An acclaimed opera singer will hold an evening of arias and reminiscences to help raise funds for the Swaffham Church Appeal.

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Hannah Francis, former principal soprano at the English National Opera, has lived in the town for more than a decade, and will talk about her journey to the top of English opera.

The church launched its two-year appeal to raise £250,000 for replacement windows, a heating system and other necessary restorations, in January 2011.

Last year the fund raised about £40,000 through a Burns’ Night event, concerts and a Calendar Girls-style product that brought in about £9,000.

The church has already replaced some of the windows and made a start on updating the heating system.

Hannah Francis was 15 when she won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music to study harp and voice, soon won the Royal Overseas League Prize for the most promising young musician in Great Britain, and served as principal of the English National Opera for three years.

She said: “I believe that good singing is the very essence of musical freedom. It is about being able to release your voice and yet have a seemingly effortless control over musical content, the legato, beauty of sound and diction. This is the art of Bel Canto or beautiful singing.”

A Night of Operatic Arias with Hannah Francis will take place at 7pm on Saturday May 12 in St Peter and St Pauls Church, Swaffham. Tickets are available for £15 from Ceres Bookshop in London Street, Swaffham, or from Shirley Matthews on 01760 723205.

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