THE ARMS OF SLEEP
I don’t quite know how to write this review of The Arms Of Sleep. For one thing, it was one of the most mystifying, magical nights of my life. For another thing I am loathe to ruin any surprises for those going to experience it this week at Norwich & Norfolk Festival or at Brighton Festival next year. So I’ll keep schtum, and just give you the bare bones.
The Arms of Sleep, devised and performed by The Voice Project, a community, site-inspired choir took place at The Assembly House, the classiest joint in town. We were instructed to turn up at 9:30pm with pyjamas and toiletries, and that we’d be heading home (or into work in my case) at 8:30am the following morning. We’d be entertained by the choir throughout the evening. That’s all we knew.
So. What I CAN tell you is that the custom made beds were incredibly comfortable. The choir were dressed in old fashioned long black aprons, waistcoats and trousers, and did everything they could to ensure we received personal, genuinely loving care from the moment when we arrived til the moment we left. The Assembly House was beautifully decorated and everything ran incredibly smoothly, especially wonderful considering this was their first ever performance and took place throughout the House. We enjoyed delicious drinks and food, pure, clear, extraordinary singing, lovely piano, drums and flute music, stories being read to us, shadows, candles, flickering projections and so many other delightful twists and turns of surprises that every moment I expected the unexpected. It’s an event where you just have to go with the flow, and put your trust entirely in the team.
I managed to snatch a couple of hours sleep during the night, but mostly I was caught in that web of half asleep, half awakeness which can sometimes be something to be endured. I constantly felt like I was in a dream, and sometimes totally unsure if I was actually awake or asleep. It felt like these 40 odd strangers and I were all on a journey together, but our direction was led by a god, or a genie, or something other than human. The twisting, confusing, otherworldliness of pictures, and songs, and words all melted together in our minds and bodies, and bonded us together. Sitting in the restaurant at breakfast dressed identically in our grey kimonos, dazed and confused but happy, reminded me of the film The Lobster, or some odd Wes Anderson scene – totally abnormal, but totally normal simultaneously.
Yes, the tickets for The Arms of Sleep are steep at £40. But my god, you can see how every penny has been spent on giving you a night you won’t forget for the rest of your life, and how every care was taken by the many and varied members of The Voice Project and associates to treat you to a very special and unique trip to The Assembly House.
I wish I could tell you more. I really do. But you just have to go and feel it for yourself.
I'm rather fuzzy headed now - I only left the House an hour or so ago. But I also feel like I'm carrying a secret around inside me, a special little memory that few others will hold. Thank you The Voice Project and The Assembly House for this truly wonderful gift, your stamina and talent.
A night out of time indeed.
||by Lizz - Outline Magazine
Amazing voices touch the heart
Voice Project Choir
|A nocturne is a picture evoking the night, lyrical, dreamy music. Ten songs from the Voice Project Choir filled the cathedral’s chapels, cloisters and nave, evoking every emotion in the human heart. It was a promenade concert, the audience subtly guided by the call of a new piece in the near distance to move on to a fresh experience. Cloaked singers with candles lined the way, sustaining a haunting, repeated motif. Sharon Durant, Rebecca Askew, Sian Croose, Helen Chadwick, Katherine Zeserson, Dave Camlin and Jon Baker, who also wrote much of the music, led the intimate harmonies. In the opening chamber they were scattered among
||the audience, making us part of the performance, sharing the night of memories, prayers, inner silence, joy and nature that followed. Spooky shadows from dark, cold corners contrasted with warm, creative light patterns completing winter’s sensual atmosphere.
This 100-voice choir are amazing, creating such soaring harmonies, so many variations of the most versatile instrument of all, the voice. Conductor Sian Croose is outstanding, creative, magnificent. She has raised expectations for their summer work to an all-time high.
||David Porter EDP 16th December 2013
haunting evening will stay with me
The Voice Project
The Festival curtain fell with another world premiere and a bang, the
brilliant DJ sampler Jan Bang. Blending found sounds and created, musical
and unearthly, he mixed technology with sublime massed human voices
of the Voice Project Choir and the musical brilliance of trumpeter,
conductor and singer Arve Henriksen.
In the first half, scripture, 16th century poetry and contemporary verse
were given the Voice Project interpretation. After the break, Recording
Angel was the new work that will sit in the canon of 21st century repertoire.
To describe it is to dig deep into the lexicon of praise. Simultaneously
experimental, traditional, a fusion of genres from choral chant and
Biblical text, to poignant, touching-heaven emotions, it was conducted
by the inspired Sian Croose, leading the most versatile instrument,
the human voice.
Soprano Sianed Jones, alto Rebecca Askew, tenor Jeremy Avis and Jonathan
Baker, bass brought virtuoso singing that blended not only together,
but with the extraordinary harmony of magnified sounds, a guitar and
creative percussion at one point.
In the soaring vaulted chamber of the cathedral, the whole became a
sensuous experience that touched the body’s inner core. It grew
organically from all the ingredients to release emotion that will haunt
listeners for ages to come.
I PREFER THE GORGEOUS
rich, harmonically daring, rhythmically subtle, pianist Gwilym
Simcock's quartet piece, “Longing To Be”, which kicked off last night's
Queen Elizabeth Hall gig was one of the most jaw-dropping performances
I've heard at this year's London Jazz Festival. Opening with an expansive,
über-romantic solo from the pianist in free time, the piece unfolded
quite beautifully with the layered introduction of Yuri Goloubev's
bowed bass, James Maddren's understated percussion and Klaus Gesing's
haunting soprano sax.
Both bassist and drummer are members of Simcock's trio that features
on his new double album, Blues Vignette. Goloubev, a former bassist
with the Bolshoi Opera and Yuri Bashmet's elite Moscow Soloists, produced
a tone of special magnificence while Maddren, currently studying jazz
percussion at the Royal Academy of Music, was the epitome of restraint,
favouring the delicate timbres of brushes and soft sticks.
The main work on the programme was the London premiere of Simcock's
I Prefer the Gorgeous Freedom. Originally commissioned by Norfolk and
Norwich Festival for the community choir, The Voice Project, this large-scale,
five-movement choral work took the subject of freedom as its fons et
origo. Deftly juxtaposing the improvised with the composed, it proved
a sumptuous, affecting score that continuously worked its way under
From the simple, yet extraordinarily powerful, block harmonies of the
opening movement - a setting of the Aleksandr Blok poem which gave
the work its title - to the fourth movement's pared-down vocal quartet
arrangement of Billy Taylor's “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free”,
Simcock proved a master in varying texture and mood.
Serving to confirm this music's endless capacity to surprise, both
choir and Simcock's quartet rocked out in a concluding movement which
saw the unlikely dovetailing of Emily Dickinson's “No Rack can torture
me” with Siegfried Sassoon's celebration of the signing of the
Armistice, “Everyone Sang”.
All of the performers - including vocal soloists Sianed Jones, Rebecca
Askew, Jeremy Avis and Jonathan Baker - covered themselves in glory.
But a particular word of praise must be given to the 70-strong choir
and their conductor Sian Croose, who not only learnt the 45-minute work
by ear but also sounded as if they believed in every word.'
by Peter Quinn The Arts Desk November 2009