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The Voice Project, a community choir with over 200 members, wraps up its trilogy of performances related to sleep, waking and dreaming with Travels In Light. The first piece, set in the corners and main body of Norwich Cathedral this time last year was marvellous - powerful, majestic and epic. The second, a sleepover at the Assembly Rooms as part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival in May 2017 was magical - creepy, weird and unreal. This third part was mystical - considered, spiritual and personal.

The concert (a loose term for this sort of evening) took place in three churches, all situated on and around Tombland. Over the course of just over an hour, the sold out audience and choir alike experienced firstly St George's Tombland, where we were served hot apple juice, the male members of the choir dressed in black coats with harmonies from heaven, and heartrending solos from five women and men. The red altar lamps flickered like souls, the history of this 15th centry place of worship surrounding us with its mismatch of decor from throughout the years, including two snapdragons. The atmosphere was intimate, yet grand, all created by humans in 2017. Quite incredible. The wonderful Adrian Lever accompanied at times through the night on piano, orgabn and hammered dulcimer, modest and gentle sounds that suited perfectly. After a while the choir processed out, creating ominous sillhouettes through the windows as they did so, and we all followed to St Peter Hungate. Fires were lit in the churchyard, and lanterns pointed the way - it felt strangely pagan and ancient, the fire, the people, the singing. We filed into what is pretty much an empty shell of a church, and the smell of ancient plaster, the sight of candlelit dust rising and the full chorus of hundreds of people singing songs about light, stars, sleep and travelling filled the room.

What a special moment. The music, all written by choir leaders Sian Crosse and Jonathan Baker, was set to poems by the likes of Robert Frost, Emily Dickenson, George Herbert and R.S Thomas, and the modern-style music (not popular as such, and not avant garde, just clear, and true and unfussy) brought the words right up to date. Our third resting place was the United Reformed Church, a much more modern building with a gallery and actual seats. We were surrounded by sound, treated to a reading of Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti's The Changing Light by Simon Floyd, leader of local theatre group The Common Lot, and the soloists then sang it with a jazzy and hip attitude, quite different to the rest of the night. The evening finished with the soloists processing upstairs to join the choir on the gallery, singing as they went, so we could hear them on the stairs, and arriving upstairs - a wonderful moment. The United Reformed Church was my least favourite of the parts of the evening, as it didn't quite hold the mystical quuality of the other venues, and I enjoyed the music slightly less. Overall, it was yet another very special evening courtesy of The Voice Project - although the night did not seem quite as linear as the others, and the outline was not quite so clear, musically it was wonderful, and a rare chance to be in some of the ancient churches of our fine city. The amount of research, creative work and commitment from Sian, Adrian and Jonathan as well as from the choir, made up of all sorts of people, young and old, is what makes The Voice Project so exciting - we are so blessed to have them. I look forward greatly to their next creative endeavour for Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2018 in May.

  by Lizz - Outline Magazine


NNF 2017



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
Norwich Cathedral

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




This haunting evening will stay with me

The Voice Project
Norwich Cathedral

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.

David Porter




'Melodically 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 your skin.
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.'

Written by Peter Quinn The Arts Desk November 2009



Participant and Audience Feedback

From Caragh Walsh (printed in the letters page of the EDP 4/1/14)

Thank you for the cake and icing;
At the end of the year it is usual for me to write thank you cards, but I realise that there is one thank you that I have to write in a different way to the others.
I want to take the time to write about what an awesome experience it is for me to be in Norwich’s most magical choir, The Voice Project. It really was something else to be part of the women’s voices in the Cloisters at December’s performance in the Anglican Cathedral. Together we were weaving a spirit of soothing echoes for people as they entered in. It really was something else to be standing in the main transept when the whole choir had struck its last high note, the space in between allowing for the shuddering vibrations of our voices to ripple down the back bone of the cathedral. In these moments I felt moved. I felt as if I had become part of the history of Norwich, part of the bricks of this sacred building. But this really was just the spangled icing on a most gratifying cake.
I have been truly blown away by what this choir has to offer. I chanced upon a taster session last year held in the Friends Meeting House and from this point realised that the choir would surpass my expectations. Each week I arrive for rehearsal on a Tuesday evening, harassed from the never ending demands upon me from work and enter into a completely different space.

We begin with a warm up, but as ever this exercise is not just about achieving the vocal range required to perform a task. It feels as if joy is imbued throughout each present moment. Sian Croose and Jon Baker, our tutors, appear to take genuine pleasure in the process of extending our learning of our voice as an instrument.There is a humility and playfulness which is transferred over to us. After those first ten minutes I am centred in myself, connected to finding my space in the group and committed to taking the risk of personal expression with my voice. And even then there is more!
I feel honoured to be singing songs some of which are written just for us, songs which are written by local geniuses, songs which connect us with a history. Jon and Sian take time to explain to us the meaning behind the words and the music. They take time to envision with us the energy and the images evoked in the music; that we can translate and give this to our audience with our collective harmonies. This choir is not just about singing it has many more dimensions. The Voice Project offers a rich experience to us the community of singers that we may give to Norfolk’s history. I am grateful to be part of it. It is a soul food of rich cake and spangled icing.
With thanks
  Caragh Walsh