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Voice Project Choir take over Norwich street for night of winter songs

PUBLISHED: 15:01 18 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:04 18 January 2018

Voice Project Choir perform City of Strangers at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: Submitted

Voice Project Choir perform City of Strangers at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: Submitted

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Travels in Light will see Voice Project Choir performing at three very different churches in Norwich's Princes Street. Renowned for bringing to life iconic local landmarks, their latest project is designed to brighten up the dark January winter night.

Voice Project Choir perform City of Strangers at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: SubmittedVoice Project Choir perform City of Strangers at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: Submitted

Norfolk’s internationally renowned Voice Project Choir has made a habit of bringing to life iconic local landmarks.

Previously projects have included site-specific performances at Norwich Cathedral, City Hall, St Andrew’s Hall, the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts and Holkham Hall.

The choir’s first performance event of 2018 this Saturday is a new piece explores three very different locations in the same medieval Norwich Street.

Voice Project Choir will be performing Travel By Light. Photo: SubmittedVoice Project Choir will be performing Travel By Light. Photo: Submitted

The 150 voices of the choir, plus soloists and guest musicians will perform their new piece, Travels in Light, the final part of a trilogy of pieces about sleep, dreaming and waking and the bits in between.

The show is a multi-venue secular performance piece with music specially written that will be staged in the three very different churches on Norwich’s medieval Princes Street - St George’s Tombland, St Peter Hungate and the United Reformed Church with the choir leading the audience between them. There will be three separate performances at 5pm and 7pm and 9pm.

The inspiration for the concert came from a quote from the painter Paul Nash, whose work was recently exhibited at the Sainsbury Centre: ‘The divisions we may hold between the waking world and that of the dream are not there; they are porous; in a word, they are not there’.

Sian Croose and Jonathan Baker co-directors of Voice Project Choir. Photo: Joe NewmanSian Croose and Jonathan Baker co-directors of Voice Project Choir. Photo: Joe Newman

The Choir’s co-director Jonathan Baker said: “We’ve been developing the trilogy for about three years although the original idea came a while before that. As we’ve gone along, ideas for parts two and three have developed from the previous show so we feels it is very much three parts of one whole.”

Each of the buildings hosting one of the concerts has a significantly different atmospherics and acoustic properties which will help highlight Travels in Light’s reflections on the time of the year: the sleep of winter, the dark nights and the short days yet an ultimate awakening with the promise of spring to come.

Jonathan explains: “Each has its own sound and atmospheric qualities, brilliant for a choral piece as these buildings were literally made for singing in.

Voice Project Choir perform The Observatory at the Sainsbury Centre. Photo: SubmittedVoice Project Choir perform The Observatory at the Sainsbury Centre. Photo: Submitted

“St George’s is a living church. Parts of the building date from the 13th century and it has clear but gentle acoustic properties. On the other hand, St Peter Hungate, also dating back to at least the 13th century is empty, closed as a working church in the 1930s, giving it a much livelier sound with a much longer reverberation time. The United Reformed Church is a totally different type of building built in the early 19th century. It is bright, open and airy with a gallery and much bigger windows than the other two.”

Jonathan and Voice Project co-director Sian Croose had previously explored this area of Norwich extensively when we were planning and researching the choir’s outdoor promenade show Singing the City for the 2012 Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

That performance also saw 100 of the choir members singing at various locations in a bid to celebrate the city with song, including at 14 locations along Elm Hill.

“The history of the area is fascinating and we’re hoping that Travels in Light will reflect this,” added Jonathan. “As you can probably tell we’re really enjoying making the show for this wonderful street.”

The Voice Project was set up in 2008 as an educational education and performance organisation by music professionals Sian and Jonathan. Since then it has become one of the best known community choirs in East Anglia and beyond having performed at international festivals in mainland Europe, appeared on prime time TV and had a concert broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

The choir is totally open access with no previous experience or specialist knowledge needed. There are no auditions and everything is taught by ear with no need to read music.

Voice Project Choir perform City of Strangers at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: SubmittedVoice Project Choir perform City of Strangers at Norwich Cathedral. Photo: Submitted

“We don’t have a permanent choir,” said Sian Croose. “Some people sign up for every project and some join for one and return at a later date. I think that flexibility helps keep everything fresh.”

Last summer the choir undertook a unique musical project with their show The Arms of Sleep for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival. An overnight sleepover experience, it saw audiences spending the night at Norwich Assembly House encountering a dream-like immersive night of music and stories, sound, images and specially composed ethereally beautiful music. The choir has been commissioned to revisit the show for the 2018 Brighton International Festival.

This weekend’s Travels in Light continues the choir’s winter projects, in one of the darkest parts of the year, when the post-festive blues can really set in. Last January they staged their new work Between Stars, a large-scale promenade performance piece featuring the 150-member choir along with professional solo singers and instrumentalists, at Norwich Cathedral.

Voice Project Choir members performing in Elm Hill, Norwich. Photo: SubmittedVoice Project Choir members performing in Elm Hill, Norwich. Photo: Submitted

Sian Croose said: “Mid January, at the deepest point of hibernation of the winter, can seem the darkest part of the year following the glitz and gaiety of Christmas. We hope to create a dream-like piece of music that will transport the singers and the audience to a different place.”

• Travels by Light is at various locations on Princes Street, Norwich, January 20, 5pm, 7pm and 9pm, £10 (£10 cons), more details/booking on voiceproject.co.uk

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