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On the 26th June students from Accrington Academy and the Hyndburn Academy took to the stage at the Copper Box Arena to perform in a fantastic production of Carmen, alongside their peers from United Learning’s national group of schools.

The students joined over 1,000 others for the unique performance of the ‘Choice of Don Jose’ from Bizet’s Carmen! at the Olympic Park. Their performance is the culmination of a year’s partnership between United Learning, of which Accrington Academy and the Hyndburn Academy are a part, the Royal Opera House, The Voices Foundation and the English Pocket Opera Company.

Using the Royal Opera House’s Create and Sing learning resources and with teacher training delivered by The Voices Foundation, the students at Accrington Academy and the Hyndburn Academy were introduced to opera. Over the past few months, they have immersed themselves in the world of opera, listening and learning to understand the genre, and even more impressively, delivering their very own operatic performance of Carmen!.

The colourful and energetic performance, which was staged and directed by the English Pocket Opera Company, delighted over 700 spectators including parents and guests from the world of opera, music and education. The pupils used the knowledge and skills they acquired through the rehearsal process to deliver an unforgettable performance and came away feeling proud and inspired to continue nurturing their musical abilities.

Hannah Hale, a music teacher at Accrington Academy, said:

“It’s been really interesting to get our students involved in new material that they’ve not done before and because it is so different to what they would normally sing. It has had its challenges – especially with the boys singing quite complicated parts and testing their vocal ranges! But they’ve been really enthusiastic about it and thrown themselves into the project. It’s been great to come to London too and join up with all the other schools.”

Carla Rutherford, a student from Accrington Academy, said:

“It was really exciting when we first started because while we have done other shows, we’d never done anything on this scale before. It all got more real when we got our costumes – for the dance we actually made our own skirts, so we got to choose the fabrics and experiment with that to match the performance. All of it has been so exciting – obviously singing is our passion so it’s great to be able to express that, and to dance in a big theatre like this is fantastic.”

Caitlyn Scott, another student from Accrington Academy, added:

“This was my first experience of opera and even though it was a bit daunting, I’m glad I got to take part and it was really interesting to meet all the other schools and get to know other people.”

Catherine Barker, Head of Music and Performing Arts at United Learning, said:

“All of the students gave a superb performance in which their new-found love of opera really shone through. The sound of 1,000 pupils singing together was mesmerising and was a true celebration of music. Congratulations to all the pupils who sang and performed magnificently and thank you to our fantastic staff for throwing themselves into this ambitious project with such enthusiasm.

“We are fortunate to have been able to partner with the Royal Opera House, The Voices Foundation and the English Pocket Opera Company for this project. With their support, expertise and resources, we were able to give our pupils the very best musical learning opportunities and plant the seeds for a lifelong love of opera and musical performance.

“Projects like these which teach pupils new skills, broaden their horizons and give them memorable experiences are part of United Learning’s commitment to deliver an Education with Character. As well as introducing our pupils to a new genre of music, this project has given them the opportunity to perform in a fantastic venue, collaborate with their peers from across the country and be part of a special celebration of talent and creativity. I am delighted that we have been able to provide this for our students and I look forward to seeing them build on this experience as they develop into confident, articulate and ambitious young adults.”

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