ASPIRING young singers from across North Wales are being encouraged to follow their dreams and join a new youth opera group to open the doors to success.
Welsh National Opera (WNO) is hoping to inspire the next generation of budding opera stars by launching a youth group for talented singers aged 14-18 who are interested in trying opera.
One of those already reaching the dizzy heights of stardom is 15-year-old Erin Hornsby who won a professional role just a year after joining the company’s current North Wales-based Youth Opera group for children aged eight to 14.
Last November, Erin, from Llandudno Junction, sent a homemade voice demo created in her garage to the producers of WNO’s The Magic Flute – and was astounded to be invited for an audition.
The talented singer, who recorded the demo on her mobile phone, impressed the casting panel so much she went on to win the part, touring entertainment venues across England and Wales – including the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff – from February through to early May as one of ‘The Three Boys’ child spirits.
“I honestly never expected when I sent it off to get a call back,” admitted the Ysgol John Bright pupil, who has five sisters aged from 15 to 28.
“I couldn’t make the actual audition date so I sent off a voice demo. An email came back asking whether I could audition the following Monday. I went along and performed the song and got an email back the next day saying they would like me to take the part.
“It was my first ever role and it was really exciting. The boys I worked with were amazing. If it wasn’t for the youth group I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to go off and do what I have done.
“It was an opportunity I could never turn down. A year ago I would never ever have considered myself as an opera singer, I went in completely blind. Once I started though I was hooked.”
WNO’s current Youth Opera group meets every Wednesday at Venue Cymru and has 22 young members.
With many of the existing members hitting their teens, WNO decided to establish a second group in North Wales for 14-18-year-olds from September with the ambition of attracting some new faces.
The group is open to any young person who loves singing, acting or performing. Importantly, no prior experience of opera is necessary and bursaries are also available to help with travel costs.
Members develop their voices under the expert guidance of Musical Director Jenny Pearson who takes them through vocal warm-ups and works on breath control and how to utilise the whole range of their voice, while Opera Director Patrick Young puts all their skills into practice with appropriately-pitched operatic songs.
Erin joined a year ago when WNO delivered a workshop in her school.
“It’s a lovely place to be. I’ve learned a lot while I’ve been there,” she said.
“Everyone is really lovely. The teachers are really experienced and offer a lot of insight and training.
“I’ve always loved singing. I love musical theatre. Opera was completely different but I’m enjoying learning as I go along.
“I’ve met lots of friends, people who I’d never have met. I’m one of the oldest in the group and so it will be nice to have older people my own age around in the new group.
“I would love to make a career out of stage production and singing but I’ve not really thought too far ahead.”
For youngsters like Erin who dream of a career on the stage, the group is the perfect platform.
WNO regularly issues call outs for child opera stars for its productions and members are always encouraged to audition.
Morgana Warren-Jones, WNO’s youth and community project manager for North Wales, explained:
“There is no other group like this in North Wales introducing opera to such a young age range. If they really enjoy it then they can start working on those skills early on and that will help enormously in the future.
“We regularly give them performance opportunities and tickets to watch professional operas where they can go back stage and meet cast members.
“Erin’s achievements are amazing. I don’t think she would ever have gone for that audition had she not been part of the group and it’s absolutely incredible that she has now toured to all those venues.
“The real aim for us is to break down the barriers in North Wales so that opera doesn’t feel like a completely different world.”
Last week, Erin was part of the current eight-14 age group performing in an informal summer showcase of their work at Venue Cymru in Llandudno for friends and family.
They will also be singing the ‘Ragazzi’ sections in Carmina Burana at a WNO concert at North Wales International Music Festival on Sept 28, alongside WNO’s Community Chorus North, NEW Sinfonia, Kana Chamber Choir and WNO soloists Samantha Hay, Rhodri Prys Jones and Roland Wood.