The Creative Hub, The Storey Meeting House Lane Lancaster, LA1 1TH

Voices and Light – 100 Stories High

30th November 2022 by Morven Macbeth

By Loz Kaye, Director Encounter Voices

One of the distinctive features of imitating the dog’s work with technology is how the company finds the human story in every piece. It can be easy to impress with large scale projection commissions, it is a harder art to connect with the audience emotionally. imitating the dog’s recent work 100 Stories High made that connection through the use of a vivid score by James Hamilton, featuring a community choir. The voices of people from the communities in Blackpool and Lancaster where the piece was presented were woven throughout.  

It’s no small feat to bring people together for large scale pieces, and the Lancashire wide vocal project Encounter Voices which I lead was part of that process. We look for high quality performance opportunities for community singers. Lightpool and Light Up Lancaster certainly provided that.

James’ score and musical direction is a very good example of working practice that balances high end production values to a process that is open and enjoyable for non-specialist singers. The piece was designed so that people could take part in one workshop and still be ready for a show in front of thousands of people. His material is very immediate both for the singer and audience. In all there were four preparatory workshops, two in Blackpool, two in Lancaster. And even though you could do just one, people certainly came back for more!

This approach makes taking part more accessible, there was no need to read notation or to sign your life away for an autumn to endless rehearsals.

In Blackpool, the goal was working with singers to make a recording for the backing track. I think for most, this was a new experience. Singing with headphones on with the instrumental music in the ears was unfamiliar to a lot of participants and people really relished having a new kind of challenge. The results, in a short space of time, were terrific and I think gave everyone a great sense of achievement.

In Lancaster, we worked with a live choir. Or really four live choirs as we has 3 shifts over the Friday of Light Up Lancaster and another group for the Saturday. Each 100 Stories High presentation lasted 10 minutes with a break to allow a new audience in to impressive venue of Lancaster Castle. The challenges here were logistical and practical as well as musical. Not least to engage enough people. Many thanks to groups like The Bay Singers, Women Rockin’ Harmony and the people who came over from Blackpool whose commitment made all of this possible.

That commitment paid off, not least seeing the audience reaction to the piece. The voices reached out in the space singing of memory, loss, peace and acceptance. We think of quality in different ways – artistic, organisational. But above all the quality of human engagement shone through, and was truly special for those who took part.

Photograph by Robin Zahler

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