Streetwise Opera, the award-winning charity that uses music and opera to help homeless people move forward in their lives, has teamed up with North East folk band Bridie Jackson and The Arbour to compose and perform a brand new opera. The River Keeper will be premiered in Gateshead & Middlesbrough in December.
Taking stories of hope from the Streetwise Opera performers, composer Bridie Jackson is working with writer Nell Leyshon (author of The Colour of Milk) and director Annie Rigby (of Unfolding Theatre) to bring the piece to the stage.
Bridie Jackson and The Arbour are an eclectic group of folk-influenced musicians from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, revered for their unique and ethereal sound. After launching their debut album, Bitter Lullabies, in 2012, the band received extensive radio play, won a Journal Culture Award for their Arts Council funded project, Music in Museums, and performed on multiple stages at the legendary Glastonbury Festival, having beaten over 8,000 contenders to win the 2013 Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition. They continue this success with their second self-released album, New Skin, which has already seen them head out on a 19-date headline UK tour, play sessions for Radio 3′s In Tune and Tom Robinson on 6 Music, and gain support from the likes of Dermot O’Leary, Lauren Laverne, Guy Garvey, Steve Lamacq, Clash magazine, The Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday.
Every two years, Streetwise Opera stages a major new opera production and for the first time, this production will be supported by a Little Opera Season – a set of smaller new opera commissions being created across the country with Streetwise groups resident in the North East, Nottingham and London. Following performances of The River Keeper in the North East, there will be further new operas in the Little Opera Season by composer John Barber and director Hazel Gould in Nottingham in spring 2015, and a new opera by Streetwise Opera’s composer-in-residence, Stef Conner in Summer 2015 in London. Streetwise’s 2014-16 Season will culminate in a full-length opera based on Bach’s St Matthew Passion, with a newly commissioned Resurrection Finale by James MacMillan. The production will be directed by Penny Woolcock and performed in Easter 2016 by Streetwise Opera performers in Manchester and world-renowned choir, The Sixteen.
Bridie Jackson, composer and musician said, ‘I have admired the work Streetwise Opera do for a long time, so it’s a real honor to be asked to compose a new piece for this incredible group, whose fearless and committed working style is nothing short of inspirational. Musically, it’s been an exciting opportunity to work outside of my comfort zone, and I’m looking forward to being involved in performing the new piece in December.’
Matt Peacock MBE, Founder and CEO of Streetwise Opera said, ‘Ever since our North East groups sang Bridie’s ‘Final Lullaby’ for the Halocaust Memorial Day, I have wanted us to work with her again. Her music is sensational and she is one of the most exciting artists working in the North East. We all feel very excited that she, writer Nell Leyshon and director Annie Rigby are going to creating a new short opera that will launch our first Little Opera Season.’
All of Streetwise’s opera productions feature performers who have experienced homelessness working with top professionals; each production has won wide critical acclaim and 4 and 5 star reviews in the national press: ‘Truly awe-inspiring’, (The Times, 5 stars); Streetwise Opera lures you where you haven’t been before and sends you home enriched, (Independent, 4 stars); ‘Refined theatricality… electrifying… great theatre’, (Evening Standard, 5 stars). Streetwise’s productions have been seen all over the world including the Royal Opera House, Latitude, Roundhouse, Edinburgh International Film Festival and internationally (Nemo in Paris, Sydney Beinnale, The Creators Project in New York, São Paulo and Beijing).
Streetwise has worked with over 3,000 homeless people since its foundation in 2002 and runs regular programmes in the North East in Middlesbrough (based at mima); Gateshead (at The Sage Gateshead) and Newcastle in Changing Lives’ homeless centres.