19 April 2024

Everyman Project at Freedom Festival: ‘Together we smashed it!’

A project to create an “opera in a day” that involved scores of performers from across Hull, the East Riding and North Lincolnshire finally came to fruition at the Freedom Festival last weekend.

As previously reported in the Gazette, Withernsea Ladies’ Choir was among the groups invited by the Everyman Project to be part of the diverse and inclusive show, which also involved dance, circus skills and crafting.

In the past couple of months, York-based creative professionals Em Whitfield Brooks and Tim Brooks have been holding sessions with people of all ages, and after a full day of rehearsals to put the whole thing together, it culminated in the “sharing celebration” at Stage@TheDock on Sunday, September 3.

The one-act piece, Everyman, composed by Tim with lyrics by Em, is a modern interpretation of the traditional morality play. The central character, Everyman, is not a man as such,
but the personification of the average person, ordinary and humble, facing the trials and tribulations that life – and death – throw at them.

The characters of Everyman, Death and Knowledge were performed by opera singers Sandeep Gurrapadi, David Pisaro and Emily Smith, and other choirs taking part were Hull Freedom Chorus, Hull Visual Voices, Grimsby’s East Marsh Peace Choir and Castaway Goole.

The performers gathered at Hull’s Guildhall in the morning and for the next few hours went through everything they had learned in the previous workshops – though there were a few who had missed them and turned up on the day not knowing quite what to expect.

A rehearsal at Stage@TheDock followed before the final show in front of a sizeable audience in bright sunshine, and everything went as well as organisers could possibly have hoped, said Em.

She said: “I was delighted with the culmination of our workshop project. To see up to 100
people from right across the region singing their hearts out at Stage@TheDock, dancing, moving together, helping each other, enjoying the circus skills and having fun – it was a treat for all the artists involved.

“We certainly had a challenge on our hands to produce a high-quality opera piece in just one day, but everyone rose to that challenge and together we smashed it!

“They looked and sounded amazing, and new connections were made, too, as singers from different areas all got together for this shared experience. We’re already thinking about the next phase of the project, in which we hope to stage the full opera production of Everyman – so watch this space.”

Numerous participants afterwards said the experience was “amazing” and “emotional”. Lynne Evans, from Withernsea Ladies’ Choir, said: “I blended well into the background and enjoyed the new experience, like many others.”

The production was funded by Arts Council England, Hull City Council and North East Lincolnshire Council in partnership with Back to Ours.