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If you’ve ever wondered how an opera is created, we brought together Caradog Williams, composer, and Brendan Wheatley, librettist (who is also co-director of Swansea City Opera together with Bridgett Gill), to talk about the process of crafting Shoulder to Shoulder with Men’s Sheds Cymru.

Brendan:
“The starting point for a piece like Shoulder to Shoulder is always our belief that great art is for everyone, and opera shouldn’t be elitist. Opera is something that can be enjoyed by ALL.

I mean, how many times do we hear opera in films, on TV, in adverts or hear it on radio stations like Classic FM? A lot.

To make a community opera, we choose subjects that people can relate to.

And we don’t compromise on excellence just because it’s a “community opera”. That’s selling participants and audiences short.

We work with exceptional artists, for example, Caradog Williams, our composer, has composed music for the Three Welsh Tenors  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1OFB9plFw0 as well as acclaimed Welsh choirs.

He shares our passion for working with “real people”.

Caradog:

“I always think the hardest part of an opera is writing the libretto – the story – which is Brendan’s department. Shoulder to Shoulder’s libretto is rooted in the stories that Brendan and Bridgett collected from the “shedders”. Brendan and I got together to talk about the stories and develop a libretto from there.

Then it’s my turn to set it to music. As a starting point, I live with the words in my head for a while and then snippets of music and themes emerge.

My day job is as a vocal coach at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where I work with the next generation of professional opera singers.

I use my expertise in teaching and coaching professional singers to develop the skills of “shedders” many of whom have never sung in their life. Having the chance to coach the singers beforehand is a crucial part of bringing the music to life the way I intend it to be heard. And I love being part of the performance itself.

Nothing beats the feeling you get hearing the final product, having succeeded in creating a particular effect or telling a story effectively.”

Brendan:

“Absolutely! Working with communities is always good fun and really rewarding.

We see a real mix of people all pulling together and making new friendships. We see people’s confidence growing and people of different abilities helping each other.
The “shedders” see the sheer graft and discipline of the professionals. This rubs off on them. Everyone is determined to make the project successful.

Local communities are thrilled to see friends and neighbours up on stage with professional singers and musicians. People really do see that opera is something that can be enjoyed and created by everyone from any background.

Opera can make you think, it can make you cry, and it can make you laugh.”

We’re delighted to be sharing Shoulder to Shoulder with audiences in Wales.

Here’s a video of Cardaog’s original composition Gwinllan a Roddwyd sung by Côr Meibion Machynlleth.

Côr Meibion Machynlleth | Gwinllan a Roddwyd – YouTube

The piece has been performed by many choirs including the London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs in “1000 voices” at London’s Royal Albert Hall.


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