Final photos of the ensemble!

December 17, 2009

JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

Here are a few final photos of the marvellous community ensemble! I can’t believe it’s all over: I’m certainly more relaxed now but I miss all the excitement and fun of Messiah. And I really miss the 41 amazing people who took part!

Final thoughts film

December 11, 2009

JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

In this film, members of the Community Ensemble share their thoughts about participating in Messiah.

TOLA LAWAL, Community Ensemble Participant

Well there was a fat lady, but I don’t remember her singing. So I guess it aint over. It may be the last show, but the memories will continue to live on. So in a nutshell… Whoo hooo…

For me I can honestly say there is a high degree of mixed feelings. I’m totally feeling the buzz of last performance jitters. I feel so privileged to have met and worked with many talented and unique individuals, from different lifestyles who all had a different reason for taking part in Messiah. From the first rehearsal to the last performance, it has definitely been a journey for me. It has opened my eyes to so many things and even made me realise where my heart lies.

There have been laughs, tears, jokes and even moments of conflict but that’s what family is about, being a ‘Community’. So many things I can’t even begin to write but it’s been a very special and personal experience for me that if just ONE of you weren’t there, it wouldn’t have been the same.

Opera is something different to what I’m used to, but I feel a very much part of it like dance, drama and music. Deborah Warner’s vision of Messiah was shared with many thousands of people and each one of us, through love, support and commitment, made that vision come alive. And I am very much proud to be a part of that vision.

I’ll leave others to get to the nitty gritty details of the process but I just wanted to post something, because I’m just bursting with ideas and visions and gratitude for this opportunity. It may have been for a short time but it will play a big part. Everything in life happens for a reason!

Thank you all for making this what it is! I hope and pray you all figure out where your path leads you to. And realise that whatever you want, it’s yours. If you can dream it, you can achieve it. Wish you all the best of luck in life, keep on smiling and being “satellites of the sacred”. This is not goodbye, but more of a see you later…

Loads of love, hugs, peace and harmony!! See you at the TOP!! 

All bow!

December 11, 2009

MARTIN WYATT, Community Ensemble Participant

An important part of any performance, I believe, is the bow at the end.  This is the opportunity for the audience to show its appreciation (or not) for the fine performance it has just enjoyed (or not).

And when it comes to opera, the sheer number of bodies on stage is usually more than other types of shows.  And the theatres tend to be big too, so there are more pairs of hands out there in the dark clapping furiously (or not!).

So it has always intrigued me how such a vast company manages to bow perfectly in time.  Do they follow the lead of one of the soloists?  Do they count to 10 and dip?  Or is it entirely instinctive – are they so in tune (pardon the pun) that they just know when to bow?

Well now I have had the opportunity to experience this from the other side, I can reveal the secret.  Standing in the wings are a team of gallant stage managers and assistant stage managers who keep the show running all night.  And when it comes to the bows they’re still there, yelling at the tops of their voices ‘All bow!’  And we do.  It’s as simple as that…

But it occurred to me last night, as we bowed on cue, that these poor souls never get a chance for a bow themselves.  This hardly seems fair to me, as they have worked just as hard (even harder) than everyone else on stage.  They have been with us at every rehearsal, both in West Hampstead and at the Coliseum.  They have been there for every performance, and we rely on them to get us on and off stage exactly on cue.  They push things, lift things, light candles, and yank golden lilies into the air.  And not one hand clap is awarded them.

So here goes.

To our glorious, funny, energetic and totally adorable stage manager Phillip; to his assistant James; to his deputies Molly, Fran and Rory; and to all the other men and women in black backstage – sorry I don’t know all your names – please accept my applause.

All Bow!

And while we’re on the subject of unsung heroes…to the gents dresser Clive, to the Community Ensemble chaperones Danielle, David and Alex – my heartfelt and hearty applause.

All Bow!

And last, but by no means least, to the Community Ensemble Project Manager Jana Phillips – who has also been there from the first audition to the last night tonight, and has kept us all happy, energised, enthusiastic, and connected – a standing ovation!

All Bow!

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Up in the flys film

December 9, 2009

JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

In this film, community ensemble member, Riz, chats to Joe and Charlie about some of the technical elements around putting on Messiah.

Listen out for Joe’s anecdote about the whistling language: I never knew about this….

Hitting the stage running!

December 8, 2009

LORRAINE BAKER, Community Ensemble Participant

We’re coming to the end of this exciting and wonderful experience of performing in Handel’s Messiah.   I have again participated in the most famous story in the world, the story of Christ.  As a Christian, I have followed and demonstrated this story in different ways but have never enacted this as part of an opera production, however, this experience is one I have greatly enjoyed and the first non-verbal, non-vocal I have done.  This has enhanced my concentration and listening skills, not only with minimal direction but to utilise my movement skills (slowly) after being so used to rushing around all the time in everyday life.

I think my best moment that I won’t forget in a hurry is hitting the stage running (almost literally!) when I had to participate in Act II and didn’t have a clue of what I was supposed to do.  I was just told to follow bench one! Did that and literally walked onto the grass platform and sat on the bench on the other side of the stage.  I was then ushered off by chorus as there was total confusion! And as we entered the song  Let us break their bonds I’ve never had to make such different facial expressions from curiosity, shock, confusion then Happiness.  That was the best bit, Happiness, also calmed me down as I just knew the Director, watching on must have thought “what is she doing?” Standing amongst the wonderful sound of Hallelujah. That’s my favourite bit.

I’m not one for pushing myself into the limelight of publicity but I have performed, danced and sung on stage in the past and this for me is yet another experience I can carry in my journey of life. I’ve been able to demonstrate my talents and gifts with the assistance of Joyce and I am really grateful to Jana and Deborah for giving me this opportunity.  I will never forget. 

JOYIA FITCH, Community Ensemble Participant

We’re a fair few performances in and only really have a few to go. It’s going sooo quickly… things have been going fine – there’s more of a relaxed vibe going on now. We’re hanging out together after shows with the chorus, dancers & orchestra & I’m becoming very fond of them all. It really is as though we’ve been embraced by the ENO community.

I got to interview Deborah for the blog (see video) & she answered many of our questions. She’s truly lovely and really has that presence of an amazing creative person. You know some people just have that presence?

I keep having a little mishap going on. It’s never happened before but it keeps happening now. On Tuesday I think I’m just going to go down in the interval and see if I can see what’s going on and rework this thing. In one of the transitions a few of us peel back a black covering to reveal the green garden underneath. We usually do it smoothly & together, walking backwards & folding over and over. Easy, I hear you say… well yes it is… until now. The thing keeps getting caught under the platform. I take the left edge & well, the first time it happened I had to get off the platform & tug, tug with extra strength from Kumar to free it. Anyhows, each time it happens I guess the important thing is we fix it and carry on as normal. I think my TV issues were good training; things can happen, can go wrong that you would never think could. You just have to deal with whatever is thrown at you. As we come off with the rolled up sheet, Phillip says ‘Well done. Its live theatre & you dealt with it.’

So, this is my penultimate blog I guess. I’m out working a lot in Oxfordshire at the mo. It’s pretty cool returning to London for a show. Getting off the train at Marylebone, looking at the commuters & knowing I’m going to the Coliseum. Looking at the commuters makes me ponder; these people, they’re in our show. It truly is about all of us.


JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

In this film, Laurence Cummings, Messiah conductor, chats to Community Ensemble member, Martin Wyatt. Martin works at the Handel House museum so he knows a great deal about Handel and about this oratorio!

MAUREEN GORDON, Community Ensemble Participant

Getting to know people from all walks of life and having a laugh together……..

One thousand flights of stairs to our dressing room… that how it feels anyway. The pounds are falling off!!!  Trying to navigate my way around the rabbit warren of backstage and feeling anxious that I might get lost and miss my cue. Funnily enough, others have had dreams about me forgetting to go on stage too………

Arriving at the Coliseum – for the first day – and trying to take in the sheer scale of the massive stage and the myriad (so it seems) of people everywhere. Then we were sitting in the theatre watching the first part of the production, when some of the community ensemble came on stage.  The rest of us were sitting thinking we should be there. They had forgotten to call us. That was funny!!!

Finding out that we are all in the same boat; no-one knew what was going on either and where they should be, including the chorus. We have got used to changes, changes.

Now we have been performing for a few days, so what was strange has become more familiar. What an experience being on stage the last few nights has been: especially during the Hallelujah Chorus – wonderful, powerful and profound.  6 performances down, three to go.

My family came, the constant questions ensued. What were you doing on the stage? Why were you all lying around? I thought you would be singing. Why is there a tree in it? What did they mean when they sang that? And I thought it was straightforward. I get it. My 7 year old niece summed it up, “It was good but loud”…

It has been great to be part of Messiah…

JANA PHILLIPS, ENO Baylis Project Manager

Community Ensemble member, Joyia Fitch, chats to Deborah Warner about Messiah and donkeys (!)