Last night, Streetwise Opera replayed the film of their 2016 production, The Passion, on YouTube, for a world in the grip of a pandemic. I first saw it broadcast on BBC television on Easter Sunday in 2016. It was a stunning, unforgettable experience, and I have often spoken about it since: it was one of the projects included in A Restless Art. I’d seen several Streetwise productions, in Nottingham and Manchester, and some of the films they’d made, but this was something else. The core of the production is an abridgement of J. S. Bach’s St Matthew Passion, with the addition of hymns and a final ‘Resurrection Chorus’ composed by James McMillan on a text by members of Streetwise Opera. It was performed by them with The Sixteen, in a promenade style production at Campfield market in Manchester.
It shouldn’t work, according to all the rules that govern the worlds of music and art. How can you expect untrained singers, people with lived experience of homelessness, to perform alongside one of the world’s finest choirs?