Manchester Art Gallery

Streetwise Opera Performance

Anita, participant in Streetwise Opera, writes here about their performance, The world is my Song on Thursday 19 July:

‘I love singing our workshops at Manchester City Art Gallery. We pass stunning artworks as we go in, and I’m already energised and full of anticipation. We’ve been lucky to have several tours in the gallery from curators and also dabbled in a bit of art for ourselves.

The floor is spattered with paint and we sing amongst half-finished works of art, so there’s a dynamic, creative vibe. We sampled the lovely refreshments provided by the gallery; so thoughtful of them. The superior cheese rolls with toasted seeds went down particularly well. There was anticipation and excitement bubbling away, slowly building.

We are standing in the centre of a large gallery room, surrounded by stunning paintings and ceramics. There’s that special hush, as though the room is waiting for us. There is a sizeable audience – in fact they run out of chairs. We begin with ‘Tamino’s aria’ from Mozart’s Magic Flute, 1791: Dies Bildnis ist Bezaubernd Schon. He sings to an image of Pamina and, as this is opera, falls in love immediately! It is easy to get inside the music, while gazing at the beautiful images all around us…

Next we sing two Spirituals: Soon I Will Be Done with the Troubles of the World, with lots of movement and singing in three parts, full of energy and rage. Then we sing ‘Steal Away’. Joy and despair are entwined, the music sublime and so moving. For me, they certainly crystallise the exhibition’s theme, Speech Acts. We sing in the voices of those that have been silenced.

We sing of ourselves and our own unique identity, and of our feelings about each other and Streetwise Opera.

“I am me; I am me…

We are like family

Living in harmony…

We are together;

We are as one.

We are Streetwise! “

I feel overcome by the feelings that we all express. Some of us spontaneously link arms and sing to each other. We raise our arms at the end and I see all the faces bursting with joy and pride.

We sing ‘The Prayer’, from Mose In Egitto by Giaochino Rossini, 1827. We have been working on harmonies this term and our work pays off, especially in this piece. I love the way Jonathan nudges us gently along to the next challenge; we get a great sense of achievement. Our confidence and skills grow and grow.

For our finale, we sing ‘Sunday’, from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, 1999. The song is enchanting, breath-taking. I have a lump in my throat and it’s an effort to sing. Four of us sing a descant, which I absolutely relish. What is it about singing high and giving it some welly? At fortissimo we make a triumphant explosion of sound, arms raised: “Sunday!” Amazing! Joyful!”

What a splendid show! It is true: art has the power to transform the world. It has certainly transformed mine. For me, music is my solace and my joy. Many thanks to Manchester Art Gallery for giving us this beautiful place to sing. Sincere thanks to Streetwise, especially our leaders: Jonathan, David, Sarah, Gavin and Jenny; also thanks to Sally & Gavin, who always look after us so well. Do keep it up!

Bring on the next challenge!’

Streetwise Opera is one of our community partners. It is an award winning charity, that supports people with experience of homelessness to make positive changes in their lives.