Going from snowy Suffolk to sun-drenched Seville for one night only, singers from the Chedburgh Community Choir enjoyed a real treat when they performed with Swansea City Opera in The Barber of Seville (Rossini) at Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds on Saturday (Sat 3 Mar).

The performance was sold out in advance, with every seat in the house taken, but on the night some people stayed at home because of the bad weather – it had been snowing and freezing all week. In the event, the orchestra couldn’t make it either and the conductor was stuck in Hull! All we had was a pianist in the pit who had stepped in at short notice, but it worked! The afternoon was spent topping and tailing scenes and going through cuts in the score with the pianist. For the chorus, who all turned up early and raring to go, the afternoon started with the allocation of costumes. Squeezed into the largest dressing room, the ladies were allocated dresses, gloves, masks and mantillas. We looked really creepy – a flock of anonymous black ‘batwomen’! Our faces were almost completely covered – no make-up needed except for bright red lipstick.

We had been rehearsing the music well in advance, and been warned that it would be taken at a much faster pace than our rehearsal tapes. There was a little bit of choreography, to underline the comic moments. It was all very exciting running through our bits on stage, with whispered instructions from company members singing alongside us!

Chedburgh Community Choir is the biggest group of singers that Swansea City Opera work with on their tour round the country, and some of us were singing in the wings to ‘beef up’ the sound of those on stage and to give more people a chance to take part. The actual performance in the evening went smoothly, thanks to the immense professionalism of the company who managed to stay together seamlessly without a conductor. And, though I say it myself, the choir did pretty well too! The audience loved it, laughing along with comic moments and enjoying sublime singing from the principals. Comments included: “Wonderful evening!” and “We had a great evening. Thanks Swansea Opera for coming to Theatre Royal BSE in this terrible weather.

It was  a very special experience performing onstage in the wonderfully intimate Theatre Royal. The choir would like to thank Swansea City Opera, who welcomed us so kindly. And a big thank you to our choir director, Polly Anderson, who encouraged and supported us along the way. Couldn’t have done it without you, Polly!

Gayle Wade

Chedburgh Community Choir singer