Over the last 20 years, ELMO have organised many musical projects.
Here are some details of the main events.
The Magic Flute
ELMO received a £5000 Arts for everyone award to stage a community production of Magic Flute at Hackney Empire. The Chorus was formed partly from a Singing for the Elderly class in Tower Hamlets and other locals. Hackney schoolchildren were recruited as furry animals The orchestra was amateur, again made up from local musicians. The principals were young professionals who reflected ELMO’s inclusive casting policy.
Here is a section of the review in Opera Magazine by Fiona Maddocks:
"As Papegeno, Keel Watson improvised wildly in the spoken passages of Jeremy Sam’s translation (turn all the ‘I’s to ‘Me’s and you get the idea. His ‘dark’ counterpart, the Moor Monastatos, was performed by Andrew Morton as a ruddy-faced Cockney con-man, the sort you might meet on the Costa del Sol or in Wormwood Scrubs. Watson’s voice glided easily between rap-like speech and Mozart’s music…and made you wonder why Papageno is not always played with a thick Caribbean accent… Dogliani who debuts at Royal Opera in April, sang Pamina with a lyrical musicianship which was a pleasure to witness. She had also trained the chorus who repaid her efforts with hearty but disciplined singing. Now that most choruses have put all oldies out to grass, it was refreshing to see so many grey heads and pink perms on stage.With its rare combination of intimacy, size and warm acoustic, the Hackney Empire could have a bright Operatic future if it continues to nurture an audience to support it… this was far from an average opera crowd."
"A great theatre. Lovely acoustics. Quite remarkable production. I’ve seen several: Vienna, Toronto, Ottowa, Montreal but none as fresh, sincere and comprehensible. Great to have a chance to hear other than white singers. Superb! This is how public money should be spent and the price is right…"
"A truly splendid show in a super theatre. I did not realise there was so much talent locally"
"Excellent production, brilliantly staged and well sung"
"Last night we came to see The Magic Flute. I have seen this Opera 3 or 4 times, Covent Garden, the Coliseum and at Festivals. Never never have I enjoyed a production as much. All the singers were very good but I must congratulate Keel Watson who lit up the whole stage. His singing and his acting were exceptional. I don’t remember when I have enjoyed myself so much"
"Your Magic Flute was freshly directed, professionally conducted and excitingly sung"
In this project, pupils from Bow boys school worked alongside ELMO with partners Bow People’s Trust, Space Studios and Tower Hamlets Lifelong Learning Service to produce a new version of an approachable piece with new translation/libretto partly developed with the community. They chose an East End version of the Barber of Seville. The boys were involved in exploring the piece, hearing opera sung and seeing it performed close-up for the first time in almost all cases.
More than 40 pupils participated as singing and non singing performers. Others helped with stage management and technical aspects and as instrumentalists and designers. The design group worked with artist Faisal Abdu’allah, to take photographs around the area inspired by the theme of the piece. These images were digitally manipulated and combined with images of Seville to create a projected backdrop to the performances.
Adults from the school and the community were incorporated into a chorus and the level of interest within the school grew and grew, with pupils often coming to watch rehearsals and even listening outside the door.
The performances were with orchestra and were attended by an audience of 500. It was clear that the vast majority were watching their first opera. The spirit during the rehearsals and performance reaction afterwards, fully justified a project which exceeded expectations in the numbers and range of people involved. It clearly had a positive impact on the school and community, as well as the professionals involved.
Impresario and Water Music
A performance at Hackney Empire with community chorus and full orchestra including children's choir from local schools. This performance consisted of a combination of a fully staged performance of Mozart’s Impresario and concert performances of Handel and Mozart. The performers ranged from professional singers to local schools choirs.
Letter from audience member
"Just a note to say how much I enjoyed the performance…it was a marvellous combination of lyrical singing, wit, enthusiasm, professionalism, and a typical mixed Hackney audience including wriggly children and drunk men. You seem to be able to afford professional players now as the sound the orchestra made was fabulous, particularly the strings. It wasn’t that slightly comical sound opera bands sometimes produce, but had some sound I haven’t words for which reminded me of the LSO! How nice it was so packed. I loved the Impresario, very funny. Looking forward to the next one…"
Two concerts in collaboration with Spice Festival Hackney in the bar at Hackney Empire and at Sutton House.
Hackney Spice Festival
A concert of Russian Music including Shostakovich Violin Concerto and Glière Concerto for Coloratura Soprano, this event was extremely popular and included Russian themed collaboration with local businesses as well as sponsorship from Stolichnya Vodka! Violist was Kate Conway and conductor Alexander Ingram. The large church was full to brimming and both the music and the vodka were much enjoyed. One unexpected nice development from this concert, other than some audience members discovering the music of Glière for the first time (and also a taste for Vodka), was that the Great nephew of the composer saw a video after the gig and contacted us. We have remained in touch and hope to visit him in Moscow at some future date.
From Hackney with Love
Full concert performance with orchestra St John’s Smith Square conducted by John Andrews. This performance included arias not usually performed in present times. This generated press interest and led to a radio 3 interview. The performance was very well attended and very well received by the large audience.
"John Andrews led a fresh, bright, idiomatic performance of Semele, full of bounce and Handel's joyful rhythmic genius, supported wholeheartedly by an enthusiastic cast, chorus and orchestra."
Full concert performance with orchestra at St. John’s Smith Square conducted by John Andrews. This was an unusual event as we combined the Gluck score of Orfeo with supplemental music by J.C. Bach as was common practice in the Baroque era. The J.C Bach additions were transcribed by ELMO from original manuscript held in the British Library and was performed for the first time in present day. We had a talk at the opening (available from our archive on request) of the concert by academic Patricia Howard explaining the historic context
ELMO teamed up one of Britain’s leading Sopranos Rosalind Plowright (who previously didn’t know where Hackney was!) and international Wagnerian tenor the late Adrian de Peyer with local opera singers, a community chorus, community scratch orchestra and children from local schools in a concert of Opera arias and ensembles. The concert was conducted by international conductor Alexander Ingram.
It was a truly ELMO combination of world class performers and conductor alongside Hackney school children and local community members of all ages, in the magnificent yet informal vibe of Hackney Empire.
Opera Gala Evening at Hackney Empire
Emma Dogliani was understudying the title role in Armida for Garsington Opera in 2010. When neither she or any of the rest of the understudy cast were needed for the main production, having done much preparation work already, she persuaded her colleagues along with the assistant conductor, to arrange their own performance in London under the ELMO umbrella. This led to a full concert performance at St John’s Smith Square with orchestra conducted by Robin Newton. This was the first present day performance of Armida in London and as such was very well attended.
"Armida was an all-round triumph. Inspired orchestral playing, strong and dramatic choral support, wonderfully exciting principals, especially the beautiful sorceress herself, and all shaped and firmly guided by a conductor who really understands Romantic passion. I was amazed that a soprano who was so at home on the enchanted island - and in those gorgeous outpourings of love - could rise to the fury of the Dove son finale. Hope you heard the cheers and the stamping from a full house that had followed every note and wanted to acknowledge not just the magnificent performance but the extraordinary achievement in putting the whole thing on. ELMO has obviously won a firm place in the hearts of its followers, and last night's success will have reinforced that affection whilst winning new enthusiasts."
"I felt I must write to congratulate ELMO on Saturday night. I really enjoyed the whole thing not least the opportunity to hear Armida (for the first time). I thought the music was absolutely ravishing and it seems a shame it's not performed more often but I suppose changing magical forests into wasteland at the wave of a wand and then zipping off on a chariot borne by dragons is a bit of a facer for a director. How you achieved that and produced such a stunning performance I can't even begin you imagine. It was an absolute tour de force."
"I loved Emma Dogliani (in the role of Armida)’s voice and she tackled the extremely difficult role with apparent ease. I particularly loved her singing in scene 10 'dove son io..vendetta' where to my mind her singing reached a new dimension of power and emotional force."
ELMO produced its first professional recording Il Sospir Handel Arias and Cantatas with London Opera Players conducted from the harpsichord by Stuart Wild with Soprano Emma Dogliani. This included cantatas by Handel never previously recorded which generated interest and led to a performance at Handel House museum in the room where Handel rehearsed his own performances. The chamber music group recording the Cantatas led to the formation of three4 a Classical band formed under the ELMO umbrella. We performed at central London venues but also repeated the performances in East London in various venues including Stoke Newington Town Hall for Hackney Proms.
"Could coloratura singing be any more whizzy, more fiery, or more enjoyable? Could a legato be more melting? Dogliani triumphs again on her disc of Handel arias and cantatas." - bloomberg.com
This year they reached the semi final of LGBT Pride’s Got Talent in the Cabaret section which was a great opportunity to reach more completely new audience.
They are currently investigating many unusual performance possibilities for a Classical Chamber music trio.
This year, three4 have released their first CD Hackney Chamber Music
Read more at www.three4.co.uk
three4 are a violin, voice and piano trio comprising of Kate Conway, Emma Dogliani and Stuart Wild
Having been formed for the recording of the Handel Cantatas continued to develop under the ELMO umbrella and has been performing regularly since 2012 in some central London venues but mainly in East London. Always interested in developing new audiences for Classical Music, three4 took on a residency at Rich Mix Arts centre in Shoreditch, where they perform in the bar.
As well as performing at established classical music venues such as Handel House, three4, under the ELMO umbrella, have been continuing to develop collaborations with non Classical venues and performing in more informal surroundings to reach new audience.