Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day (cleanskies) wrote,
Jeremy Dennis is Jeremy Day
cleanskies

Knees Becomes Virtual Leader

OK, so. Diamond Light Source, AKA Oxford's enormous fricking death laser of science (housed in a groovy giant silver torus just off the side of RAL) was hosting a choral evening featuring the UK's premier contemporary choir singing (among other things) chunks of their own DNA. Alas I booked too early ("Day, tickets numbers 1 and 2") to see the notice about having to book the Synchrotron tour separately (bah!) but I did get to photograph a radio telescope, so I was happy.

The show was in the huge glass atrium, which was full of faintly disturbing works of art (knitted and embroidered extreme close-ups of breast cancer and osteoporosis created by local WIs) and had astonishing acoustics, considering that we were essentially in a giant glass box. Throughout my mind kept running to all the huge corporate spaces that go unused in the evenings, and how they might be better used, for events like this, for example.

Forty-part choral works are (inevitably, I suspect) a pretty explosive experience -- I didn't even open my eyes for the first piece (Sanctum est verum lumen by Gabriel Jackson) but after I'd adjusted enough to turn my eyes back on, looking at the choristers was fascinating. Not just the looks of abject terror on the tenor's faces (particularly striking during Ligeti's Lux Aeterna); the choir were themselves a marvellous expression of human variability/similarity, dressed in sober yet firmly individual black, all different shapes, heights and sizes. Allele itself was a profoundly human piece, terrifyingly complex yet utterly approachable, and also, somehow, extremely and gloriously functional, very thoroughly music. I expect to hear it again soon, in other contexts. They rounded off the night with Tallis' Spem in Alium and the crowd went wild. Insofar as choral crowds go wild.

At the end there was a science/poetry Q&A where Ruth Padel, brawling poetess of Oxford, compared conductor James Weeks's hands to hummingbirds. The associated research was looking at genetic markers for musicality and kindness, incidentally. Can I find a link for that? Mmmm no, but it's on at at the Wellcome Trust on Tuesday, though with more science and less singing.

In other news, I've just spent a cheerful half hour catching up on sport. Man! Armstrong down 11.45!
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