From Woldingham to the West End

On Wednesday, staff and Sixth Form students headed into London to see the English National Opera’s production of Porgy and Bess.  Director of Music, John Hargreaves, described the production as ‘stunning’ and has recommended the whole Woldingham community to get tickets, if they haven’t already. Many have, of course, because one of the cast members is last year’s Head Girl, Rachel Oyawale.

Little more than three months after giving the Head Girl’s speech at Woldingham School’s Prize Day, last week Rachel made another speech, this time to an audience of several thousand at the London Coliseum, home of the English National Opera. The reason? She had just been presented with the ENO’s inaugural Lilian Baylis award for Outstanding Promise at Opera For All, a concert celebrating 50 years of opera at the London Coliseum. That the ENO were aware of Rachel’s incredible talent, developed, encouraged and honed over many years by Woldingham’s Music Department, is because, in her last term at school, Rachel was offered a place in the company of the ENO’s production of Porgy and Bess, which was set to open the very next evening.

Understandably thrilled, Rachel said: “It’s felt as if I’ve been living in a dream ever since my first rehearsal of Porgy and Bess. I couldn’t have asked for a better first job as our company gelled together so quickly and now, as we approach our opening night, we really do feel like family. Winning the Lilian Baylis award was so surreal, I couldn’t believe it, and I must say that it was thanks to the public speaking experience I gained in the role of Head Girl that I was able to address such a huge crowd with an off the cuff speech! I’ve got so much to be thankful for and I’m so grateful to Woldingham for the love and support I experienced during my time there.”

Woldingham’s Director of Music, John Hargreaves, commented: “To be offered a place in the company for an English National Opera production is a terrific achievement for Rachel, and almost unheard of for such a young singer. Congratulations must also go to her singing teacher, Barbara O Neill.”