Preston Opera celebrates 50 years of music

Laura Wood

Laura Wood - Credit: Archant

Singing is all the rage but you might never have thought of joining an operatic company. Diane Mackley is out to change your mind

Nick Howe, Emily Robinson, James Marczak and Diane Mackley

Nick Howe, Emily Robinson, James Marczak and Diane Mackley - Credit: Archant

Gareth Malone has been back on our television screens and suddenly singing soars in the hit parade as one of ways people love to spend their leisure time.

There is no reason for shy sopranos to confine their singing to the shower or baritones to only belt out tunes in the bath when there are so many choirs and signing societies in Lancashire. And if you’ve had a secret desire to step out on to a stage and to sing with others in front of an appreciative audience, then Preston Opera offers the perfect opportunity to turn that dream in to a reality.

This opera-loving company is currently celebrating 50 years of music-making and members are keen to encourage wannabe singers to take the plunge and experience the thrill and buzz of excitement they all get from singing and performing together.

It’s a real team effort. Lasting friendships have developed within the group – and even some marriages! This friendly and sociable group is looking forward to the new season which will culminate in a fully-staged and costumed production of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’, at the Charter Theatre next March.

Rehearsals are held every Thursday evening, beginning at 7.30pm. Musical scores are provided, along with rehearsal CDs for those who don’t read music. In addition, a lot of help and tuition is provided by the musical director, Colin Beeson, and the director, Geoff Horton. Experienced members are also very happy to show newer members the ropes and to answer any queries. There are no auditions to join the chorus - the only requirement is a love of music and a love of singing, even if it is currently just confined to the shower!

Here’s what current members have to say about Preston Opera. For many, like former police officer Terry Martin, the rehearsals provide the most enjoyment. ‘I enjoy being made to work hard at the early music rehearsals,’ he says. ‘Going over things until we get it right provides a tremendous sense of achievement.’

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Christine Whiteside supports this view and adds: ‘I love the challenge of learning something new and enjoy singing with others in a relaxed atmosphere – it helps me to switch off from my caring responsibilities at home. I particularly enjoy the show week, losing myself in the drama, singing with an orchestra – and wearing beautiful costumes.’

Tenor James Marczak, an attendance officer at a local higher education college, agrees. ‘The full staged productions are amazing to take part in. I love the feeling of everyone’s excitement and apprehension, and how it all creates a special bond between performers.’

James believes that singing with Preston Opera also provides an excellent opportunity for future professional singers to gain invaluable experience. ‘To gain this level of stage experience for a relatively low cost is an opportunity not to be missed,’ he says. ‘It offers a chance to improve – or to start to learn – sight-singing, acting and stage-craft. You can also get involved in the technical and creative side as well, be it costume or stage design.’

Anyone can join therefore and everyone is assured of a very warm welcome. This is not an elitist, high-brow group of singers, so don’t be put off by the thought that opera singers are snobbish and stuffy. As current chairman Tony Leydon says: ‘One visit to Preston Opera should assure prospective members that we’re not in the least bit grand. You couldn’t find a more ordinary, down-to-earth, friendly group of people anywhere!’ w

If you are tempted, then be bold and take the plunge. If you have any queries, contact the secretary, Barbara Walsh on 01772.784578. Or, you can check the website at The author Diane Mackley is recruitment officer at Preston Opera..