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Palaces & Buildings

Hampton Court Palace the Opera: Under the Hammerbeam Roof

Hampton Court is alive with the sound of music! How many readers sang that in their head as they read that sentence?

The celebration continues marking Hampton Court’s 500th birthday as Historic Royal Palaces has teamed up with English Touring Opera to mark 500 years of music at Hampton Court Palace.

The Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace is the only surviving hall built by Henry VIII. © Historic Royal Palaces

The Great Hall of Hampton Court Palace is the only surviving hall built by Henry VIII. © Historic Royal Palaces

Five local community groups are working with professional musicians and singers from English Touring Opera, to write, develop and rehearse the specially commissioned work, titled ‘Under the Hammerbeam Roof.’

English Touring Opera was the winner of the 2014 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in Opera. They are the most prolific touring opera company in the UK, travelling yearly to around 70 venues, more than any other English opera company.

The groups from across Surrey range from amateur dramatics at Molesey Musical Theatre and Freedom Stage Company to music therapy at Otakar Kraus Music Trust and support for those recovering from mental health issues at Recovery Initiative Social Enterprise and Wellness With A Goal.

Rehearsal for opera. © Historic Royal Palaces

Rehearsal for opera. © Historic Royal Palaces

The performance will take place in the Tudor Great Hall on 14 November.

Imagine if the walls of Hampton Court Palace could playback some of the legendary performances it has borne witness to over the centuries.

From William Byrd and Thomas Tallis choral compositions sung in King Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal, to the music lessons given to the children of King George II by none other than Handel himself.

“We’re thrilled to be working with English Touring Opera on such a unique project, which promises to shed new light on Hampton Court’s story. Hampton Court has been the stage set for some of the great dramas in British history – and we’re confident our talented troupe of performers will bring 500 years of history to life in a truly unforgettable way. Their audience is in for a treat,” Learning and Engagement Programme Manager at Historic Royal Palaces, Rachel Crossley noted.

Tim Yealland, Head of Education at English Touring Opera, stated: “Under the Hammerbeam Roof takes as its subject the greatest and most dramatic of all the stories associated with the palace, and matches it with perhaps the most famous of all myths, the descent of Orpheus to the underworld. We are thrilled to be creating this new piece for a space in which kings and queens, along with their servants, stared up at the same Hammerbeam ceiling.”

‘Under the Hammerbeam Roof’ is part of a broader initiative by the Learning and Engagement team at Historic Royal Palaces, to include local communities in a large-scale project to commemorate the palace’s 500th anniversary. Twenty local choirs, almost 650 people in total, will also be performing a specially commissioned anniversary song.

The English Touring Opera created and  will perform a specially commissioned opera inspired by the Palace's history.

The English Touring Opera created and will perform a specially commissioned opera inspired by the Palace’s history.

Composed by Richard Swan, founder of ‘London City Voices’, the song will be first performed by the ‘Chorus of Choirs’ at the Palace on 31 October and then on selected dates during November.

‘Under the Hammerbeam Roof’ premieres on 14 November 2015 with two scheduled performances at 19:00 pm and again at 20:45 pm in The Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace

Tickets for ‘Under the Hammerbeam Roof’ are priced at £8 / £7 for HRP members. To purchase tickets, visit Hampton Court Place: The Opera.

Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, the Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, Kew Palace and Hillsborough Castle in Northern Ireland. We help everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society, in some of the greatest palaces ever built. We raise all our own funds and depend on the support of our visitors, members, donors, sponsors and volunteers. With the exception of Hillsborough Castle, these palaces are owned by The Queen on behalf of the nation, and we manage them for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Photo Credits: © Historic Royal Palaces 2015