 2012. At present I am studying at the Royal College of Music with Eiddwen Harrhy and have been coached by artists such as, Christopher Glynn and John Blakely. I am currently preparing to play the role of Miss Wordsworth in Samling Academy’s ‘Albert Herring’ and am really proud to come from an area where organisations such as Samling are actively supporting young singers. This will be my second production of this opera and I am looking forward to exploring the plot with fresh ideas and hard work”

“I’m Charlotte Heslop and I’ll be playing Florence Pike, a flustered house keeper who lives at the beck and call of Lady Billows. Learning her part has been fantastic: it turns out that being bitter and angry is a lot of fun! Group rehearsals so far have had a really exciting energy. Britten wrote this in a way that feels very natural and conversational so everything really clicks in to place when you’re rehearsing with others and that moment when the entry you’ve struggled over for hours in private suddenly makes perfect sense with others is wonderful.”

“*Emily Bullock* aged 14, currently studying at Durham School. I am to play Harry in ‘Albert Herring’ – he is a young boy who is very mischievous and cheeky. In my weekly music lessons we have been looking at the Albert Herring music score and I have found it to be extremely interesting music and also very funny! I am going to love playing the role of Harry as he has some really funny lines and he is great fun.”

“Hi, I’m Ben Craw and I’m playing the role of Superintendent Budd. So far in rehearsals we have very much been concentrating on the musical aspect of the production – really getting the notes fine tuned. Once the notes are sorted the difficult task is getting the rhythms into one’s head. Some of the rhythms are very unusual and do take some time to perfect. I’m looking very much forward to concentrating on the acting side of it all. As the local policemen I am especially excited to have my own truncheon and smoking pipe on stage.”

“Hello! My name is Clare Tunney, I’m 21 years old and from Middleborough. I play Lady Billows in our production of ‘Albert Herring’. Old ‘Lady B’ is the Patroness and the head of the ‘May Day’ committee who chooses who will be Queen (or King!) of May. I have had one big rehearsal with my committee so far and it’s been inspiring! Although initially we were all a little unsure with our parts, the characters developed brilliantly! This is the first piece of Britten I have ever done and I must admit that it’s a challenge, both rhythmically and melodically, but now, after a long while of learning, I adore the complexity of it.”

“I’m David Powton and I’m playing Mr Upfold, the Mayor, part of the committee for the May Day celebrations. The Mayor is incredibly pompous, self-righteous and, also being the local butcher, desperate to impress and ingratiate himself with more respectable people in the village such as the Vicar and the lauded Lady Billows. So far we have been doing individual calls to work on the score with occasional ensemble rehearsals on key scenes. The music has been a challenge to learn, in no small part due to the bitty, conversational nature of many scenes, but this has also made it incredibly rewarding to learn, especially when everyone comes together in the ensemble rehearsals and the characters very quickly develop as the rehearsal goes on.”

Tickets for Friday 16th August, 2013. 7.30pm
Tickets for Saturday 17th August, 2013. 7.30pm