Bunch Of Fives: Me Lost Me | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo By Amelia Read

The BBC Proms come to Sage Gateshead on Saturday 23rd July for the first indoor Prom anywhere in the UK other than the Royal Albert Hall. This main-evening Prom will be conducted by Dinis Sousa with the Royal Northern Sinfonia and they’ll be joined by members of folk ensemble Spell Songs and a large-scale choir of young singers from across the North-East, Voices of the River’s Edge.

Voices of The River’s Edge (who have been brought together especially for this concert) and Spell Songs will be performing four songs inspired by the books The Lost Words and The Lost Spells. Leading the choir in the performance of traditional North-East folk song, The Water of Tyne, is singer Jayne Dent, aka Me Lost Me

Ahead of the event, Jayne tells us about her top five pieces of choral music…

It’s been such a joy to sing in the Voices of the River’s Edge choir, especially after it being so difficult to gather together and sing these last couple of years! To celebrate our first public performance at Sage Gateshead as part of the Proms on the 23rd of July, I wanted to get you excited about choral music by sharing some of my favourites that shaped my love of choirs and all kinds of group singing! Voice has always been my main instrument, but there’s something so endlessly thrilling about hearing so many voices singing all at once. I hope you enjoy getting lost in these lovely sounds!

Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis (c. 1570)

I think this was the first choral piece I really fell in love with! If you visited the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in 2012, you may have come across an installation by Janet Cardiff called ’40 Part Motet’, which reworked this Tallis composition into a 40 speaker installation. Each speaker, set up in a circle turned inwards, played an individual singer’s voice so you could move freely between them, experiencing the sounds of the choir from many different places. I’ve since listened to the piece a lot, and am struck every time by how moving I find it as a work in its own right – but the unusually interactive and memorable way it was presented in a gallery space really left a lasting impression on me. Suddenly choral music was exciting in a way I hadn’t appreciated before when singing in school choir Christmas concerts – it was a bit of a eureka moment in my journey with choral music, and it made me want to discover more!

Proverb by Steve Reich (1996)

Another instant-love moment, this piece was recommended to me when I was beginning to get interested in sound art and minimalism – I thought ‘surely there must be music like this that uses voices?’ and did some asking around. There aren’t many pieces of music that I get the sudden random urge to listen to, but this is one of them, and I would absolutely love to perform it one day. I’m still fascinated by it every time I listen, the way the voices clash and soften; It has this amazing airy quality and I always discover something new in it each time.

Earth Seen From Above (from Atlas: An Opera in Three Parts) by Meredith Monk (1987)

Meredith Monk is known for her vocal experimentation, and I love so many of her works. This is a really tender piece – it’s not a text, just hums and vocalisations, but I find it hugely descriptive like a painting. A lot of choral music is stunning because of its scale and complexity, but this piece is so easy-going and simple and feels like you can just join in instantly like it’s a melody you’ve always known. It doesn’t really feel composed either – it seems to just exist naturally, which is really special. Try singing along to it, you’ll see what I mean!

183 Greenwich, words by Isaac Watts, tune by Daniel Read (1785) from the Sacred Harp Book

The wonderful Cath and Phil Tyler introduced me to the concept of Shape Note singing a few years ago, which is a style of congregational worship music from the Appalachian Mountains that uses alternative notation. There are so many incredible tunes to choose from and it’s just such fun music to sing – especially when the lyrics are as full of drama as ‘Greenwich’ where you get to loudly belt about the “dreadful end” of your enemies, “on slippery rocks I see them stand and fiery bellows roll below!” The four-part group, which traditionally sits in a square facing inwards, goes through the melody first singing do – re – me, then the pitch is adjusted if needed to suit the group, before the song continued through to the end with the lyrics.

O Vis Aeternitatis by Hildegard von Bingen (c. 1150)

 Last but not least, the oldest piece on this list and one of my favourite composers, Hildegard von Bingen. She composed early sacred music as well as being an extraordinary painter, and her vast catalogue of works is just a stunning rabbit hole to fall down. I encourage you to listen to any of her choral music. It’s haunting, mournful and glorious.

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