» Troy Story
It is the year 3000 and Odysseus is at home with his wife, son, robot and electronic goldfish when he is summoned to the war on Troy, a planet on the other side of the Galaxy.
He might be the cleverest of all Earth’s Generals but has he got enough horse sense to defeat the Trojans? And can he get home through hyper space - which is packed with Sirens, nine headed monsters and giant one eyed sheep farmers? And will he get back before his wife gets fed up of knitting duvet covers and marries somebody else?
All these questions and more will be answered in an intergalactic opera made by Orchestra Of the Swan and Talking Birds in collaboration with Welcombe Hills, Thomas Jolyffe and Wilmcote schools.
Featuring lots of singers, a bit of fighting and a few tricks, Troy Story takes two epic yarns from ancient Greece, puts them into the future and re tells them in round about an hour and a half.
Homer's Illiad and Odyssey, set in space.
» review of Space Odyssey (the second half!)
"There was an uncanny topicality about Friday afternoon’s astonishing adventure about travellers stranded in remote parts desperate to get home.
But even without that added frisson, Space Odyssey – an Intergalactic Opera had so much to make the neck-hairs tingle, and not only for the huge involvement of pupils from three Stratford schools: Thomas Jolyffe, Wilmcote (primaries), and Welcombe Hills School (a specialist arts college for children with special needs).
The Orchestra of the Swan has for many years undertaken outreach work at Welcombe Hills, and its conductor David Curtis, had the idea to bring three schools [Welcombe Hills with Thomas Jolyffe and Wilmcote Schools] together in this new opera. The theatrical side was taken care of by the imaginative and enterprising Talking Birds Company from Coventry.
And the result was stunning. A packed arena-style audience was enthralled as Odysseus and his crew made the ten-year journey home after victory on the planet Troy, the children sang and acted with immense professionalism, and the adult professionals, headed by Mathew Sharp, Georgia Ginsberg, and David Bradley (narrator and particularly nasty baddie), performed with a commitment totally respectful of their young colleagues.
Curtis conducted his willing orchestra with verve in Derek Nisbet’s communicative score, Nick Walker's script was a model of wit and directness, and vocal coach Rebecca Ledgard drew every ounce of pathos and glee from these amazing children." [Christopher Morley, Birmingham Post]
Troy Story up for Music Education Oscar
Coventry theatre company Talking Birds was shortlisted for a prestigious award for an ambitious opera project with young people with special needs. "Troy Story - An Intergalactic Opera", which was co-produced with Orchestra of the Swan from Stratford, was one of four finalists in the Best Musical Initiative category in the Music Teacher Awards for Excellence - the music education equivalent of the Oscars.
Troy Story is a musical adaption of Homer's epics The Iliad and The Odyssey, with music by Derek Nisbet and libretto by Nick Walker and was performed by a cast, chorus and orchestra 164 strong at Birmingham Town Hall in July 2013.
Derek Nisbet, Co-Artistic Director and Composer with Talking Birds said: “Troy Story involved young people from two schools for children with Special Educational needs and four mainstream primary schools performing together with a professional orchestra and soloists on the stage of Birmingham Town Hall.
For many of the kids it was the first public performance they had been involved in but they more than rose to the occasion. The feedback from the schools and the pupils themselves is that their self-confidence and concentration has increased as a result which we hope will will benefit them in other areas of their lives. At the heart of our collaboration with these children is a respect for their ideas, creative abilities and sense of humour, and everyone involved is treated as an equal member of the team. It has been a transformational experience for all concerned - as well as being tremendous fun - and we're delighted the work has been recognised in the shortlist for the Award for Best Musical Initiative."
The team are already working on the follow-up to Troy Story - Antony & Cleopatra - The Musical! - which won a public vote for funding from ITV's The People's Millions towards the end of last year. The new show will be premiered in November 2014.
» Find out more
Watch video excerpts here:
Act 1: The Illiad: where Odysseus is persuaded to join the war on Troy; Achilles fights Hector and neither comes out alive; and finally Odysseus' troops come up with the cunning ruse to storm Troy with a wooden horse.
Act 2: The Odyssey: where Odysseus makes his way home to Greece over a period of 20 years, fighting off various monsters en route; his wife Penelope weaves herself an unravelling bedspread to keep suitors at bay; and a lucky arrow shot from a mighty bow finally reunites them.