Here was clarity,

precision and

dramatic sweep.

Vincent Plush - The Australian

News

Choir Blog #1 - Rejoice in the Lamb with Aurora Orchestra

Date: Thursday 21 November 2013 11.45am

Reviews

Sophie Horrocks | soprano

The choir is all about new opportunities and innovation, within a frame of a high standard of singing: but normally this might mean a many-stopped tour with an orchestra (Australia with the ACO, or Europe with EUBO for example), performing life broadcasts, tricky new works or newly discovered old ones, Graham's latest choreography ideas, or even just coping with a bout of illness that has wiped out most of the Dec sops! Last Friday and Saturday, however, the choir was thrust onto an entirely different stage than the choir stalls we are so comfortable behind: with Nicholas Collon and his Aurora Orchestra, we participated in two staged performances of Britten's 'Rejoice in the Lamb', followed by John Tavener's 'The Lamb'.

Now, the reason many of us sing in choir is perhaps to purposefully avoid the more theatrical or operatic stage: nevertheless, with some experienced people from the dramatic world among us, we met the project with huge enthusiasm. Working with tenor/director Andy Staples was a highlight, having him instruct us to do background research on mental illness, react to the orchestra's music as if it was a psychological process in our heads, and constantly change tacts between moods of disruption, fear and settled calm, bringing a new level of engagement and performance to the work (which we also performed in Evensong, minus choreography!)

I'm not sure if, by the week of the performances, we were as convinced of the viabiltiy of the project, but there's something to be said about the transformation between rehearsal and performance: add the lighting, sound effects, stage, costume (admittedly only our casual clothes, but carefully picked out!), a 7ft projection screen behind us, and, of course, the orchestra, and  suddenly we were immersed in a world of dramatic performance.  It started to feel quite natural that Britten's 'Rejoice in the Lamb' should be performed in this way, especially when considering Christopher Smart's text. The difference was that the whole choir sang for the majority of the time (excluding the four solos), a rarity for extended periods of time in opera.  It didn't feel like a solo performance, but a group one. It felt, exactly like it was, like a choir performance - using the techniques we work on to form a blended whole in the choir stalls in order to present a united character on stage, exactly what choir is all about, after all.

Some highlights of the performances included members of the choir sitting in the audience for the preceding pieces (Takemitsu and Tears for Fears!), then rising out of their seats to come on stage, as well as the artistic use of a lone,  flickering lightbulb for Tavener's The Lamb. But most of all, at least for me, I enjoyed singing the Imogen Holst arrangement of the Britten for orchestra as it leant a richer dimension to the piece.

A staged performance of a decidely choral work: all in a day's work for Clare Choir! Onwards to the next thing, as they say...