Opera singers under starters orders

A COUPLE of opera singers from Suffolk will be singing the National Anthem at the Grand National in front of 70,000 racegoers and millions of television viewers.

A COUPLE of opera singers from Suffolk will be singing the National Anthem at the Grand National in front of 70,000 racegoers and millions of television viewers.

For the second consecutive year John von Nuding and his wife Elaine Holden, of Tunstall, near Woodbridge, will be taking centre stage at the Aintree race meeting. Last year they teamed up with Khosrow Mahasrri and Sally-Ann Shepherdson to perform the National Anthem in tribute to the late Queen Mother.

The quartet of singers will be back for this year's highlight of the racing calendar with backing provided by the King's Division Waterloo Band. They did not know last year that their performance would be beamed to 160 million people across the world and on April 5 they will be prepared for this possibility.

Mr von Nuding said: ''We are going with the preparation of having done it before and therefore it should be easier. Last time we wore black after the Queen Mother's death and they have not said what we should wear this time.''

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Mr von Nuding promotes and produces First Act Opera International which draws upon a base of 2,000 people to perform 100 events annually. His wife, the opera company's managing director, is a mezzo soprano singer and their aim is to take the elitism out of opera and show that it can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life in all types of setting.

The company has performed at venues ranging from a Boeing 747 jet, a power station, cross channel ferries and a 12ft wide walkway of the Tower Bridge. Beijing, St Petersburg and Monte Carlo are some of the exotic locations they have visited.

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Several compact discs have been produced of their work and they are played daily, alternating with Chopin, at the couple's nursery at their home, once the village primary school in Tunstall.

They started Mulberry Nursery soon after moving to Suffolk and they bring in singers, musicians, artists and dancers to provide an entertaining environment for the children aged six months to five years who are left in the care of the qualified staff.

The nursery received an excellent OFSTED report and the inspectors said that an action plan was not required for the day care facility.

''One of the sources of life is music to me and I think we should offer it to our children without question,'' said Ms Holden who produces some of the costumes and stage props for the professional chamber opera company.

They will be ''bringing opera to the people'' with A Night in Seville on February 28 at 7.30pm at the Abbey School, Woodbridge, to raise money for Woodbridge School's performing arts centre appeal. Songs, extracts of opera and Spanish dancing are on the menu at the fund raising dinner where the performers will include three of the Grand National singers. Tickets can be booked on 01394 615060.

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