The Voice Project present “Souvenir” for the Norfolk and Norwich Festival 2014, at Holkham Hall, 17 May 2014
Quite simply, this is possibly the most beautiful and moving experience of its kind that I have seen and heard. I was of course expecting it to sound lovely but to hear it first hand was incredibly moving. What I was totally unprepared for was just quite how visually beautiful and movingly elegant it would be too. The entire choir in vintage clothing and serious expressions, they performed without eye contact throughout. There were clearly themes of loss and memories but I myself kept feeling as if I were watching and listening to ghosts from the past hundred years, and there was a really dreamlike feel to it.
We were led by coloured umbrellas around the grounds of Holkham Hall, where we heard the choir inside the hall itself, which was quite dramatic, and also over the gravelled driveway where a lone fiddle player was performing before being joined again by the choir. We then followed them into the wood, a truly stunning and memorable sight of black umbrellas in the late afternoon sunshine
Over the course of close to a couple of hours we walked around the grounds and heard them sing exquisitely in various locations of the estate, with the choir accompanied at times by drummers, brass instruments, or a pianist, and very memorably again by the lone fiddle player gliding slowly along the still lake in a rowing boat. Scattered around were also some very touching set pieces, a picnic area, a teddy bear, gramophone, radio, and other assorted household items, it did feel like we were walking through memories and dreams.
As we made our way back towards the hall I was struck by the beauty of seeing all these black umbrellas – effectively parasols in this late afternoon warm light – dotted about the rich green of the lawns, and then suddenly a line of ladies appeared, singing on their bicycles. I don’t think words can describe how beautiful all of this was.
The entire choir gathered at the entrance to the hall and sang a final piece, finishing to a rapturous and long standing ovation, only broken when they stepped forward and handed everyone a souvenir postcard of exactly the image we had just witnessed.
Souvenir is my own memory which I think I will carry with me always, visually it was breathtaking alongside the incredible vocal performance of everybody involved, who should all be very proud of themselves. I certainly am proud of them and the world class production which I believe this was.
There were three performances over the course of the day – I attended the middle one but strongly believe they will all have been uniquely stunning with the differing light conditions. If I could change anything it would only be my plans, so that I could have stayed for all three performances!
Directed by Sian Croose and Jonathan Baker, ‘Souvenir’ was staged in a gorgeous part of Norfolk, Holkham. The choir of 150 or so are all local volunteers who have been rehearsing for the past few months. Some are practicing singers in their own right, and others joined with little or no experience. Absolutely everybody excelled and treated the audience to an amazing spectacle and aural delight. The word that probably best describes this experience is “Magical”. My sincere thanks to absolutely everyone involved for providing me with my own treasured memory. I honestly came away from this feeling I had been blessed to witness something truly special.
Souvenir is a new promenade performance that follows The Voice Project’s previous Festival successes with Singing the City and Ideas of Flight. Focusing on memory and imagination, The Voice Project will lead you on a tour of the grounds and the Marble Hall at Holkham through unexpected corners and natural theatres. With voices both hidden and revealed, experience 100 years of memories and ideas set for 150 voices of The Voice Project Choir, The Bold as Brass Quartet with percussion from Derek Scurll and portable piano from Adrian Lever.
Esther Morgan, Tom Warner, EE Cummings, Jane Draycott, Thomas Nashe, Martin Figura
Performance runs: c. 75 mins (no interval)
Photo by JMA Photography
Supported by Writer’s Centre Norwich
words and photos, richard shashamane 2014