Regional Producer - North, Becky West, shares the journey of Song of Skerne, a new film created by students from Haughton Academy, Darlington, inspired by their local river...
As lockdown lifted back in March, Song of the Skerne was first on Opera North’s recording session list! We’re delighted to be sharing the premiere of the film after a special screening for our participants and families at Darlington Hippodrome.
Song of the Skerne premieres on Thursday 12 August at 7.30pm and will be available to watch until 13 September. You can watch below, or click through to our YouTube channel and subscribe to get a notification reminder for the premiere.
Song of the Skerne was created by students from Haughton Academy in Darlington, composer Sarah Freestone and lyricist Katie Doherty along with Opera North earlier in the year. Creative workshops were planned to be delivered to the classroom, either in person or online, but we ended up with everyone on Teams during online learning instead. The last creative task the young people were set, was to record some homemade sound effects, inspired by Opera North percussionist Chris Bradley, using the creative themes they had been working with and go for walks along their local river, the Skerne, and take some pictures, which feature in the film.
The audio recording has been expertly edited by Sarah Freestone, who adapted the artistic premise to the digital pivot through creating an initial soundscape using all the sound effect and instrumental stems recorded by participants. Katie Doherty recorded all the vocals and by May we had a mix ready for the participants to record with. The Opera North team spent 3 busy days in Darlington, rehearsing and recording students from Haughton and two local primary schools, Red Hall and Springfield.
Creating work in this way, with multiple layers within one project to produce just the audio recording is a challenge, but artistically has produced something that is very much a reflection of the pandemic circumstances the creative team and participants were living through as first the song and then the film were created.
Bringing everyone together at the Hippodrome, where the creative team came face to face with the participants for the first time was a wonderful moment. Participants were able to see the exhibition on the project curated by Darlington Hippodrome and featuring some of the student’s beautiful photography. During the afternoon, the participants created a short, in-the-moment piece of music with Sarah Freestone to share with family and friends that evening, alongside performances from the professional musicians. With percussionist Chris and bass trombonist Christian from Opera North, it really was an eclectic musical programme culminating with the premiere of Song of the Skerne on the Hippodrome’s cinema screen.
Everyone at Discover Brightwater is delighted by the music, the video and the superb presentation at the premiere at Darlington Hippodrome. It is a uniquely moving account of how young people in our community together with the talented musicians assembled by Orchestras Live and Opera North responded to the constraints of the Covid-19 pandemic and produced a wonderful tribute to the Skerne which I think is stronger for having been forged in the fires of the lockdowns.
~ Paul Black, Discover Brightwater
I was struck by the importance of place, the quality of engagement and the flexibility and pleasure parties involved had drawn from engagement. Powerful stuff and a great sharing at Darlington Hippodrome.
~ Stephen Wiper, Creative Darlington
Being able to make and hear music together and then share the film was an emotional moment for everyone involved in the project. The film will provide a lasting legacy for all our partners, showcasing the creativity of Darlington’s young people.
Durham Music Service will be inviting schools across the region to learn the song during the autumn term and join in with a special livestream of the film before the Orchestra of Opera North perform the live premiere of Song of the Skerne at Darlington Hippodrome on 7 November 2021.