St Nicks pupils excel as tree chorus with ETO

Woolbrook pupils give impeccable performance on stage at Northcott with English Touring Opera

FIFTEEN Sidmouth schoolchildren gave an impeccable performance when they appeared on stage with members of the English Touring Opera last week.

Pupils from St Nicholas Junior School, Woolbrook, make their stage debut as the ‘all-seeing, all-hearing’ chorus of trees, when they worked alongside professional opera singers in a performance of Fantastic Mr Fox.

The musical setting of Roald Dahl’s classic book was staged at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre last Tuesday as part of a tour by the ETO.

Teacher Helen Baker said: “The children had spent two months giving up much of their free time to learn two technically very difficult songs with their musical director Stephanie Dommett.

“Then, in the two weeks preceding the performance, they attended two workshops, led by conductor Timothy Carey and director Tim Yealland, to prepare them for the performance.”

Before donning their tree costumes – twigs and all – the children were treated to a backstage tour of the theatre and shown their dressing room.

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Rehearsals followed the tour, and the youngsters were encouraged to behave more mysterious and tree-like and Tim instructed: “We want tree-arms, and tree-walking… but no tree-talking!”

Not surprisingly nerves began to show during their last rehearsal.

Ms Baker said: “It was their first experience of performing their songs with the backing of a full orchestra and, although their singing was wonderful, they were so awestruck, they forgot to move!”

A few minutes from ‘curtain up’ one child was heard to say: “I was nervous before I got here, but once we’d had our dress rehearsal on the stage, I wasn’t so scared.”

The teacher added: “The children’s behaviour and final performance was impeccable. They certainly were a credit to the school and made the staff who had worked with them, and their parents, very proud.”