ENO Breathe: Creative Project

Many of the individuals who have completed the ENO Breathe 6-week programme continue to engage with ENO Breathe’s regular weekly drop-in Twilight sessions and have expressed a desire to continue singing and connecting with each other. 

To respond to this, between December 2022 and May 2023 we offered a series of new creative sessions to the ENO Breathe community. In these sessions, we wanted to hear the participants’ ideas & stories and connect with their creativity to help us craft some new lullabies together. 

Our First Creative Sessions

To kick start this series of sessions, two sessions took place in December 2022 and were led by Suzi Zumpe, creative director on ENO Breathe and Hazel Gould, writer and director of new opera.

One session took place online with over 70 participants taking part in creative writing exercises and singing activities. The other session took place on the London Coliseum stage with 55 participants.

The in-person session was a fantastic opportunity to sing together in real life for the very first time and was a very moving moment for all. The session was accompanied by pianist and composer Jonathan Brigg and by two wonderful ENO choristers: Paul Sheehan and Susie Tudor-Thomas. Paul and Susie also performed short operatic pieces including a well-known lullaby by ENO Breathe participants: Suo Gân.

One of the pieces of writing that was developed was a lullaby for a spider who has her web blown down by the wind but starts again each time.

Relax little spider, Relax your toils,
Be still you are hidden from view.
Calmly spin the thread of soothing silk,
The promise of jewel dew. 

Keep on spinning sweet spider do,
The silky strands you weave,
Though storms disturb your gossamer home,
For now, be still and bask and breathe.

Composing Lullabies

In March and April 2023, participants were invited to take part in another five singing and songwriting sessions (both online and in-person) again led by Suzi Zumpe and Hazel Gould, who were this time joined by Jack Ross, guitarist and composer. 

Together, they wrote lyrics and composed three new operatic lullabies exploring three moments of a 24h-day: dawn, twilight and midnight.The three lullabies they created are entitled:
Can you hear the song of the morning? (dawn)
The Long Pull of the Moon (twilight)
Gently, Gently Rest (midnight)

Dawn, for example, was written about the hope a new day brings, reflecting on how even when things are hard, a new day brings new promise:

Can you hear the song of the morning?
Can you see the promise in the sunrise?
Awaken, those heavy eyes.
The inky midnight moves the mist.

Can you hear the song of the morning?
Can you let the darkness fall behind you?
A calling to start again,
The robin and the mistlethrush.

Breathe in the fragile space that lies between the day and night,
You are the bird, you are the cloud, you are the morning light.

Performing on the Coliseum stage

On Wednesday 3 May 2023, 67 ENO Breathe participants, representing the larger community of over 2,500 participants performed these newly-created lullabies to a full auditorium, alongside the ENO Orchestra.

BBC Breakfast recorded segments of the final rehearsals and performance, following the story of ENO Breathe participant Dave Smith. Watch their news segment here. 

Please enjoy viewing a behind-the-scenes video of the day and a video of the full five minute performance via the links below:

We look forward to continuing to invite ENO Breathe participants to use their creative flare for similar projects in future. 

A few quotes from participants:

“The thrill of the stage, the adrenaline rush and the satisfaction of a job well done – it was a performance that would stay with me forever. And no matter what challenges lay ahead, I would face them with confidence, knowing that I had what it takes.”

“To me it felt like a magical experience – a definite highlight in my rough and bumpy three year long covid journey.”

“The whole day was amazing, but performing on such a distinguished stage in the evening and the applause that followed, was a definite highlight. Meeting so many lovely people, all suffering as I have suffered, was another one.”

“The feeling of being united in our common challenge and struggle, and triumphing over them together in one glorious performance of beautiful songs, led and supported by the wonderfully talented and caring ENO team in their amazing home, was quite unbelievable. Thank you.”

“I loved the whole process, being with other sufferers and singing for the many that couldn’t make it.”