Talented teens enlist opera star for musical appeal

Feel The Spirit, featuring Andrea Baker and the choirs of the Duchess’s Community High School, Alnwick Playhouse, Wednesday, May 9, 2pm and 7.30pm. Tickets, £10, £8 conc, £6 child/student. Contact 01665 510785.

TALENTED pupils from Alnwick’s Duchess’s Community High School will team up with internationally-renowned opera star Andrea Baker for a celebration of song.

The event, which is raising money for the school’s music department, is a collaboration between the school and the Rotary Club of Alnwick – which also launched an on-going musical instrument appeal for the school.

Singing star and honorary Rotarian Baker has found time in her schedule to work with the choirs of the Alnwick school.

It started in January with vocal workshops and culminates in the two special Playhouse performances next month.

She will perform beautiful pieces from her repertoire, two of which will have her accompanied on the piano by the school’s talented music student Alex Barlow.

Seven spirituals from the John Rutter arrangement of Feel The Spirit will be performed by the combined voices of mezzo-soprano Baker and the school’s choirs.

Marion Long, vice-president of the club, said: “This is going to be a wonderful event.

“The Rotary Club of Alnwick arranged the introduction of Ms Baker and the high school after a fund-raising performance given by her for Rotary last year.

“Music students had been invited and were enthralled by her voice.

“The school’s music department will benefit from the funds generated on the night.

“The front of house is being manned by sixth-form students from the school and Rotary’s youngest members who are called RotaKids and come from Alnwick South First School, Duke’s Middle School and Lindisfarne Middle School.”

With proceeds from the concert going towards the school’s music department, the club is also keen to rally the public into supporting the campaign to donate instruments to Duchess’s High.

The initiative was launched earlier this year after Marion found out that the music department was coping with the bare minimum of equipment.

Some instruments were damaged or non-existent.

With school budgets having to be spent on other items, there aren’t enough funds to replenish the department.

Since the campaign was started, a number of instruments have been donated, including guitars, electric keyboards and a viola.

There has also been a pledge to hand over an autoharp.

But despite these generous donations, the search is still on to collect more instruments.

And Marion has pleaded with Gazette readers to back the cause.

“We want anyone who has an instrument collecting dust at home to donate them to the high school,” she said.

“We are absolutely delighted that some instruments have been handed in and we are grateful to everyone who has donated an instrument.

“I think the school really appreciates it.

“But we are going to keep the appeal open for as long as it takes for us to get a reasonable bank of instruments which will be of use to the school and we are grateful to anything that comes along.”

The school’s headteacher, Maurice Hall, said that the cost of musical equipment has risen over the last few years.

He added that the price hike, coupled with the increasing need to have access to expensive computer software programmes for GCSE and A-Level students as well as musical instruments, has made it difficult to fund the school’s successful music department with all it needs.

He made an appeal to the community to back the campaign and that any support from the public to improve the resources on offer would be of huge benefit to students taking music exams as well as those who support the school in its extra-curricular programme.

Any instrument is welcome, as long as it is in working order.

Items do not need to be in tune as that can be done by the school.

Anyone wanting to donate unused instruments can do so at G Penrose & Sons, on Bondgate Within, Alnwick, or contact Marion on 07810 513851.