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Published 27 September 2023

Swansea City Opera are once again touring their chamber opera, Shoulder to Shoulder, which explores the issue loneliness, ageing and men. It has been developed through their partnership with Men’s Sheds Cymru.

in 2022 Shoulder to Shoulder toured to 6 venues in Wales, here is a clip from the opera – 20 min clip Shoulder to Shoulder

Shoulder to Shoulder is a powerful, uplifting exploration and often very funny story of men overcoming isolation through the friendships they’ve made in Men’s Sheds Cymru. The organisation is part of a worldwide movement founded in Australia that aims to alleviate social isolation, predominantly among older men, through social activities.

Shoulder to Shoulder’s ensemble featured mostly Wales-based professional singers and musicians, many of whom sing and play in major opera houses, companies, and orchestras. Soprano Jess Robinson who plays the role of Gwen, represented Wales in the Cardiff Singer of the World 2023 competition.

Librettist Brendan Wheatley rooted Shoulder to Shoulder in the stories of ‘Shedders’, which he gathered through interviews with members of Men’s Shed in Wales.

By listening to stories and sharing the laughter of ‘Shedders’, Brendan crafted the story and libretto of Shoulder to Shoulder. The composer and clarinettist Lenny Sayers, whose music has been broadcast widely across many channels, wrote the score.

The development of Shoulder to Shoulder brought the activity of singing to some Sheds, often for the very first time. Community choirs comprising of ‘Shedders’, joined by family, friends and local choral singers, sang on stage in their hometowns alongside the ensemble of professional singers and musicians, adding a powerful dimension to the performance.

The development of Shoulder to Shoulder with Men’s Sheds Cymru. 

Swansea City Opera developed Shoulder to Shoulder during 2020 – 2021 with Men’s Sheds Cymru.

The unique organisation supports older men experiencing loneliness by creating warm and welcoming spaces where they can learn new skills, build friendships, and make new beginnings. Besides being socially isolated, some ‘Shedders’ have faced challenging life events such as physical and mental illness, bereavement, bankruptcy, and redundancy.

During lockdown, via Zoom, our Artistic Director Brendan Wheatley talks about Swansea City Opera’s aim of making opera accessible to everyone and the importance of the partnership with Men’s Sheds Cymru.

Supported by Arts Council Wales, the National Lottery Community Fund, Tŷ Cerdd, The Garfield Weston Foundation, ACW Night Out, the Friends of Swansea City Opera and Local giving ‘Magic Little Grants’.

Tour Dates

Sat 11/11/23 Theatr Brycheiniog, Brecon

Wed 15/11/23 Bethesda Baptist Church, Neyland

Fri 17/11/23 Rhyl Little Theatre

Sat 18/11/23 YMa, Pontypridd

Tue 21/11/23 TramShed, Cardiff

Thur 23/11/23 Llanhilleth Institute, Abertillery

Sat 25/11/23 Memorial Hall, Lisvane

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