On Sunday, Voices of Hope were involved in a wonderful project to mark the centenary of the outbreak of World War One. The European Concert Hall Organisation (ECHO) commissioned 12 choral works to explore the theme of peace and conflict through the human voice. These pieces are being performed in concert halls all over Europe. We were lucky enough to be invited to participate and our performance, along with 4 other choral groups was on Sunday (9th November) at Sage Gateshead.
Our journey started back in September. VoH have been privileged to perform a number of premieres and we're also used to being given music that no-one really gets,at least to start with. Our two pieces - Papaver by Dai Fujikura and Schlummert Ein by Judit Varga were no exception. We were lucky enough to have a good rehearsal schedule but often took enduring patience and concentration to connect with the music. Not only were the notes and chords challenging but the words and rhythms didn't help either.
The weekend of the performance started with back to back rehearsals at Gateshead Old Town Hall; the schedule had been planned with military precision, included musicians from Royal Northern Sinfonia and the 5 choirs. Our lovely alto Gail had the unenviable task of making this all work. At this point, we were starting to feel more confident about our performance. VoH is a lovely group of people; we work well together and if nothing else, the support and fun we have had along the way meant this was beginning to feel very special.
Sunday began in Hall 1. As a fairly small choir, the Hall 1 stage feels vast and it is often hard to hear everyone, even though the acoustic for the listener is amazing. But all of a sudden, we had it and regardless of our perception that this was difficult, we had it. Schlummert Ein is quiet for the female voices, with chords gradually built up and notes piled on top of each other. For the men it is loud, brutal and a bit frightening including a degree of manic whispering. We were accompanied by a string quartet and piano. Occasionally it helped. Papaver is very different - reciting cemetery names, the names of soldiers who have died, almost shouting at times and then ending with unison whispering. After a successful rehearsal we performed for 30 minutes on the concourse; we received a great reception and it was a welcome break from the relentlessness of war.
The concert itself was more special than we could have imagined; hearing the other choral groups bring their own challenging music to life was inspirational. Both our pieces were well received and at the end all of it, felt we had achieved something remarkable. Thank you Sage Gateshead and ECHO for the opportunity, and to the Journal for publishing a lovely 4* review -