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 ………….

A fantastic first weekend for The Pearl Fishers

  • Posted on: 24 May 2016
  • By: admin

The Pearl Fishers opened last weekend to full houses in both Lindfield and Hurstpierpoint. First night's are always a nerve wracking affair but we got a wonderful reception from the audience at Lindfield and we love the intimate venue which really helps us to deliver on our promise of being "opera that's close enough to touch".

As always we sing in English and perform in the round with music courtesy of the Heber Opera ensemble and the principals and chorus who work their socks off to bring the drama to the audience as well as the music.  We also have a few innovations for this production, fabulous lighting from PitchBlack, costumes from India and genuine oysters.  Our second show in Hurstpierpoint was another sell-out and we got a great reception there too.

There are still a few tickets left for the shows this week but they are selling fast so hurry up and book if you haven't done so already!


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The glamourous life of the stage manager

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

The props list for Heber Opera’s production of The Pearl Fishers includes oyster shells. It was my job to find them. This wasn’t a problem as I work close to English’s Oyster Bar in central Brighton. When I called in to ask, they were happy to save their leftovers for me. What I didn’t anticipate, however, was the work involved in cleaning them!


English’s customers had already enjoyed the best part of the process– eating the oysters. I have to admit however, that I am not a fan of seafood, and the proprietor of the establishment told me that I would need to remove the last vestiges of the flesh, before boiling the shells before use on stage. I can’t say that I was thrilled at the task but needs must.

When I got the shells home I set about prising away the fleshy remnants – with knife, and then teaspoon. Not without injury as the edges of the shells can be sharp as my fingers will testify. Soon I had a pile of grisly bits and a pervading fishy scent of the sea working its way through my house. But I got a production line going; removal of flesh, boiling of shells, draining and rinsing.

As I had to scrutinise each shell, I found them actually quite pretty and I can see that I will most likely end up hanging on to them. They can go with my scallop shells – and they’re still awaiting their turn centre stage!

Another successful Craft Fair fundraiser

  • Posted on: 18 April 2016
  • By: admin
Heber bake-off

Hurstpierpoint Village Centre was the place to be on Saturday 9th April.  Heber Opera hosted another successful craft fair with plent of stalls selling all manner of  wonderful hand-made items.  The turnout was excellent, everybody seemed to be enjoying themselves and we raised much needed funds for our future productions.  My personal highlight was, as always, the huge spread of delicious cakes, biscuits and snacks layed on by the talented ladies of the Heber Chorus!