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English National Opera Community Choir

Background

English National Opera (ENO) is a full time producing company with an international reputation for new, exciting and distinctive opera. Our work plays a vital part in creating the future of opera: we are committed to creating new audiences through English language performances as well as opportunities for learning and participation in our local community that are affordable and accessible to everyone. At the heart of our community activity is the ENO Community Choir.

The ENO Community Choir was founded in 2011 and is a non-professional adult choir open to anyone who lives or works in the communities surrounding ENO’s home - the London Coliseum. The choir - approximately 130 members strong - acts as a community magnet, bringing together participants of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicities for an enriching social experience, helping people develop their understanding of music, singing and opera as well as (for some members) tackling loneliness and social disconnection.

 

Shaftesbury’s support

In 2012, in response to comprehensive cuts to Westminster Council’s funding for arts and culture, ENO were looking for a sponsor to help support and extend the activity of the ENO Community Choir over a three-year period. ENO already had a fantastic relationship with Shaftesbury PLC as a result of their past support of ENO Opera Squad (ENO’s schools programme), so the opportunity to extend our activity to create a mutually beneficial partnership around the Choir, with its strong community focus, was an exciting prospect for both parties. So, in October 2012, our wonderful partnership was born with Shaftesbury sponsoring the ENO Community Choir.

What partnership has enabled

The funding received from Shaftesbury has played a vital role in continuing the work of the Choir as a community asset. Shaftesbury’s support has directly facilitated a growth in Choir activity, particularly public performances, and has supported ENO in subsidising Choir membership for some participants who are unable to afford the joining fee of £25.

Over the last 18 months, the Choir’s popularity has grown with new members joining (some of whom are considered elderly and vulnerable) and has extended its live performance activity which is so vital to the development of singing skills, delivering nine public performances in the City of Westminster - two of which were developed in consultation with Shaftesbury as part of their seasonal calendar of activity in St Martin’s Courtyard.

Future plans for the Choir

Over the next 18 months we will be working closely with Shaftesbury to build on recent activity and harness the ever improving singing skills of the Choir. We will continue to promote the Choir to potential new members as well as continue with our mission to increase well-being, engagement and reduced isolation for adults by offering enriching singing experiences in the community.

We will also be seeking to develop the Choir’s skills via greater alignment with ENO’s seasonal productions. In partnership with Shaftesbury, we will be focusing the Choir’s rehearsals around chorus repertoire from productions in the current ENO season, with opportunities for members to attend the dress rehearsal of the production they have been learning during the term.We will also introduce intensive workshops at the end of each term, for choir members who wish to develop their performance skills and a deeper understanding of the production they have been working on throughout the term.These intensive workshops will be led by ENO’s artistic team, and will culminate in a performance for invited guests and the potential for public performances of extracts from the opera in the local community. These developments in the Choir’s activity would simply not be possible without Shaftesbury’s invaluable support.

The Choir’s achievements to date and opportunities for further development are a fantastic showcase of the strong partnership ENO and Shaftesbury have built and continue to enjoy, and of which both organisations are extremely proud.

Choir member testimonials

I think community choirs are a vital way of bringing lots of different people together. I like the ENO Community Choir's idea that whether you're a seasoned singer or a shower soloist you can still make a valuable contribution to the group effort.

[It’s beneficial] to get involved and enjoy music making in a very engaging group, thanks to excellent and enjoyable rehearsals...and [an] encouraging, friendly and collegiate group dynamic.

I joined to expand my knowledge of music, to experience singing and performing in a choir, and to meet new people. I am definitely doing all of those things!