Girls' Choir hits the airwaves

A GIRLS' choir from Amberfield School in Nacton is to feature in a radio play about the first ever English Opera.The play Henry's Girls is about the staging of Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, which was first performed at a girls' school in Chelsea.

A GIRLS' choir from Amberfield School in Nacton is to feature in a radio play about the first ever English Opera.

The play Henry's Girls is about the staging of Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, which was first performed at a girls' school in Chelsea.

The play - to be presented on BBC Radio 4 - includes several choruses from the opera, which are to be performed by Capella Nova, a choral group from Amberfield School conducted by singing teacher Lindsay Blay.

The accompaniment is provided by two other instrument teachers at the school - cellist Katherine Joyce, and keyboard player and writer of the play Alan Stafford.

The 21-strong choir travelled to the Soundhouse studios in London to record the music in March.

In addition to their singing, they can also be heard as extras throughout the play. Director Dirk Maggs recorded the girls chatting, laughing and reacting to various events - so he could give the impression of a busy school - even though the girls were recorded on a different day to the actors.

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The cast includes Robert Glenister, currently starring as Ash Morgan in BBC1's Hustle, as composer Henry Purcell, and Naoko Mori, who plays Toshiko in Torchwood, playing schoolgirl Charlotte, who sings the title role in the opera.

Mr Stafford said the play was a mixture of historical research and restoration comedy, with just a dash of St Trinians.

Set in the late 1600s, it follows the opera through rehearsal to performance, despite the opposition of some parents, who would prefer their daughters to concentrate on domestic skills.

He also suggested many of the actors for the roles.

“I'd seen Naoko in Torchwood, and thought her voice would be perfect, especially as she's also sung in West End musicals,” said Mr Stafford.

“Having heard Capella Nova at many school concerts, I knew they'd do a superb job. Even so, when the director and I listened back to the recording, we were amazed how great they sounded.”

He has had a previous radio play presented - All Fingers and Thumbs, about the love-hate relationship between a theatre director and a sign language interpreter, which starred Bill Nighy and Susannah Doyle - and earlier this year researched and scripted a radio documentary about comedian Kenneth Horne, which was narrated by Jimmy Carr.

Henry's Girls will be broadcast on Tuesday May 15 at 2.15 pm on Radio 4.

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