A professional opera singer has been enlisted at Ripon Cathedral to lead a new community outreach project promoting singing and inspiring young musicians in the region.
Aoife O’Connell (pictured left), who has recently worked with Opera North’s education department, is one of two new appointments at the Cathedral and takes the role of Singing Development Leader working with schools and local organisations to develop various initiatives including a children’s community choir.
The appointment has been made possible thanks to a grant of £60,000 from the Allchurches Trust for a three year music development project. The injection of cash also sees the introduction of a bespoke training scheme for choristers with free music theory lessons and bursaries for learning a musical instrument.
Irish born Aoife is a classically trained soprano whose extensive performances have taken her worldwide. With degrees in opera and music performance from the Royal Welsh College of Music and the Royal Irish Academy of Music she has taken the lead in many operatic words in the UK< Ireland and overseas.
A love of teaching and performance led Aoife to roles combining teaching and performance, including most recently with Norwich Theatre Royal on their School’s Opera project. She said: “I think music can be really beneficial, particularly to young people, because it’s a very community spirited thing. It stimulates children’s minds and helps them learn how to work with others while also helping to develop their empathy skills.
“There’s a lot of potential and a lot of possibilities in this role which is very exciting.”
The cathedral also welcomes Alana Brook, 25, (pictured right) who takes up the John Sayer Organ Scholarship.
Alana hails from Australia and has just returned from visiting family in Adelaide. She said: “I always wanted to work in a British cathedral. I played at St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide and came to the UK on a tour of British cathedrals.”
Alana studied piano at university back home and recently gained an Associate Diploma of the Royal College of Organists. She comes to Ripon after two years in Dorset where she was the Milton Abbey School Organ Scholar.
“I am hoping to play a much larger repertoire on the organ here, which is much bigger,” she said of the cathedral’s impressive Harrison and Harrison organ – which has four keyboards and boasts pipes dating back to 1695.
Ripon Cathedral has a fine tradition of music which dates back to the 7th Century when St Wilfrid brought two singing masters from Canterbury to teach the monks singing and Gregorian chants. However maintaining the musical activities at Ripon comes at the considerable cost of some £275,000 a year and helping to meet the costs are the Ripon Cathedral Music Custodians.
Director of Music Andrew Bryden said: “I’m delighted to welcome both Aoife and Alana to the cathedral at this exciting time in the development of our music here. Alana will provide invaluable support and make a significant contribution to our work of singing daily services.
“We’ve been seeking to enhance our work in the wider community and Aoife’s appointment will take this forward in a way that we could never have managed without the generous grant from the Allchurches Trust and the Ripon Cathedral Music Custodians.”