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One Breath

This major collaboration with 200 people of every age and ability in Sheffield and Doncaster in 2005 saw us perform a new opera on the largely forgotten site where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned for 11 years.

One Breath was a fully staged and full-length community opera that took place in June 2005 in Sheffield and Doncaster. 250 young people and adults, disabled and able-bodied and aged 8 to 84, worked with 2 composers, Rachel Leach and Helen Chadwick, and director Tim Yealland, to create a celebration of the life and death of Mary Queen of Scots. The project culminated in two hugely successful performances at the Doncaster Dome and outside at Manor Lodge in Sheffield, the site where Mary was imprisoned for 11 years. Professional singers Carol Smith and Andrew Slater worked alongside professional players, including leading percussion ensemble Three Strange Angels. The designer was Jan Flamank. The project was in part a collaboration with Doncaster Arts, and involved local musicians Janet Wood and Andrew Nimmo. The text was a mixture of authentic 16th century verse and prose, and newly devised writing. The project was generously funded by Youth Music, the Performing Rights Society, Sheffield Council, Abbey National, Sheffield Town Trust and the RM Burton Foundation.

‘It was absolutely superb!!! It allowed students to be involved in something completely outside their experience (and staff and parents too!) It was great to be part of such a positive community event. Our students loved it! It was so good to see them mixing so freely with students from mainstream schools. They gained in self-confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline – priceless!! Thank you!! It was a privilege to be part of this project. We shall never forget it.’ Liz Howie, Oakes Park Special School

‘It was wonderful and very accessible. Really high quality music and production, much more so than anything we have been involved in before. It was wonderful watching the children ‘blossom’. They gained enormously in self-esteem and confidence. Their singing voices developed remarkably as did their performance skills. They hadn’t expected to like it, being ‘opera’, but they really enjoyed it. It was a great event for all the community.’ Jane French, St Oswald’s Primary

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