Thinking with Pencil

  • Posted on: 12 April 2017
  • By: Jan Barger Cohen
Thinking with Pencil

I have drawn my pencil sketch (on A5 paper) for the Golden Calf pub sign. I don't usually make thumbnails or lots of sketches because I generally 'see' a picture in my mind and then put that down on paper.

Here are some thoughts that went into my design:

  • Want it to look like a proper pub sign
  • Want the calf facing out, not in profile
  • I'll put the lettering at the top as an integral part of the design
  • The Golden Calf comes from the biblical story of Moses and the Ten Commandments. A tablet shaped arch around the calf will both hint at that and make the design more interesting.

Images & Inspirations

  • Posted on: 31 March 2017
  • By: Jan Barger Cohen

Rehearsals are going well for our May production of Faust. Cast and crew not only have music and moves to learn - we also have costumes and props to assemble.

Images and Inspiration

In a leap of faith (as I rarely do any large-scale work as an artist or work on wood) I have volunteered to paint an A1-sized sign for our on-stage pub, The Golden Calf (where the chorus seem to spend a lot of time!) and blog about my progress. I'll get my inspiration from images of cows and pub signs, then let ideas bounce around in my head until I know how I want to proceed with the design.

Faust box office is now open!

Tickets go on sale on 1 February for our May 2017 performances.  This year we will be taking Gounod's exciting interpretation of Faust to Brighton, Lindfield, Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks, Steyning and Uckfield and really hope you will be able to get along to see us.

The performance dates are:           

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.

A magical Christmas evening at the Royal Pavilion

  • Posted on: 18 December 2016
  • By: Chrissie Berridge

Working at the Royal Pavilion has its advantages! I was tasked with finding two choirs for our Christmas banquets, and I thought it would be great to give Heber Opera the opportunity. Singing in the spectacular Music Room (the Prince Regent's favourite room in this iconic building) is such an amazing experience, even more so with the room decorated in its lavish Christmas finery.

Pavilion

The Christmas banquets are very popular, and guests are treated to a drinks reception in The Great Kitchen followed by a short concert in the Music Room, before heading into the magnificent Banqueting Room for a three course meal. Everyone dresses up - sparkles, long frocks, and bow ties are the order of the evening. The event gives a glimmer of what life may have been like for those lucky enough to be invited when Prince George (later King George IV) was in residence.

Heber Opera didn't disappoint as they sang to the 90 guests, with Tim Naill at the keyboard and Michael Withers conducting. The repertoire included the magnificent choruses from Aida, and The Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco, as well as a cheeky little G&S number, before ending with the seasonal We Wish You a Merry Christmas. Solos came courtesy of Veronica Brookes, with a delightfully mischievous Don Giovanni duet from Andy Holden and Dorothy Withers.

With the audience led off to feast Heber packed up their scores, but the singing wasn't over for some. The evening was a Bluebell evening, so a good cohort sped up to Sheffield Park station to sing Christmas Cheer to a second lot of diners. It's full steam ahead!

The Royal Pavilion is open over the Christmas period (except Christmas Day and Boxing Day). The entire palace is wearing Christmas finery so do come and admire it with friends and family, and enjoy the beauty of its Music Room for yourselves.

A Feast for Opera Lovers!

  • Posted on: 4 December 2016
  • By: admin

When we planned the High Tea Concert I don’t think we had taken into account the fact that it was the first day of Advent so when we arrived to set up the hall ready for the ‘Tea’ it was lovely to find a Christmas tree and lights decorating the place which gave it a distinctive festive air.

​The last ticket to this event was sold three weeks before ‘curtain up’ so the first step was to display the ‘sold out’ notice by the main door. We were very sorry to have to disappoint our supporters who didn’t book in time (there’s a moral there, somewhere!) but with an event like this the catering and presentation of the hall were vital to its success.

​Jenny and Julie were bakers supreme having prepared a bountiful supply of cakes which were carefully arranged on stands assembled on the day. This exercise was interesting due to the vagaries of screw size versus holes but with the aid of Mike Mackenzie's screwdriver (never goes anywhere without it apparently!) the requisite number of stands were completed in time.

Several of the ladies of the company had been press-ganged into making sandwiches and these all arrived with their contributions which were duly plated up for each table. I think we were all “sandwiched out” by the time we got home!

​The first half of the concert went well and when guests were served during the interval they were entertained by the playing of ‘Double Duos’ the alter ego of some of our regular orchestra members.

​Despite the failings of the small water heater for tea making (in some cases size does matter) Dave and Liffy Carverhill still managed to produce 120 + cups of tea or coffee so no-one went thirsty.

On to the musical second half which again went well and an appreciative audience applauded our efforts and went home replete both with the music and food intake.

Although it was hard work for the company (preparing the hall and food, serving it and then clearing up afterwards) hopefully they felt it was all worth the effort as apart from the fund raising side of things we also made several new Heber friends who intend supporting our production of Gounod’s Faust next May.

Are you ready for the Burning Sands?

  • Posted on: 24 July 2016
  • By: Chrissie Berridge

Taste the summer as Liffey Carverhill offers up the secret of the Burning Sands cocktails, served to cast during the Pearl Fishers run. She says, “I had a few requests for the recipe for Week 1's cocktail. It begins as a precise science, but as many of you will have seen, it ends up with a bit of sloshing and tasting.”

Pearl Fishers Poster

Alcoholic mixture (chilled – use as much as needed!)

300ml dark rum

200ml coconut Bacardi

200ml Crabbies ginger wine

150ml Pisang (banana liqueur)

150ml limoncello

100ml litchi liqueur

100ml chili ginger vodka

Pineapple sludge (all mixed and frozen)

Pulped fresh pineapple (one of your 5-a-day)

1 can of coconut water

Tot of rum

Juice of a lime

Litchi sludge (all mixed and frozen)

Pulped tin of litchis and juice (another of your 5-a-day)

Glass of litchi liqueur

Bottle of Peach bellini

Cans of lemonade 

Cans of ginger beer

Bottle of Prosecco (optional)

Mint (another of your 5-a-day)

A bag of ice

 

An Opera Newbie!

  • Posted on: 9 June 2016
  • By: Steve Smith

Last year I attended the Fairies, Phantoms and Fiends Heber Opera concert, mainly to watch my wife, Caz, perform. I had never watched opera before, and I guess I was thinking that I might not enjoy it very much, but nevertheless I was willing to give it a go!

I have to say I was extremely impressed with the whole performance and thoroughly enjoyed it. One of the things I liked the most was listening to Michael Withers give explanations to the background and positioning of each individual piece, which helped me to understand and enjoy the music in the correct context! This made me keen to attend the next Heber Opera production, The Pearl Fishers, to experience my first ever full opera performance. Being an opera newbie, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I certainly wasn’t disappointed! Whilst the principals were engaging and brought the story to life, the parts I enjoyed the most were when the whole ensemble sang together. The harmony of the voices combined with the passion of their performance made it a truly emotional experience, probably enhanced by the fact that the performers were so close to the audience due to Heber’s practise of performing in the round. In particular the betrayal scene in Act 2 where the voices rise to a crescendo, crying out to Brahma, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end!

My first opera experience has been so positive that I would definitely attend further performances.   

The Pearl Fishers ends on a high note!

  • Posted on: 1 June 2016
  • By: admin

A huge thank-you to everybody who came along to watch us and support the show over the last couple of weeks.

We had a superb final weekend, starting with the atmospheric setting of St George's, Brighton on Thursday and finishing off  with two more sell-out shows at Steyning and Uckfield on Saturday and Sunday.  The audiences at all the venues were fantastic and the enthusiasm and support were greatly appreciated.

The cast have to cope with the post-show blues now as we get back to our day-jobs and put our scores away in the cupboard with all the others from our past productions.  The good news is that we are already planning our next events and productions so if you want to be kept up to date then please join our mailing list by clicking here.

From the first rehearsal to performance

  • Posted on: 24 May 2016
  • By: Jenny Letton
What does it take to get from knowing nothing of the Pearl Fishers (except the famous duet of course – for my money the one with the late Jussi Bjorling) to being able to perform it?   For me, as a member of the chorus, it takes a lot of hard work! ​ Rehearsal one, under the baton of Musical Director Michael Withers we start note bashing a section. We are rusty, it’s been a few weeks since we did any singing, sounds a bit ropey! Note bashing continues for a number of weeks, all accompanied by our marvelous pianist Tim Nail who has played for Heber Opera rehearsals for many years. We start to think we know some of it. ​ Well, all that note bashing then falls apart (for me at least) as soon as we start on production with Director Dorothy Withers. We begin by blocking moves in our rehearsal space, each of us frantically writing down what we are supposed to be doing and when in our scores. Musically, at this stage, everything gets forgotten as we use a different part of our brains to physically orientate ourselves. Tim is a great help as he instinctively knows what sections we are struggling with and plays our lines out. ​ Weeks follow with less music only time and more production. Gradually the music and moves join together in our minds and we are encouraged to put down our scores and work from memory. Some of us, myself included, like to write out the words along with the moves and cues in a notebook. This forces us to remember the tunes as only the words and moves are in the notebook. ​ Then the Sitz Probe: this is essentially the orchestra’s rehearsal. It is the first time we sing with the orchestra and our last chance to go through the whole show with our scores, although we try to use them only as a quick reference point and to note if there are sections that need revision. ​ Dress rehearsal – a whole new ball game! Now we have costumes to contend with, we are in a different space, there are new exits and entrances to get used to, the sound is different. Sometimes they say a poor dress rehearsal means a good first performance! Usually that is so because the dress rehearsal highlights bits we need to review, either musically or with movement and we go away and practise at home. ​ First night nerves kick in, we are all tense and many of us will have had a restless night going over the show in our heads. The tension of performance brings us all together and, at the end of that first show, we are relieved and pleased that it all came together. Always room for improvement in subsequent performances, of course! ​ After the show – we are bereft, those months of being part of the Heber show family are over, what to do with Sunday evenings with no rehearsals? ​ But then, it all starts again for the next production ………….

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