Beckenham young people perform children’s opera for first time

PUBLISHED: 10:18 30 May 2017

One of the choirs performing

One of the choirs performing


The performed the work about Saint Jerome who removed a thorn from a lion’s paw

Around 40 yound people from Beckenham participated in the first performance of a children’s opera written.

On May 20, the Beckenham Junior Choir and Beckenham Youth Voices performed the work titled One of Our Brothers is a Lion, by young british composer James Olsen, at the Beckenham Methodist Church to an audience of over 200 people.

Musical director and founder of the choirs, John Webber, said: “I am immensley proud of what the young singers have achieved in a very short space of time. They have all worked very hard and they really enjoyed singing the music composed by James.

“Perhaps, as importantly, the opera has galvanised the whole choir community with parents helping in every respect, from the fundraising, to the making of masks, props and costumes, and stage design.”

Jenny Fraser, mother of 11-year-old twins Ella and Olivia who performed in the opera, said: “This has been such an inspiiting project for my girls and for all the children involved. They have learned a lot whilst having fun as well, and also gained considerably in self-confidence.”

James’ opera, commissioned by the choirs and funded by private patrons, including local businesses, tells the story of Saint Jerome and the lion, as recounted in the Golden Legend. Saint Jerome is said to have removed a thorn from a lion’s paw. After the thorn was removed, the lion joins the monastery, and is even given a job by the saint. Man and beast live in harmony until, one day, the monastery’s donkey goes missing and the brothers blame the lion.

James, who grew up in Beckenham and attended Balgowan, and St Olave’s schools, was the first assistant director of the Beckenham Junior Choir as a teenager in the 90s.

He said: “My experiences with the BJC fostered in me a love for making music with young people and amateurs which is still very much part of why I’m a composer today. There’s a special British tradition of composers writing for communities, following Benjamin Britten, of which I’m proud to be a part. “It’s a great privilege to have composed for the Beckenham choirs again, and I hope that my retelling of this extraordinary medieval story, which is both touching and hilarious, will have been a memorable experience for all involved.”

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