Dorothy Withers's blog

A word from our directors about the lead up to Christmas and our plans for 2019

  • Posted on: 9 October 2018
  • By: Dorothy Withers

On Saturday 15th September we presented a concert called ‘Spirit of Opera’ in Holy Trinity Church as the opening event in the Hurstpierpoint Festival. There was a large and very appreciative audience and in my humble opinion we gave one of our best concerts for a long time despite some of our singers being hit with last minute illness or work commitments. With the aid of our regular accompanist Tim Nail, plus the Heber ensemble, everyone brought on their ‘A’ game and there has been a lot of really good feedback from people in the audience, so to everyone concerned I would like to say thank you and a huge “Bravo”.

Looking ahead to the festive season, we are about to start rehearsing for our short programme at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion in December plus brushing up our carols for the annual session for the Bluebell Railway.

A short break to cook the turkey and stuff ourselves with plum pudding etc and then with the ink scarcely dry on the Happy New Year cards we will start rehearsals on the first Sunday in January for our May production.

As hinted at in our previous missive and as you will have seen from Chrissie’s recent blog on how she created her poster images, next year we will be presenting ‘Norma’ by Bellini and are delighted that Veronica Brooks will be singing the title role. Joining her will be Michele Restieux who was our Giovanna/Maddalena in Rigoletto together with Bethan Jackson who sang so beautifully in our recent concert; and returning to us after a short break for initiation into fatherhood is Steve Hawksley who was our wonderful Mephistopheles in 2017’s ‘Faust’. Sadly Tim Crouch is unable to take the tenor lead due to a heavy work schedule and so we are currently looking for a suitably experienced singer to take the role of Pollione (Norma’s secret and wayward lover). Our cast will be completed by Nicholas Forrest who will bring his lovely voice and huge experience to the role of Flavio.

‘Norma’ is a beautiful opera which these days is not performed very often – it is from the ‘bel canto’ genre and is a very demanding sing for the two female leads but Veronica & Michele certainly have the vocal expertise to do it justice.

The action is set against a backdrop of Celtic/Druidic mysticism in ancient Gaul (present day France/Belgium). Norma is their revered Druid priestess but with her people chafing to be free of Roman oppression, she risks all by conducting a secret relationship with the governing Roman Consul.

The story unfolds dramatically with forbidden love and infidelity turning to hatred and thoughts of revenge – finally culminating in a sacrifice of atonement.

So…there is scope for a lot of varied drama along the way which we hope to bring out resulting in an exciting and moving production and of course ‘Norma’ includes one of the most famous of all soprano arias ‘Casta Diva’.

Do keep an eye on the website and we will update you as rehearsals get underway and let you know how things are coming along.

Tickets will go on sale in February and our venue dates are as follows:

Sat 18 May 2019

King Edward Hall, Lindfield

7:30 pm
Sun 19 May 2019

Uckfield Centre

6:00 pm
     
Fri 24th May 2019

Adastra Hall, Hassocks

7:30 pm
Sat 25th May 2019

Steyning Centre

7:30 pm
Sun 26th May 2019

Village Centre Hurstpierpoint

6:00 pm

NB: A couple of important notes re tickets:

  • We have had to make a slight increase to ticket prices (our first increase for at least 4 years) to keep pace with the rise in our overall costs. Reserved tickets will now be £15 and unreserved £13. We do try to accommodate audience members with mobility or sight problems but please let us have any relevant information at the time of initial booking to avoid possible problems on the day.
  • Finally a word of caution - one lady who wanted to see Rigoletto was very upset not to be able to get a seat at her chosen venue due to a sell out. BUT she had left it till the very last minute to book and did not believe the venue was sold out assuming there would be tickets on the door. Regrettably we can no longer just ‘squeeze people in’ when all the seats are taken because we do have to be careful about fire regulations, health and safety etc. So please ensure you book early to avoid disappointment.

All good wishes and as always, thank you so much for continuing to support us – we couldn’t do it without you.

Michael & Dorothy Withers

Christmas Greetings to all our Supporters!

  • Posted on: 19 December 2017
  • By: Dorothy Withers

To all our loyal supporters and followers………………

It’s that time of year again when we look back at what has been achieved over the past 12 months or so and let you know our plans for the coming year.

Pavilion

When we set out in 2016 to present Pearl Fishers, we were not sure what the future might hold for Heber Opera but, due to the success of that production and thanks to the enthusiasm of our regular principals and chorus we moved ahead this year with plans for FAUST. Audiences were slightly down on the previous year but those who came were bowled over by our production and we received really good feedback on the standard of vocal and dramatic performance so everyone involved please take a well-deserved bow.

As well as FAUST in May, we presented two Tea Concerts in November, have recently given a pre-dinner Christmas entertainment at Brighton’s Royal Pavilion ( having been asked back again after last year) and are currently in the middle of our regular carol singing engagement for The Bluebell Railway.

The management team continue to meet regularly and discuss the usual things such as publicity, fundraising and of course recruitment. It is fair to say that most of us in the company are heading for (or have already hit) retirement so looking ahead we really could do with some new blood to ensure Heber Opera has a viable future. We have been delighted to welcome a few newcomers recently, Cynthia Davies, Jenny Duvall, Bridget Stevenson, Francesco Purpura, Daria Robertson and Christopher Williams, and hopefully they have enjoyed the experience so far. Personally, I think we are a very welcoming company and the least “stuffy” group of people I know so hopefully we will attract a few more additions to our ranks in the coming months.

A brief word here about funding – everything we put on whether it be a concert or full production is self funded. We get no grants whatsoever and whilst we pare costs down to the bone as much as we can, putting together a production runs into several thousands of pounds. Each member of the cast pays an individual show “fee” to take part, plus a small weekly subscription which helps cover the costs of rehearsals. Throughout the year our treasurer (the indefatigable Jenny Letton) organises Craft Fayres and Tea Concerts and Jon Gardner ensures profitable raffles at each and every performance. These are all valuable sources of fund raising so if you have supported any Heber events throughout the year you will have helped keep us “in the black”. Thank you Jenny and Jon plus everyone who helped with fund raising events over the past year.

As you may have seen from the website we are looking ahead to 2018 with plans to present Verdi’s RIGOLETTO. This will be an exciting production and although usually very much geared to being a male dominated show, we will be including our ladies in all the chorus work. Our principals are all signed up and raring to go and most of them have already started preparations for the first rehearsal in January. Once again we are delighted to have the creative input of Pitch Black Lighting . Mark and Natalie’s team has a huge impact on how a show looks and we are really looking forward to working with them on Rigoletto. Watch this space for regular updates on how things are going once rehearsals get underway.

So..all that’s left is to say a big thank you for continuing to support us and we look forward to seeing you all at Rigoletto in May 2018.

With sincere good wishes for Christmas and the New Year from all at “Heber Opera”.

Merry Christmas and thank-you for a wonderful 2016!

  • Posted on: 18 December 2016
  • By: Dorothy Withers

Dear Supporters of Heber Opera,

As we approach the end of our first year under “new management” as it were we felt it appropriate to wrap up 2016 before moving on to our next production.

Pavilion

We have really appreciated all your support this year as we sought to take Heber forward under new management. In particular we would like to thank our new management team who have done sterling work without which we would not have been able to keep going.

So take a bow please:-

  • Chrissie Berridge – fantastic poster design, photography and blogging for the website, sourcing of props

  • Julie Emmerton – sourcing of material for and making of all costumes as well as personally tackling leaflet distribution

  • Sara Gardner – co-ordinating all front of house requirements and with husband Jon setting up seating at each venue and providing a raffle and refreshments

  • Jo Harper – setting up box office arrangements, updating e-mail listings and keeping supporters informed as well as being minute secretary for team meetings

  • John Hole – various press liaison, organising licenced bar facilities

  • Jenny Letton – Treasurer duties, organising printing of all advertising material, marketing and fund raising

  • Dave Roberts – for sourcing and booking all performance venues, managing and running the website

This is by no means a comprehensive list of what everyone does but we do sincerely thank them all.

The “Pearl Fishers” proved a huge success at the box office which was a delightful surprise and we really do appreciate everyone who bought tickets and came along.

It was not an easy piece and a hard sing for everyone but we hope you felt that we acquitted ourselves reasonable well.

Our soloists ( Sally Wilson, Nick Forest, Mike MacKenzie and Steve Hawksley ) are to be particularly congratulated on their individual performances.

We receive no funding or grant and everything we do is self-funded. All the singers pay a show levy and other vital funds are raised from various activities such as the recent “High Tea Concert”. This event was a sell-out three weeks before the concert and we had several people phoning up late in the day for tickets and being disappointed that they couldn’t get any. Obviously when we do a catered event we have to set a limit to the number of people we can accommodate so this just shows the importance of booking early!!

Other fund raising includes Craft Fayres ( organised by Jenny Letton ) and every December we are engaged by the Bluebell Railway to provide sessions of carol singing for their evening dinner train. This year we will have done 9 by Christmas Eve. Believe it or not some of us have been singing carols for the Bluebell Railway for approx 30 years now. It all started via a suggestion of Sara Gardner to the Bluebell catering team when the Christmas Dinner trains first started and has continued ever since.

Next year will soon be upon us and rehearsals for Faust start on January 8th.

If you have any active friends that sing and might be interested do ask them to get in touch – especially men!

Just because we had a virtual sell-out last year we are not complacent and will be working as hard if not harder to promote Faust so please do keep an eye on the website for details. Performances are the last two week-ends in May 2017 and booking opens in February.

Finally, we look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in 2017, hopefully at a performance of Faust or at one of our fund-raising events but meanwhile we wish you all a very Happy Christmas and sincere good wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.

Michael & Dorothy Withers ( Music and Stage directors ) and all the Heber company.