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Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis

Venus and Adonis

To coincide with the National Centre for Early Music's launch of the on-line teaching resource, the NCEM worked with York Primary Schools to explore John Blow's Venus and Adonis, the oldest surviving English opera.

The opera tells the tragic story of how lovers Venus and Adonis are separated forever when Adonis is killed by a wild boar. It also takes a cynical look at relationships in the Restoration court of Charles II.

Young people from Dringhouses Primary School took part in workshops led by Elizabeth Kenny, one of Europe's leading lute players, and Cathryn Dew, Education Consultant for the NCEM. During the workshops, young people learned about life in Restoration England, sang a song from the opera and composed a piece of music for a missing scene in the opera. They also learned a Restoration country dance.

Pupils from Dringhouses and other York primary schools joined the Minster Minstrels to play the parts of Little Cupids in the performance of Venus and Adonis during the York Early Music Festival, on 17th July 2010.  They worked with Andrew Passmore, Ailsa Reid and Elizabeth Kenny to rehearse their own scene, the 'Spelling Lesson'.  Cupid, played by Minster Minstrel Laura Soper, teaches the Little Cupids to spell the word 'mercenary'.

The performance was recorded by the BBC and was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in September  2010.

The Theatre of the Ayre toured Venus and Adonis to a number of venues across the UK.  Cathryn Dew, Education Consultant for the National Centre for Early Music, worked alongside Elizabeth Kenny in Southampton and Oxford, leading workshops in primary schools preparing children for performances as Little Cupids in performances in the Turner Sims Concert Hall, Southampton and the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford (28 January 2011).

Here are some comments from the children who took part:

What I learnt:
"How to play an instrument"
"How to sing a song"
"How to make sound effects using an African drum"

"That opera is where you sing your lines instead of saying them"

"How to sing high and be in tune with the instruments"

"How to spell mercenary"

"How to sing better"

"About Samuel Pepys songs and his diary"

What I enjoyed most:
"We got to use instruments"
"Putting all the instruments together"

"[The project] had really good teachers"

"Playing the big cymbal!"

"Learning new songs and dancing"


"Listening to the story"

"The wild boar piece we composed"

"Being part of something"

"It was funny and fun and also taught me a lot of things"

The accompanying on-line teaching resource is now available here .