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Severn Stories

Students from Marlwood School and New Siblands School combine to make a new opera about the River Severn

“Wonderful! A week where I have learnt how powerful music can be” Staff member, Marlwood School.
Scroll down to read more comments from teachers and students at both schools.

Severn Stories was a project run in collaboration with two wonderful schools to the north of Bristol, not far from the Severn Bridge. 80 students from Marlwood Secondary School and 20 students from New Siblands Special School combined in the week of 27 June 2011 to make a brand new opera about the River Severn. This ambitious residency included groups of designers, players, singers, actors and dancers. Performances took place in Marlwood School at 1.30pm and 6.00pm on 1st July.

A large team from ETO was headed by director Gareth Machin, composer Russell Hepplewhite, choreographer Michelle Gaskell, singer Andrew Friedhoff, cellist Rebecca Hewes, and designer Jude Munden. They were joined also by Nadine Nagen and Rebecca Celebuski from the Royal Academy of Music.

The week was extraordinary. There was a fantastic sense of collaboration and cooperation between the students of the two schools, with able-bodied students helping their disabled colleagues. The staff of the schools and the exceptionally strong team from English Touring Opera combined to create a really creative environment in which work was created and rehearsed quickly and effectively. The week included instrumental and dance sessions, and design sessions, as well as integrated music theatre workshops. The River Severn runs a few miles north of Alveston, and its history is rich with tales that are both true and mythological. The opera took seven of those and weaved a new story out of them.

The opera itself was remarkably strong, with powerful music and lyrics, superb design, and great performances. This exciting project was made possible by the astonishing dedication of Becky Ferguson and her colleagues at Marlwood Secondary School, and by Margaret Shiells and the wonderful staff at New Siblands.

Severn Stories was made possible by the fundraising abilities of Marlwood Secondary School, by New Siblands School, and was partly funded by The Equitable Charitable Trust.

River image by Ryan Wick

Showing At

  1. Marlwood School
    1st Jul 2011 - 1:30 pm
  2. Marlwood School
    1st Jul 2011 - 6:00 pm
  1. Marlwood School — 1st Jul 2011 - 1:30 pm

    BS35 3LA

  2. Marlwood School — 1st Jul 2011 - 6:00 pm

    BS35 3LA

Showing At

  1. Marlwood School
    1st Jul 2011 - 1:30 pm
  2. Marlwood School
    1st Jul 2011 - 6:00 pm

Your Comments

  1. I saw the production today and it was amazing. To see the work and dedication of all those involved of all abilities and giftings working together to produce such an incredible performance moved me beyond words.
    Congratulations to all those involved!

    Said Sally at 11:53am on 2nd Jul 2011

  2. I was involved with the week and it truly changed my opinion of Opera!! I had an amazing week being involved with the ETO and New Siblands, i shan't forget it easily as i turned 18 during the week and Andrew (the tenor) sang 'Happy Birthday' to me in his INCREDIBLE voice!! A true gift on the day i turned 18!! Thank You so much to everyone who was involved from the ETO, Marlwood and New Siblands

    Said Mike Hulin at 22:34pm on 4th Jul 2011

  3. Beautiful. It is hard to express what a wonderful production it was in words; heart warming, creative and inspiring. A true example of an inclusive prtoject.

    Said Hannah Thayer at 06:15am on 5th Jul 2011

  4. Such a memorable project. Well done to all of those involved - you produced something very special indeed.

    Said BHWH at 18:23pm on 6th Jul 2011

  5. I came to see Severn Stories with three teenage girls, not normally known for loving Opera but your production has opened their minds!
    We loved the combination of contemporary music with more traditional opera, all the children were amazing as were the ETO singers and musicians - it was probably one of the most moving performances we have ever seen!

    Said Ruth Jackson at 19:40pm on 6th Jul 2011

  6. An experience words can’t describe, I’ve loved it. Over such a short time I’ve learnt loads – it’s been amazing.

    Said Kathryn Ottly at 12:51pm on 11th Aug 2011

  7. This week has made me want to volunteer working with disabled children, and has inspired me to take more of an interest in opera! Been a really lovely week.

    Said Mary Hayman at 12:52pm on 11th Aug 2011

  8. I have made so many friends! This has been the best work experience ever. I loved working with so many people. This has been the most amazing week, which I will never forget!

    Said Katie B at 12:52pm on 11th Aug 2011

  9. Absolutely awesome! So inspirational to see all the pupils and student working so co-operatively together. I was so proud of Marlwood and New Siblands and wanted everyone to see what had been achieved. From the moment the seagull came gracefully on set I knew we were in for magical moments and ‘luminous’ experiences. My hairs stood out on the back of my neck at times and I knew that for so many this was the best ever achievement in their lives to date.
    You have made a difference here. Thank you for your inspiration and don’t stop doing what you do!

    Said Beverley Oldfield at 12:53pm on 11th Aug 2011

  10. This was the most exceptional and moving experience – it was hard to believe that so much could be achieved in 5 days! To see children from both schools working so constructively and artistically together was one of the most emotional moments of my life. My congratulations goes to everyone involved in every aspect of the production – but a special mention for the wonderful, evocative music.

    Said Shirley Holloway at 12:53pm on 11th Aug 2011

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