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Monday, 25 September 2017

A new folk opera celebrating the Calder Valley’s tempestuous relationship with water


Calderland, a new folk opera, will premiere in the striking piazza of one of the UK’s most iconic heritage buildings, the recently restored Grade I listed Piece Hall in Halifax. Inspired by the people and landscape of Calderdale and performed by a community choir and band of musicians, Calderland will be staged over three consecutive evenings from 29 September – 1 October.


Written by the award-winning playwright Mike Kenny (‘The Railway Children’, ‘Blood and Chocolate’) and with a score from Richard Taylor, former composer-in-residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse and twice UK Theatre Award winner, the hour-long piece will take audiences on a musical odyssey that traces the valleys etched by water, through the Industrial Revolution that attracted people and trade to the area, to the devastating floods of 2015 and their aftermath. Calderland will explore how the community has responded to adversity in ways that are heroic, human, personal and complex.

Characters featured along the way include writer Daniel Defoe, who visited Calderdale during the Industrial Revolution; the inventor of Yorkshire Mixtures - Elland sweet maker Joseph Dobson; Todmorden's two Nobel prize winners; poet Ted Hughes and playwright Sally Wainwright, alongside contemporary Valley dwellers talking about their personal relationships with water, both good and bad.


A community choir of over 150 local singers

Calderland will be performed by a community choir of over 150 local singers, recruited at workshops across the valleys and including four choirs from nearby primary schools - St Chad's Primary, Brighouse; Bradshaw Primary, Halifax; Old Town Primary, Luddenden and
All Saints CE, Halifax, under the guidance of choir director Em Whitfield Brooks. A core band of local musicians will perform Taylor’s new score.

Alan Dix, who heads up the creative team, commented: “Calderland is more than an opera. It is a shared musical journey created with local people who will tell the tale of the places and the valley they live in. Calderland is a poetic, emotional and powerful exploration of those things that make the Calder Valley so very special. The making of this production – a people’s opera – has shown how extraordinary the valley is and, despite the floods of Boxing Day 2015, how much it is loved. Calderland is a homage to a very special place and the amazing people who live there.”

Calderland will be will staged in the extraordinary Piece Hall courtyard, with a digital backdrop specially created by artists Fabric Lenny and Shanaz Gulzar.

The work is he centrepiece of Landlines & Watermarks, a major creative programme taking place throughout Calderdale during the summer and autumn of 2017. Commissioned by Calderdale Council and the Community Foundation for Calderdale from leading Yorkshire-based company 509 Arts and supported by Arts Council England in response to the area’s recovery from the Boxing Day floods of 2015, the programme of works created for Landlines & Watermarks commend the spirit and soul of the Calder Valleys and the resilience of the market towns that were affected.

Tickets for Calderland, which are free, are available online from The Piece Hall website or from the Piece hall box office.

“Water made this valley.
It etched it out of folded rock
It falls from the sky
Feeds the streams
It's mirrored in the human toil.

Water made this valley
It brought the people here
It powered the mills
Washed the cloth.
And soaks the sodden soil.”

- ‘Calderland’ libretto, Mike Kenny

See also

HebWeb News: The People’s Fair (Monday, 25 September 2017)