In the introduction for BBC 3, I am introduced as Michael Henry with Manickam Yogeswaran. I am sure it was me at the time? my body my voice my smell. Yoga was resplendent standing in front of the magnificent Albert Hall Organ wearing a golden suit. I was up at the back in the gods behind the stalls. Hidden. Then I made my way down the stairs to join The Shout with Yoga in front of the Organ and the Audience. They got my name right in the programme. It was eerie standing in the dark waiting for my cue. Far away and in isolation. Once I took in the first breath I was in a place looking out over the vast arena down stairs to the light where Manickam was singing. In a sphere of vocal exploration. cg
Voices of approval for THE SHOUT AT THE PROMS
Sunday August 6, 2006
Proms 20, 21, 24, 25, 26
Royal Albert Hall, London SW7
After the first performance of a new work, composers sometimes have to wait years for a second. A few hours after the first realisation of his choral piece We Turned on the Light in an afternoon Prom (20) given by the BBC Scottish Symphony under Martyn Brabbins last Saturday, Orlando Gough heard it again that evening with the BBC Symphony under David Robertson. It went down a storm on both occasions.
Setting a new, ecologically correct text by Caryl Churchill reminding us how our over-consumption of the earth’s resources is landing us in big trouble, Gough’s work is scored for large chorus and full orchestra – forces he handles with immense flair and panache. As with the orchestra, the main body of singers changed between the two performances – youth choirs from all over the UK sang the first; the BBC Symphony Chorus and Huddersfield Choral Society the second. But, in both renditions, a lot of the punch of this explosive piece came from Gough’s own diversely constituted choir, the Shout – whose members come from backgrounds taking in gospel, jazz and blues, as well as contemporary classical, opera and early music – and from more informally assembled participants operating under the name of the Rabble.
These two Proms celebrated the singing voice. Getting the afternoon event off to a flying start was an atmospheric opener by Gough called, aptly, Open, which featured the mesmerising vocalism of Carol Grimes and Manickam Yogeswaran, among others, ricocheting around the Albert Hall at all levels and from every direction.
THE PROMS ALBERT HALL LONDON
Saturday JULY 29th 2.30. 7.30.
Orlando Gough/Caryl Churchill
We Turned on the Light (10 mins)
(BBC commission; first realisation)
Orlando Gough introduces his choir The Shout and the new collaborative choral work they will be helping to create for this year’s Proms ‘Voice’ day.
“I started the choir The Shout in 1998 with Richard Chew, singer and composer. The singers are a wonderfully heterogeneous bunch, coming from diverse backgrounds – jazz, blues, gospel, contemporary classical, opera, rock ‘n’ roll, Indian classical… In principle it’s a mad idea. The usual Holy Grail of a choir – a blend of voices – is unattainable. But there are serious compensations.
Since its first ever project, an outdoor site-specific piece The Shouting Fence, about the Palestinians, The Shout has habitually worked with amateur singers…. I’m intrigued by what these people do in their day jobs, I’m intrigued by their reasons for giving up their precious spare time to rehearse in bleak church halls and schoolrooms, and I’m intrigued by the possibility that a group of untrained singers can make a sublime noise…
Amo, amas, amat… amateur. It doesn’t mean you’re no good, it means you do it for love. The new piece we’ll be making for the Proms takes its inspiration from a mysterious, haunting, repetitive medieval poem, ‘There was a man of double deed’, which lists a catastrophic chain of consequences, ending eventually in death, that result from an apparently innocent action – ‘sowed his garden full of seed’. With a new text by playwright Caryl Churchill, this form is applied to a contemporary issue of fierce importance – climate change – and becomes a kind of choral dance of death, playful but terrifying.”