Opera beats pop when it comes to sword-fighting

Opera singers get into more sword-fights than pop stars ever do, Buxton Infants School pupils learned from internationally famous baritone Roderick Williams, OBE.

Roderick, who had just received foot-stamping, rapturous applause for his performance in Buxton International Festival at the Pavilion Arts Centre, dropped in to see Year 1 children who had been working on their Arts Award Discover programme, a ten week introduction to the arts run by the Festival.

He amazed the 55 youngsters with the power of his voice with a song in Russian, and explained how he began his musical career at the age of seven in choirs.

Roderick, who has sung all over the world including a solo appearance at The Last Night of the Proms, explained the difference between singing opera and singing pop  – how he had to fill the theatre with voice, unaided by a microphone, and only sang “cover versions”.

And he decided it was the career for him when he discovered the official training programme included make-up, dressing up and combat training for fights scenes: “I thought it sounded like an awful lot of fun.”

The children, who sang to him in German, received certificates for completing the Arts Council project in art, music and drama after visiting the Opera House to see how everything works backstage.

Sketching the stained glass, the architecture, and ‘seeing the dumb waiter in the ladies toilet’ were among the highlights, said the children.

“First of all I hated painting and then I tried again and I loved it and I want to do it 100 times,” said one pupil.

They especially liked performing in front of an audience on the Opera House stage – one venue at which Roderick has yet to appear.

“You’ve got one over me!” he told them.

By Christmas Buxton International Festival will have given out over 500 Arts Award Discover certificates in the town. They have also worked with students at Harpur Hill School at the next level, Arts Award Explore, and plan to do more in the future.

The awards were presented by Buxton man Mark Burns, who is now an assistant opera director working across the globe. Mark’s interest in music was sparked as a child taking part in the Festival’s outreach programme.