Real Life: Elinor Moran: Stoke & Staffordshire
WHEN Elinor Moran appeared in The Sentinel back in May 1998 she could not have even dreamt what the future would hold for her.
A 17-year-old Blythe Bridge schoolgirl, she was trying to raise funds to go on tour with the National Youth Choir.
She was organising car boot sales, doing odd jobs and offering to sing for businesses and groups to help pay for the trip.
Fast forward 13 years and the ambitious teenager has been transformed into a professional opera singer – whose recent roles include a lead part in an Olivier Award-winning production of La Boheme.
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"I fell in love with opera," she says. "I love being on stage, and I love acting and performing.
"There's something magical about working within opera companies, I love the creativity and camaraderie that goes hand in hand with it. And, of course, I love the beautiful music."
A former pupil of Springcroft Primary School and Blythe Bridge High School, Elinor clearly hasn't lost touch with her roots.
We met up at her old primary school after she had led a workshop and performance for a group of Year Five pupils, including her own nephew.
"I've been animating opera for them," she enthuses. "We did some drama work, vocal work and got them singing choruses and a bit of French."
Elinor describes herself as a freelance opera singer and vocal animateur – combining performing with running classes and workshops to bring opera to life for other people.
She works for, among others, The Royal Opera House in London. However she is just as likely to be found in the midst of a group of seven-year-olds or at the Potters Club, Stoke, where she performed at a St George's Day dinner last Saturday.
"My career has been centred around London so far, and of course I live there now, but I'd dearly love to be singing more in North Staffordshire," she says. "My family live in Blythe Bridge and my niece and nephew both come to this school, so it's been especially nice to be able to perform here.
"I'd love to establish connections with schools in the area so that I can work with other children."
Elinor, who grew up in Sutherland Crescent, Blythe Bridge, recalls she was in the choir, orchestra, recorder ensemble and guitar group during her time at high school, as well as appearing in school productions.
But at that time she did not realise she would eventually make a living from her voice.
"I wanted to be a cellist in a symphony orchestra, but I did like singing as well," she says.
"A lot of people said I had a good voice and I sang at school, but I never considered it as a career.
"I remember thinking that it wasn't really what people do.
"But when I went to study at Chetham's School of Music, in Manchester, they said they'd like to develop my voice."
Amazingly, Elinor had not received a singing lesson until that point.
"I tried singing jazz, but found opera was right for me," she says. "Opera is the ultimate art form, it brings everything together.
"It encompasses design, music and acting as well as singing."
Elinor's most prestigious role to date was perhaps as Mimi in an OperaUpClose production of La Boheme, which won the 2011 Oliver Award for best new opera production.
"We were thrilled but shocked," she says. "We couldn't believe we'd beaten the English National Opera.
"I had a ball playing Mimi. It was a gift of a thing to sing, a lovely role and the people were fantastic to work with. It was such a beautiful production that moved everybody who came to see it."
Despite the obvious glamour, life as a self-employed opera singer involves its own set of worries.
"The economic climate has meant funding cuts for the arts, people have lost grants and sponsorship and corporate entertainment work has dropped," says Elinor.
"You have to work harder. Even if you have an agent, you have to be your own agent and create work."
So what does the future hold?
"I would love to do some work in Germany, as there's so much opera there.
"As long as I'm working and performing, it's all good."