New Youth Opera Performed in Broadstairs
03 July 2017
Beckenham Junior Choir and Beckenham Youth Voices, joined by the Junior Choir of St John’s Church East Dulwich, travelled to Broadstairs for their biennial concert to the seaside town. On Saturday 1st July, some 50 children aged 6 to 16 performed at Holy Trinity Church to an enthusiastic audience of family and friends, local residents and weekenders. They sang a medley of songs in the first half, including one composed by Carey Blyton (nephew to Enid), and then put on a children’s opera written especially for them by leading young British (Kent-born) composer James Olsen. Titled One of our Brothers is a Lion!, the opera was performed fully staged, complete with colourful masks, costumes and props, and made this year’s concert a very special one.
One long-time local resident Patricia (aged 84) was very impressed. She said: “You cannot imagine how much I enjoyed the event. It was very beautiful to see all these young people singing and acting together in such a wonderful show. I hardly ever go out in the evening and I am so glad I came.”
Musical Director and founder of the choirs, John Webber, said: “The choirs love coming to Broadstairs. Our visit every other year to this wonderful seaside town has become quite a feature in our musical calendar. It is very special to have an opera written for you and the young people all worked very hard. The audience was incredibly enthusiastic and it was a real pleasure to perform in Holy Trinity.”
James Olsen’s new opera, commissioned by the choirs and generously funded by private patrons, including local businesses, tells the story of Saint Jerome and the lion, as recounted in the Golden Legend (c. AD 1260). Saint Jerome is said to have removed a thorn from a lion’s paw—a subject familiar to art lovers from numerous paintings of this subject. What these paintings do not show is that, after the thorn is removed, the lion joins the monastery, and is even given a job by Saint Jerome. Man and beast live in harmony until, one day, the monastery’s donkey goes missing, and the brothers blame the lion…
James, who grew up in Beckenham (Kent) was the first assistant director of the Beckenham Junior Choir as a teenager in the 1990s. His music has been widely performed by leading international artists in the UK and abroad.
James said: ‘My experiences with Beckenham Junior Choir fostered in me a love for making music with young people and amateurs which is still very much part of why I’m a composer today. There’s a special British tradition of composers writing for communities, following Benjamin Britten, of which I’m proud to be a part. It’s a great privilege to have composed for the Beckenham choirs and wonderful to bring the work to a new audience in Broadstairs.”
After the concert, the singers and their families all went onto the beach to enjoy the last rays of sunshine and a well-deserved supper of fish and chips. One of the joys of coming to Broadstairs!
A trailer for the opera can be viewed on YouTube here:
The choirs performed the opera on Saturday 1st July 2017 at 5pm in Holy Trinity Church, Nelson Place, Broadstairs, Kent CT10 1HQ.