Monday 5 March 2012

Voices Now

Yesterday we went to the Round House (embarassingly my first visit since it was restored) for Voices Now, the celebration of all things choral singing put on by the BBC in association with Making Music. We arrived in time to catch the Colliers Wood Chorus with young singers, wind, brass and percussion from the Merton Music Foundation giving a spirited rendition of a selection of movements from Carmina Burana, (a work which they performed complete on Saturday night as part of the Music Nation celebrations).

They were followed by the lively Ring Around The World Choir - a joining forces of Camden Youth Choir and Poole's Park Community Choir; then finally the Westbourne Chorus, based on young primary school children from Westminster - a charming and impressive group.

After the performances in the main space had finished, the music continued in the foyers, though I rather felt sorry for the Croydon and South Norwood Community Choir who had to compete with the sound of 100's of children and their parents leaving the centre! The Maspindzeli Georgian Choir was truly impressive, a group based in London, English speakers directed by a Georgian, the results were convincing and thrilling. I've always loved Georgian traditional music, one of the oldest polyphonic folk traditions in the world, and here it was a thrill to hear it live.

We managed to catch the beginning of the Pink Singers performance, as they sang Eric Whitacre's Lux Aurumque and Stanford's The Blue Bird; fine performances which really deserved to have been on the main stage.

We missed the rest of the foyer events as we attended a Making Music event to celebrate the Making Music overture, a new piece commissioned from Orlando Gough and John Agard which was receiving its premiere at the festival. The idea behind the piece was that the music was scored flexibly enough to be performed by a wide range of Making Music's member groups; in true Percy Grainger fashion, Gough has provided flexible scoring including an a cappella version and the score includes many invitations to improvisation.

The event in the main space was also a live broadcast for The Choir, the BBC Radio 3 programme introduced by Aled Jones. Ifield College Community Choir opened thing with an inspiring performance accompanied by drummers. Finchley Chamber Choir sang Howells (from the Requiem) and Villette, a lovely change from all the livelier numbers; Maspindseli Georgian Choir returned with a further couple of items; the Choir with No Name and the Round House Choir also contributed spirited renditions.

Then finally Berkshire Youth Choir, Hertforshire County Youth Choir and the BBC Singers joined forces (each singing one movement) of Traditional Values, the new piece by Orlando Gough and John Agard. Agard's lyrics, which take a wry look at Britishness via tea, the weather and cricket, were wittily handled by Gough and I have no doubt that the piece will prove popular. Already quite a few performances are scheduled.

As we left, Shout Rhythm and Blues Choir were providing lively entertainment in the bar. All in all a thrilling and uplifting afternoon, showing that live music is alive and well and proving the power of communal performance to uplift, inspire and bring people together.

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