I recently formed a new company – operasonic – to focus on making opera with young people, and our first project, Port Songs, kicked off this month with an exciting residency at Project Space in Newport. In the last week of the Easter holidays, we ran two songwriting workshops for 10 – 14 year olds and an open drop-in session.

The songwriting workshops were fantastic. We asked our young participants to write stories and to tell us about their lives. Composer Stacey Blythe and I couldn’t believe the amazing stories that they created. They worked together to come up with ideas. They told us about the people and places that meant the most to them. They told us about their dreams and wishes.

Then we worked together to think about music. We discussed whether phrases should be long or short, music should be sad or happy, fast or slow. We talked about different instruments. Then Stacey started playing, and the magic started to happen. Suddenly all the talking turned into singing, and, before we realised it, we had written a song. A special song, with a chorus, and all the words and ideas in it.

For the final Easter session, we open the doors of Project Space and asked people to come and tell us their stories. Stacey got her harp out and played, and I offered cake to everyone who passed by. It was a sunny and warm spring day. We met over a hundred people that day, and heard a whole range of different stories. We cried, laughed, sang, and stood in awe of some of the memories we heard.

We are now working with local groups to write more songs in the next few weeks. Once this is all done, the Port Songs Performance Group will bring all the songs together, rehearse and then perform the final Port Songs at the Big Splash Festival on Saturday 30th May. We are still recruiting for group members, so if you are interested in getting involved, please contact me for more information at rhianhutchings@outlook.com