Learners sing to sweet tunes

2016-11-15 06:00
Learners of St Mary’s Primary School on stage performing Hansel and Gretel, which they have been practising for the past six months, on Friday. PHOTOs: TIYESE JERANJI

Learners of St Mary’s Primary School on stage performing Hansel and Gretel, which they have been practising for the past six months, on Friday. PHOTOs: TIYESE JERANJI

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A normal Friday evening was made extra sweet as learners of St Mary’s Roman Catholic School in Retreat performed an adaptation of the opera Hansel and Gretel to their community last Friday.

The opera is derived from the well-known German fairytale by the brothers Grimm. It tells the macabre story of a brother and sister who are kidnapped by a cannibalistic witch living deep in the forest who lures them into in a house of cake and sweets.

Cape Town Opera (CTO) has been working with the learners for two years to teach them opera as part of the company’s outreach programme. The Grade 4 to Grade 7 learners who are members of the school choir performed in Hansel and Gretel, the second theatrical piece they have performed since they started working with CTO.

They worked on this performance for the last six months with the help of the provincial department of cultural affairs and sport, Rand Merchant Bank, Business and Arts South Africa and the CTO.

Christine Crouse, head of education and outreach of CTO and director of the play, says music is a tool for expressing yourself.

“Part of the aim is to let children know that there is opera. Music is very important as they can be able to express themselves clearly. It also teaches discipline, to be at the right place and at the right time and to listen to instructions and follow them. We are really happy that since we have been coming to the school the learners have been nothing but happy and excited. They are very eager to learn,” she says.

The learners learnt how to read a music score and participated in dance and drawing classes related to the story of Hansel and Gretel. In addition, they studied a written script of the play to help with literacy.

“This has helped them a lot in becoming comfortable with music and how to sing exactly. We also bring in our opera singers so that they can learn from them. The children performed wearing costumes designed by CTO’s set designer Michael Mitchell and it made everyone so excited,” says Crouse.

Music teacher Nerina Hendricks says: “They learnt about drama, different things on stage and off stage, etiquette and how to conduct themselves. They also learnt about kinds of music. They were so happy to come for practise. It was really nice and having to perform in front of their parents and the community just shows the level of confidence,” she says.

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