The Military Community and Silver Birch

Back in March our Military Community Company Manager, Gemma Holsgrove, persuaded some individuals from the Armed Forces to audition for Silver Birch. Most of them had only sung in the shower, none of them had experience of opera, and they’d spent a large portion of their lives in a military environment. However, since rehearsals began in April, each one has gained in confidence, self-esteem and become an integral part of the Adult Company. Their voice is constantly growing and Gemma feels incredibly fortunate to be working with them. From that first day when a group of wide-eyed, nervous and shy individuals walked into the rehearsal room and hesitantly began to sing, to the confident, bubbly and banter-filled group that now come into rehearsals, she is excited to see what performances bring.  

Paula, an ex-RAF medic and military wife tells us about her experience so far:

I joined the Royal Air Force in my mid-twenties as a Medical Assistant where I met my husband Gary who was, and is still, in the RAF. I came out of the RAF in 2000 and trained to be a nurse and then followed Gary to wherever he was stationed. We have been married for nearly 19 years and have twin boys who are our little miracles aged 6 years.

In 2016 we were posted to RAF High Wycombe where I joined the ladies choir.  I asked the choir’s Musical Director for singing lessons as I wanted to learn how to breathe properly and how best to protect my vocal chords. After several lessons it transpired that I have an operatic singing voice.  I asked the MD what I could do next. Shortly after, I saw a flyer from Garsington Opera advertising for the military community to audition for a part in Silver Birch.  

I was very reluctant to make contact at first as I had never auditioned for anything like this before. We are now into the final rehearsals and I am loving it.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work and sometimes I don’t feel very confident in what I’m doing.  However, the production team are so supportive and approachable that they help to alleviate any concerns I have. It also helps that the other cast members are new to this so we all help each other which makes the process fun.

If I had gone with my initial doubts about contacting Garsington Opera this whole experience would not have happened. So I’ve learnt that when opportunities arise that spark your interest, go for it. Being part of this project has given me more than just confidence; it’s also raised my self-esteem and self-worth, something I can now impart to my boys.  Try it, what have you got to lose? You never know you might enjoy it...