Welsh National Opera: Blaze of Glory!

Welsh National Opera: Blaze of Glory!

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Posted 2023-03-23 by dpmfollow

Sat 06 May 2023

A new opera set in South Wales aims to bring alive the spirit of male voice choirs. Blaze of Glory! turns the spotlight on the Valleys’ former mining communities and their characters.

Coming to Birmingham Hippodrome on May 6, the Welsh National Opera production is written by Emma Jenkins and directed by Caroline Clegg

Caroline says: “It is set post-war in 1957 when male voice choirs played a major part in mining communities. Our story begins after a tragic mining disaster, some of the choir members were lost and the choir has been disbanded, there is rumour of pits closing and morale is at an all-time low. We wanted to look at the Welsh mining community and the tradition of the male voice choir and not just from the men's perspective but from the whole community’s point of view.



So, with the encouragement of pianist Miss Nerys Price, miner Dafydd Pugh is persuaded to take up his baton once again and convince the old guard committee to form a Glee choir. Auditions take place, a kidnapping escapade is planned, and the men set their sights on competing once again at the local and national Eisteddfods.

Blaze of Glory! explores not only the role of the choirs in their towns and villages but also the changes taking place at the time. “The hierarchy in the colliery, the patriarchy in the community and the established traditions of their beloved choirs were all important,” says Caroline. “The choirs offered a source of pride and ownership of a rich cultural history, and any rule changes were considered tampering with the way things had always been done, so it is with great trepidation that the committee is approached.

And she adds: “We understand the daily danger that the men face below ground in the pits. We share the humour and camaraderie of rehearsals in the social club and the vigour and passion of the women who rejuvenate their men to pour out their love and pain through song once again.

Emma and Caroline undertook extensive research for the piece and most characters are based on real people and real stories. “Blaze is a celebration of song and the highs and lows of community life,” says Caroline. “It’s an inspiring look at the antics of an intrepid bunch of men willing to go the extra mile to win despite the harsh life they faced. Mining communities experienced disasters and lived with life-and-death work every day but they rarely talked about it. Blaze pays tribute to those communities with a gentle nostalgia and with tongue firmly in cheek!



The creative team were also keen to involve today’s male voice choirs so at each performance the WNO chorus is joined by local choristers, with the City of Birmingham Male Voice Choir singing at Birmingham Hippodrome.

Caroline believes that having local choirs involved was essential. “From day one we said the production had to involve members of the community as an integral part of the production because it’s their story. The choirs welcome the audience in the foyer and sing with the WNO chorus so the audience will experience a great swell of sound. It has been three years since many choirs have been able to come together and having so many join us is a real honour and an experience the WNO cast are really looking forward to. I hope the audiences will enjoy feeling they are a part of the show and share in the thrill of song.

The City of Birmingham Male Voice Choir brings together members of the Birmingham Icknield Male Voice Choir and Birmingham Canoldir Male Choir. With choristers ranging from university students to members in their nineties, the group is looking forward to being part of the show. “Blaze of Glory! Is an ideal opportunity to sing with some of the best professionals in the land,” says John Warr, Chair of Birmingham Icknield Male Voice Choir. “We hope that the additional publicity will enable us to increase our membership and spread the enjoyment of male voice singing.

And he adds: “Male voice choirs are important to the community to be able to continue the tradition of male voice choirs - as can be seen by the age of the BIMVC which was formed in 1900 and will be 123 years old at the time of Blaze of Glory!

Although the show is firmly set in Wales, Caroline says the love of community singing and its universal themes means it will resonate with audiences elsewhere. “Singing together brings out the indomitable spirit in all of us and post-lockdown as we all regain our confidence it will go from strength to strength because we all need to feel connected to each other more than ever as technology takes over.

And Caroline is urging people to come along to the Hippodrome and give it a go. “I would urge non-opera-goers and opera-goers alike to give Blaze a go. Blaze of Glory! is a little bit of a hybrid and if you have never been to an opera then this is for you! The music is a delightful mix with influences from the Big Band Swing era, Lindy Hopping, Gospel, and glorious traditional Welsh hymns like Canon Lán and Llanfair. You will definitely go home with a song in your heart. The heart and soul of this piece is community, solidarity and friendship – it is a real feel-good show and that is something to celebrate post-lockdown, whatever your background.

  • Blaze of Glory! plays Birmingham Hippodrome on Saturday May 6, see https://www.birminghamhippodrome.com for more information and ticket details.

  • #opera
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    !date 6/5/2023
    76352 - 2023-03-22 18:47:55

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