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One Day, Two Dawns

Winner of RPS Music Award, Education 2009

One Day, Two Dawns was chosen as this year’s RPS Music Awards Winner in the Education category, from a strong shortlist including Sing Up, On the Rim of the World (a joint project also involving ETO, along with Glyndebourne, ROH and WNO Max), and the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival’s Piano Phasing. The RPS citation reads:

The award goes to a collaborative project led by English Touring Opera working alongside Hall for Cornwall. One Day, Two Dawns was a musically driven large-scale community opera, reflecting the Cornish community in which it was devised and performed. The opera united a fantastically broad spectrum of participants – a flagship example of open-access musical celebration. The jury felt the whole process and performance had real educational and artistic substance, achieving an impressive balance between honouring tradition whilst saying something artistically fresh and vibrant.

One Day, Two Dawns was a new full-length community opera created with nearly 250 people in Cornwall in 2008/2009. Six months of creative workshops led to two performances at Hall for Cornwall on Wednesday 20th May 2009. The opera was a major collaboration between English Touring Opera and Hall for Cornwall, and includes partnerships with The Works, Cumpas, Duchy Opera, New Cornwall Opera, Dalla, Imerys Male Voice Choir, Cornwall Youth Dance Company, Access Theatre, Falmouth University, as well as Poltair, Whitemoor and Curnow Schools.

The story was inspired by the coincidence between the sinking of Lyonesse into the sea in 1099, and the full solar eclipse visible in Cornwall in 1999. Trevelyan was the sole survivor of the cataclysm 900 years ago: he returns to take part in some contemporary Cornish battles. Participants were part of an exciting creative process leading to two final performances. Almost all the music and words were created by participants working with a professional team. The nine participating groups were be involved in a series of creative workshops prior to May 2009. About 90 workshops in all were being delivered by ETO/HfC

The professional creative team of composers, directors, writers, designers, players, and singers came from both Cornwall and across the UK. Artists include composers Rachel Leach, Hilary Coleman and Neil Davey, writer Elaine Ruth White, director Tim Yealland and designers Alan and Jude Munden. Soloists included Joe Shovelton as Trevelyan, Bianca Phillips as Isobel, and Rachel Peters and Tim Carleston as the developers.

For someone like me who is privileged to see some of the greatest music, the most inspired performances and the most enjoyable events in Cornwall, words usually flow easily. For once though, in my years of watching and listening, the pen is poised not knowing quite what to write. Perhaps it might sum up my reaction to One Day Two Dawns with the single word, wow.

I am reacting to an evening at the Hall for Cornwall not provided by the world’s greatest singers, dancers or actors, but by a huge cast of amateur performers, from infants to adults, from Cornwall, inspired beyond anyone’s wildest dreams by a small group of very talented, very hardworking young men and women. ETO is no stranger to Cornwall. Thanks to their efforts in supervising well-planned workshops, gently revealing to the children the sheer joy of music and dance, it has over the years opened the eyes of children, not learning then forgetting, as so often in school, but experiencing and never forgetting on the real stage.

The story of One Day Two Dawns links two days in Cornish history: the solar eclipse in 1999 and the disappearance of the land known as Lyonesse, off the coast of Cornwall, exactly 900 years earlier. The myth and legend of the past come up against the hard fact of the present. The inspiration behind all this was provided from ETO, by composer and conductor Rachel Leach; musicians Hilary Coleman and Neil Davey, writer Elaine Ruth White and designers Alan and Jude Munden. These though were the tip of a pyramid of enthusiastic and inspired workers who got the whole project onto the stage.

The stage – quite something – stretched from over the orchestra pit right up to the back wall. Young children (there were clearly hundreds) sat or moved, knowing just what they had to do at all times from their base either side, while in the centre the scenes unfolded, a cross between an opera, a circus and a music hall entertainment, to the accompaniment of brilliant lively music, either from the small group just off stage or the jazz group halfway up the lighthouse structure. We, the audience, held our collective breath as one masterly scene transformed into another. At the end it erupted into a lengthy and spontaneous applause. We were all, clearly, moved by the experience. One can only imagine what it meant to the performers also, who I fancy will take their day of appearing in One Day Two Dawns right through their lives.

Alan Cooper, Cornish Guardian

One Day, Two Dawns was funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Youth Music, Equitable Charitable Trust and the PRS Foundation for New Music

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