• Sunday, December 03, 2023


Opera North seeks music-makers of colour for ‘life-changing’ residency programme

Opera North is seeking applications from music creators of colour for its next Resonance residency programme.

Carnatic singer Supriya Nagarajan performing in SAA-uk and Opera North’s Winter Solstice_(Photo credit: Nick Singleton

By: Mohnish Singh

Opera North is seeking applications from music creators of colour for its next Resonance residency programme. Resonance was launched in 2017 to offer funding, space, time, and technical support to professional musicians and composers in any genre who are based in the North of England and the Midlands, as part of PRS Foundation’s nationwide Talent Development Partnership supported by PPL. In 2023-24, six successful lead artists will each spend a week at Opera North’s Leeds base, developing new ideas, collaborating with performers from other disciplines, and taking their work in new directions. Additional support for this year’s programme comes from The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust.

“When I think about my experience of being part of Resonance, terms such as ‘life-changing’ or ‘life-affirming’ are what come to mind”, says singer-songwriter and storyteller Marco Woolf. “Which all sounds very dramatic, but that’s honestly how it feels”. In his residency earlier this year, Marco and his collaborators worked on a new project pairing improvised dance with his narratives and music.

“I’ve never had the opportunity to dedicate that much time to just focusing on my art, exploring my ideas in an in-depth and playful way, with access to resources and not having to worry about money or other work.

“This really was a pivotal experience for me. Beyond the resources, the time, and the money, one of the major reasons why this scheme was so impactful was the genuine care that Opera North had for the work we were doing. They were not just interested in my career development, they also went as far as they could to support and enable the development of my creative ideas.

“That’s a really powerful thing for an artist like me to experience. When we look at prestigious organisations from the outside it often feels impossible to imagine yourself stepping into these buildings or accessing certain platforms as a creative, but Opera North made this relationship feel so easy and it has done wonders for my confidence.

“Having the backing of such an influential institution chips away at the imposter syndrome and negative self-talk that can be so overwhelming as an artist. On top of that, it truly feels that my relationship with Opera North will continue beyond this scheme which is something that doesn’t happen very often with projects like this”.

Resonance alumni have gone on to create major commissions for Opera North. Music Director on the first Resonance residency, Jasdeep Singh Degun, composed a sitar concerto, Arya, for the Orchestra of Opera North; he was composer and co-music director on the Company’s groundbreaking mainstage opera Orpheus, and is currently Artist in Residence. Orpheus in the Record Shop, written and performed by writer, theatre-maker, beatboxer, and 2019 Resonance artist Testament, was filmed for BBC Four during lockdown and returned to the Leeds Playhouse stage to standing ovations in 2022.

Three Resonance alumni from previous years will return to Opera North to showcase their work for an audience in the Howard Assembly Room on Friday 8 September – and show the wide spectrum of genres and disciplines in the projects that Resonance supports. Egyptian mezzo-soprano Camille Maalawy has continued to work with pianist and composer Mark Slater and percussionist Guy Schalom on her song cycle fusing Arabic and European musical styles. Neo-jazz composer and vocalist Ni Maxine draws on her West African heritage, the legacy of Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti, and the power of storytelling in song, which she first discovered through artists such as Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone. And from 2020’s Lockdown edition of Resonance, musician, DJ, curator, and educator Balraj Samrai performs tracks from his recent debut album Work & Roti live.

Each successful lead artist for this year’s programme will receive up to a week of free rehearsal space in central Leeds between October 2023 and April 2024, a grant of up to £4,000 to cover fees for those involved and other costs, and support and advice from technicians, producers, and other specialists. There are also options for a work-in-progress performance and a short film to document the project. To apply, artists should complete the short form via the Opera North website by 10 am on Friday 18 August 2023. To qualify for consideration, the lead artist must be a professional composer, musician, or music-maker of colour, aged 18 years old or over, and living in the north of England or the Midlands.

Opera North is keen to attract the widest possible range of talented artists for the scheme. The entry form is available in alternative formats, including Braille, hard copy and audio, and submissions can be accepted via audio or video. To discuss any additional needs or overcoming further barriers to applying, please contact [email protected]

Marco Woolf and his fellow Resonance artist Supriya Nagarajan will join Opera North Projects on the selection panel. All entrants will be notified of the outcome of their applications within three weeks of the deadline, and shortlisted artists will be invited for an informal meeting to discuss their project.

The Resonance scheme has been enabled by Opera North’s membership of the PRS Foundation’s network of Talent Development Partners supported by PPL. The UK’s leading funder of new music and talent development, PRS Foundation supports organisations working at the frontline of talent development with a broad range of individual music creators. This reflects PRS Foundation’s commitment to supporting composers and songwriters of all backgrounds and genres, through direct investment or by helping organisations that nurture artists and promote their music. Generous additional support for this year’s programme comes from The Austin and Hope Pilkington Trust, whose priorities include addressing the discrimination faced by the Global Majority.

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