Friday 28 October 2022

Reflections on All the Ends of the World: violinist Lizzie Ball on her project with The Sixteen to highlight climate change and global warming

Image from Heather Britton's film for All the Ends of the World
Image from Heather Britton's film for All the Ends of the World

All the Ends of the World
 is a collaboration between videographer Heather Britton, violinist Lizzie Ball and The Sixteen which combines plainchant, choral music, polyphony, free improvisation and stunning imagery. Created to demonstrate the long lasting and dramatic effects of climate change and global warming, the concert will explore our relationship with the planet we live on. Here, Lizzie Ball explains how the project developed.

All the Ends of the World came about after a pretty unique collaboration between The Sixteen, Harry Christophers and I (as both a performer and producer of Classical Kicks), almost 3 years ago to the day. In Nov 2019, (pre-armageddon), the richly atmospheric walls of the one and only Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club hosted the likes of plainchant, polyphony and Purcell for the very first time thanks to an invitation from Club owner and supporter of The Sixteen, Michael Watt. The club warmly welcomed The Sixteen together with me and an all-star line-up, including: the club’s Artistic Director and co -curator of the event James Pearson, accordion superstar Martynas Levickis, rapper and artist Isatta Sheriff, percussionist James Turner, and bass player Tim Thornton. Woven within the world of choral perfection were re-imaginings of Oscar Peterson’s Hymn to Freedom, bluegrass medleys, and even some Mexican boleros! Such has always been the flavour of any Classical Kicks event; it has always been wide in its musical offering and aims to be striking in its quality and impact.  

The success and enjoyment of the event meant that this could not be the last time we did a project together. To my delight, after three years of music industry blackness, followed by several patches of grey and pure question marks of how on earth concerts might happen again, here we finally are. All the Ends of the World will be an immersive concert experience that hosts a stunning backdrop of evolving imagery from videographer Heather Britton, and free improvisation from myself on violin, as The Sixteen perform music exploring the beauty of plainchant, the complexities of choral harmony and the ethereal power of polyphony.

Crafted to demonstrate the long lasting and dramatic effects of climate change and global warming, the concerts will explore our relationship with the planet we live on. The concert combines an original video piece, interweaved with a specifically curated choral repertoire of powerful works by Padilla, Perotin and Sheppard. This powerful and affecting one hour concert highlights Earth’s ever-changing landscape and the wounds of man-made destruction and asks audiences to reflect on their impact on the planet. The performance in Southwark Cathedral also features a guest appearance from Luke Jerram’s GAIA, a slowly rotating, floating art installation reflecting the Earth’s surface, and designed to portray the beauty and true nature of our planet.

We decided we wanted to go in an immersive direction, to pair visuals and create a straight through show, to deliver more impact and an element of theatre, rather than stick with the traditional concert format of clapping between pieces. 

In this project I have a performing and co-producing role. We have been planning with the whole team since early 2021. We wanted to focus somehow on climate change, but didn’t want to be too ‘obvious’ or gimmicky with how we did it. Harry [Christophers] as ever suggested some genius musical programming which bore fruit for how we would then tackle the project visually. Such is the power of the music and the words sung, it seemed almost impossible to give the visual flavour too intimate or sentimental subject. To our minds the music cried out for something truly epic, not wholly negative, but more a view of the world in its glory and several key reminders along the way of the danger it faces due to man’s destructive tendencies. 

Musically, Harry suggested very powerful pieces including Perotin, Hildegard, Leonin and Sheppherd. After the first rehearsals we added an extra piece to the programme, feeling that, as is often the aim in any immersive production, there always need to be an emotional centre-point, a nucleus. In this moment it feels very much to me like we do, in fact, show the tears of the world, albeit in a 3.5 minute pieces of extraordinary beauty written by a 17th century Mexican choral composer, Juan Gutierréz de Padilla. 

In addition to performing, a large part of being a co-producer of this project has meant regular check-ins with Heather, our brilliant videographer. Most of this year, we have worked together on ideas, as she carefully crafted her 60-minute footage in sketches and drafts.  The constant back and forth between the two of us became a comforting familiar thing to look forward to each week, and then at points checking in with Harry and The Sixteen team to see how they liked it. I have spent moments throughout the year checking in with the music, because nearly all of what I will perform in the concert is entirely improvised so, unlike a more standard classical concert I have had to practice in a different way, immersing myself in the choral masterpieces, and allowing my soul to sort of open and listen each time, trying not to control the process of practice, to ignore the critical voices in my head and to trust in the process. I am no stranger to improvising, but this year was a particularly special one as I had my first child, incidentally as a solo mum by choice, which comes with its own set of unique challenges as well as wonderful moments. 

A day in the life of a concert producer/performer absolutely looks very different to how it did for me pre-motherhood. I have drawn immeasurably on my previous production experience in this area of concert style to help me through the more challenging moments, as well as the key support, collaboration and hard work of the team. Classical Kicks Productions has done two immersive productions to date, this will be our third. These are Corrido: A Ballad for the Brave: a storytelling audio-visual odyssey about the life and times of Frida Kahlo (co-produced by Emily Blacksell and premiered at the V&A alongside the Kahlo exhibition in 2018). We then created a re-imagining of Schoenberg’s masterpiece Verklärte Nacht, co -produced with Martynas Levickis and Mikroorkéstra, a young and dynamic orchestra based in Vilnius. 

What I have learnt as I approach my 42nd year, is that collaboration with the right people is truly the joy and the purpose of my musical endeavour, and if I could give one piece of advice to anyone starting out in this field, find your tribe for each project as once the team is right, all else will feel way less daunting. 

Lizzie Ball 

All the Ends of the World will be at Southwark Cathedral on 29 October and Rochester Cathedral on 31 October. The performance will see violinist Lizzie Ball join The Sixteen, conducted by Harry Christophers. Supported by the Genesis Foundation Kickstart Fund, the concert unites film, the power of polyphony and improvisation. 

Further information from The Sixteen's website.

1 comment:

  1. Like the 'story'. Hope today's (yesterday's now) performance went well.
    Suspect it will have been stunning!


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