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National opera singers surprise Barking school with series of pop-up performances

PUBLISHED: 12:00 20 September 2019

Performers from the English National Opera singing to pupils at Greatfields School in Barking. Picture: Greatfields School.

Performers from the English National Opera singing to pupils at Greatfields School in Barking. Picture: Greatfields School.

Greatfields School

Opera singers have thrilled staff and students alike in a number of surprise performances at a Barking secondary school.

Performers from the English National Opera visited Greatfields School, St Mary's, on Tuesday, September 17, showing their skills throughout the day.

They went to the school of around 350 pupils after a similar event at Barking's Riverside School, Renwick Road, last year, according to Greatfields headteacher Richard Paul.

"It exposed the kids to opera singing," he said. "It was an opportunity to speak to performers and hear live opera.

"It started off with pop-up performances. The opera singers just came out and started singing."

The singers gave two full workshops to the pupils - one to the 15-year-old GCSE drama students and one to the schools choir.

They also treated students at lunchtime and in the playground and gave an assembly to each of the year groups.

"I think the pupils were fascinated with it," Mr Paul added. "They engaged with it really well.

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"Their reaction was just a look of wonder on some of their faces. There was a fantastic reaction from some of the students.

"The teachers loved it. They have been talking about it all day."

As part of the English National Opera's engagement with the school, it's giving students opportunities to see dress rehearsals at the London Coliseum in the West End.

While it's all fun, there was an educational objective to the day.

Mr Paul said the goal was to develop pupils' "cultural capital" and boost singing and music in the school.

"It think it's very important for our students in order for them to be able to express themselves," he continued.

"For me as head, it's been a really important part of our work.

"School is more than just getting the academics, it's about developing the whole person."

Now the headteacher is hoping the ENO will return to the school to help bolster the choir's talent.

"It was wonderful on the ENO's part to come out and do this," Mr Paul said. "I'm really grateful to them for their hard work and bringing opera out to the community."

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