The community and youth operas that Glyndebourne produces have become keenly anticipated events in their calendar. Thirteen singers from Lewes are taking part in 2019’s show, Agreed, making it the most represented town in the chorus of around 80 people. We spoke to locals Tim Freeman and his 15-year-old daughter Lulu about their experiences working on the production.
Lulu explains that composer Howard Moody asked the people in her audition group to sing a song of their choosing, which would form “a kind of white noise of loads of different songs. There were people who were doing amazing operatic arias and I didn’t know what to do. So I started singing this weird nursery song, and I thought ‘Lulu you’re an idiot, this is so embarrassing’. I got in and I always wondered why, but I reckon they’re looking for good singers, and for people who are going to throw themselves in and not be embarrassed.”
Assistant Conductor/Chorus Master Lee Reynolds grew up in Lewes and Tim is impressed by what he can get out of people. “We refer to him as a kind of cult leader: he can get us to do things which at nine o clock on a Tuesday night after you’ve been at work or school all day, you weren’t expecting to… but we’ll do it for Lee.” Lulu describes Howard as being responsible for the more spiritual side of things, “asking us to feel it, or put our emotion behind what we’re singing. He comes in and stirs the pot”.
Tim explains that Howard hopes that the chorus will sound like a community on an island, trying to “murk it a bit so it’s not all operatic singing”. Lulu adds: “That is the special thing about it. It’s not exclusive, you don’t have to be a certain type of singer to be in it… it sounds like a real group of people.”
I ask Tim and Lulu what the most surprising thing has been about working on Agreed, and both comment on how they have got to know a wide variety of people through working closely together over time. Lulu answers that she’s “not been in anything like this before, where you’re properly interacting with different generations of people and making something together that’s not very divided, with different roles to do. Everyone’s there for the love of music and theatre and art. No one’s getting paid but they’re still showing up to rehearsal on time. That’s where the unique atmosphere comes from”.
Tim concurs, further outlining a sense of a safe space and camaraderie in rehearsals. “In my experience you get very little of ‘what do you do?’, because what we do is come to Glyndebourne three days every week. I wouldn’t say to someone there, ‘what do you do?’, because I can see what they do three days a week at Glyndebourne, and it’s good, and I admire it. They really have built a community, and a large one.”
Photo by Sam Stephenson
Agreed, Glyndebourne, 1st to 3rd March