A CAST of 200 returns to the stage at St George’s Bristol for a new community opera ‘The Hall on the Hill’ on May 21.

It follows a successful first performance in February, and replaces a second performance cancelled due to the extreme weather conditions and snowfall.

Commissioned to celebrate the music venue’s relaunch season, it is composed by Mark Lawrence, and is written by Claire Williamson, with drama direction from Rhian Hutchings – all performed by Bristol schoolchildren and a large community chorus.

The Hall on the Hill is expected to be one of the most ambitious community operas performed in England this year.

It is a ‘whistle-stop’ 50-minute dash through 200 years of the history of St George’s Bristol and the city. The community opera is part of a season of stand-out performances from international and locally-based classical and contemporary artists.

St George’s is currently undergoing the final stages of a £6.3million build programme, with the extension due to open later this spring as a creative space for music and ideas.

Professional vocal soloists Esther Mallett and Martin Le Poidevin are joined by a chamber group and student players. Community performers, aged from eight to 80, come from:

  • Begbrook Primary Academy and St George C of E Primary School
  • St George’s own Cosmos Children’s Community Choir
  • Music Box Children’s Opera Group
  • Members drawn from Bristol Man Choir, Big Friendly Choir, St Mary Redcliffe &Temple School Choir and St George’s team of volunteers.

Head of Education at St George’s Bristol, Catherine Freda, commented: “The Hall on the Hill was commissioned by St George’s Bristol to celebrate the life and times of the venue to mark its relaunch season.

“Created by composer Mark Lawrence and writer Claire Williamson, with the help of some of Bristol’s amazing schoolchildren, it is a whistle-stop journey through the past 200 years.”

She added: “It was such a shame that we had to cancel one of the two performances because of the snow earlier in the year, but we knew we had to find a new date.

“Everyone has put so much time and energy into making this community project a success.”

The community opera tells the story of why St George’s was built as a church, how it was nearly destroyed during World War 2 and its rebirth as a home for music. It also explores major local happenings from the 1831 Riots in Queen Square to the 1832 Reform Bill celebration dinner – informed by research based on accounts taken from Bristol Mercury, Western Daily Press and Bristol Mirror, academic papers and Bristol Radical History Group.

Composer Mark Lawrence said: “Researching and writing The Hall on the Hill has been a wonderful journey of discovery, not only of St George’s itself, but also of the surrounding city and its people, overseen by the almost mystical ‘wild space’ of Brandon Hill.

“The enthusiasm, energy and commitment of the performers of all ages has amazed all of us in the team.”

Writer Claire Williamson said: “St George’s has its own story and it is undeniably human, resonating with contemporary social issues such as fairness in legislation, equality, preserving what is meaningful, and the right to resist!

“Writing the words and finding the drama in the historical accounts has been a collaboration with St George’s Primary School and Begbrook Primary Academy, as well as the Cosmos Choir and Music Box. Working on this project has been an absolute pleasure.”

The Hall on the Hill community opera is supported by The Ragdoll Foundation and Paragon Music Trust.

To book tickets for The Hall on the Hill community opera, priced at £10 and £5 (students/under 18s), go to stgeorgesbristol.co.uk or call 0845 40 24 001.