The stage is decorated with butterflies, moths and snakes of every hue, heralding the musical kaleidoscope that is about to fill the hall. An orchestra excitedly assembles, with flutes, keyboards, bassoon, horn, cellos, double-bass, violins, trumpets and percussion – all shepherded by OAE musicians. I am in the Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon, about to witness a truly unique musical occasion – as animateur James Redwood puts it in his introduction, “This is the only time this will ever happen!”
“This” is a reworking of Mozart’s Magic Flute – the culmination of a week’s intensive work involving around 350 young people at St Laurence’s School – where Head of Music Kate Rowe leads what is clearly a thriving music department. The Hall begins to fill with droves of fellow pupils and it’s obvious that music isn’t a minority pursuit around here, at least. The lights dim, a hush descends and the OAE Musicians play a deft arrangement of Mozart’s overture – to which four very accomplished young dancers perform an elegantly choreographed prelude to the action. There then unfolds a mosaic of music, dance and drama, linked by James’ narrative, and interleaving Mozart’s music with new music created specially for the project, seamlessly interweaving. The taut rhythms and contours of the new music counterpoint spirited renditions from the original score – including a splendid Bird-Catcher’s Song from a 50-strong chorus at the side of the stage, and young vocal soloists singing alongside professionals Fiona Evans and Philip Tebb. Even the logistics of getting hundreds of performers on and off the stage and into and out of seats in the auditorium transform into a piece of theatre. My journey – involving two car trips, four tube journeys, four trains and two taxis – is worth every yard of the way, and I can’t wait to hear what’s planned for next year!
Duke Dobing, Development Director