How supporting our performers is inspiring a volunteer in Manchester

Amy Davies, a volunteer in the Manchester Explore group, writes about her experience:

In 2011, a friend invited me to see a performance by Streetwise Opera at the Zion Centre in Manchester. I didn’t know much about Streetwise, but trusting my friend’s choice, I went along to the performance of Fables, a mixture of live performance and amazing videos by groups from around the country. That performance has stayed with me since, not just for giving me an ongoing fear of sink holes, but also because of the artistry and heart of each piece.

I have been a singer since a young age and singing as a hobby has formed a huge part of my life. Also, for fourteen years, I have worked in supported housing with people experiencing homelessness; so when I went to see Fables, it really struck a chord and I became a bit of a fan, following the work of Streetwise closely.

Fast forward to 2016 and The Passion on the BBC. I will always regret not going to see this live, but I made sure that I caught it on TV. Again, I was blown away by the beauty of the music and the sheer complexity of performing St Matthew Passion in that setting. As the performers sang the line “together we’re singing” at the end of the final chorus ‘I Awoke Today’, tears of joy at the achievement in their eyes and mine, I knew that I had to be involved with Streetwise Opera and made an enquiry about volunteering.

I joined the Manchester Explore group as a volunteer in May of 2016. The role of a volunteer is to support the smooth running of the workshop by the fantastic artistic and support staff; put out chairs, set up the tea for the break, hand out word sheets, but mainly to join in, participate and enjoy singing and performing.

To be honest, that first workshop was a bit of a shock. The word ‘opera’ in Streetwise Opera only really sank in with me on that first evening. I’m a choir singer by practice, used to hiding behind music and standing still. Not anymore! Now I can regularly be found acting the part along with my Streetwise colleagues as we explore a different opera each term. The beauty of Streetwise is that the group supports the development of each member at their own pace, and seeing people grow in confidence and taking on roles is quite wonderful.

Volunteering with Streetwise Opera really is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has introduced me to the friendliest group of people, who take pride in every performance and love every minute. The amazing staff have inspired me in my day job, influencing me to work more collaboratively. I have been introduced to opera and a different style of performance. It has brought singing back into my life after I took a break for a while, and now it doesn’t feel right if a week doesn’t include an evening at Streetwise. But most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to sing those wonderful words from ‘I Awoke Today’ with the people who wrote it, the Manchester Explore and Booth Centre Groups. The line ‘together we’re singing’ will always bring a tear of joy to my eye.