I have just finished a week of working on Icon of Freedom, a festival dedicated to the life and work of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Who? Well you may just ask that as she is very well known in her home country of Mexico but not so well known here. So we thought we would raise awareness through Icon of Freedom at the Oxo Bargehouse.
Sor Juana de la Cruz is a 17th Century a self-taught scholar and poet and nun from Mexico who was known in her lifetime as “The Tenth Muse’. The festival helped UK audiences to find out why her poetry has endured through the centuries and still speaks to audiences today on subjects as diverse as gender equality, science and freedom of expression.
The event was a lovely partnership between the SHM Foundation and Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana who worked together to present visual art by young Mexican artists, food and fashion events inspired by Sor Juana’s life and work.
My role was to produce an event featuring Sor Juana’s poetry with responses from contemporary UK artists and Mexican visual artists. We put together two shows of spoken word, poetry and music to celebrate and explore her work.
For Juana’s poetry was read in Spanish by Sandra Lorenzano from Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana and in English by actor Naomi Frederick who had just finished playing Sor Juana at the Globe Theatre. We also worked with contemporary UK artists who presented their own responses to the poetry: Sarah Sayeed musician; Vivien Ellis and Giles Lewin, early music duo, Amerah Saleh, soul poet and Chandra Chapman, composer.
There were also visual arts installations from contemporary Mexican artists and photographers, Derzu Campos, Alex Aceves Bernal, Cannon Bernáldez, Mauricio del Razo, Maru Rojas.
In June I had the pleasure of being asked to Produce the first Young Voices show in Germany. It was the first time I’ve worked on a show where I don’t speak the language (my A at GCSE didn’t get me very far!) but luckily most people spoke English very well. But it did raise challenges when I didn’t actually know what the presenter was saying on stage even though I had written the script! But as ever Young Voices had put together a first class team of musicians and production staff so it was really a joy.
The acid test was to watch the faces of the children, teachers and parents in the show and it was great to see everyone smiling and loving every minute! I can’t wait until next year (and I’ll use the next 12 months to brush up on my German!).
Last week we ran the third Voices Now festival at the Roundhouse. As Creative Producer I got to work with all the choirs to put together the programme for the weekend.
This was a completely different way to put the festival together from previous events and involved Kathryn Tickell, Sam Lee, Omar and Akala as guest artists and curators and the event was shaped by them, the choirs and our expert choral leaders Osnat Schmool, Chris Samuel and Stephen Layton.
The results were outstanding. The collaborative environment suited the choirs – who all shared songs and ideas and worked with the guest artists to put together some unforgettable moments that took my breath away. We also had a range of sell out workshops, two Making Music Open Stages that were busier than ever.
Overall 45 Choirs, 2000 participants , 45 different Open Stage performances, 9 workshops and 3 mains stage shows.
I had a lot of fun producing the Worcestershire Youth Music Gala concert on Sunday 3rd May at Symphony Hall in Birmingham. The logistics of moving 561 children around the stage at different times and keeping the event moving so it didn’t go on all night was made completely worthwhile by the quality of performances from the groups of young people from around Worcestershire. Some amazing playing from all involved and the concert showcased the talents of children as young as 7 through to those leaving school. A really lovely occasion.
As someone who sings in choirs for fun – the fact that I get to work with choirs professionally is a real treat. But this weekend I had a highlight of my career so far. This year we have decided to build the programme for Voices Now with a collection of choirs of all kinds. So instead of myself and Matthew Swann our Artistic Director coming up with a programme and asking choirs to take part – we have started with the choirs and asked them what they want to do!
So on Saturday we all gathered at the Roundhouse in Camden for a day of singing and working out what everyone wants in the festival. We were looked after by some of the best choir leaders in the business – Chris Samuel and Osnat Schmool who led the choirs through warm ups and singing some new songs.
I have to admit to being quite apprehensive on Saturday morning as to how it would all work – but the day was extraordinary. The energy and excitement from the choirs was palpable and the singing from everyone blew me away. Everyone worked really hard and the first shape of the festival is starting to emerge and I can’t wait for May now! Oh and we were joined by the very talented Kathryn Tickell and Sam Lee who will perform with some of the choirs at the festival as well – look out for the festival programme coming soon! https://twitter.com/voicesnow
After three weeks of practically living in arenas – normal life feels really strange today. This year was my first year doing the full tour with Young Voices (and we are not finished yet there is still a week in Manchester in March). 15 days of working with thousands of children sounds hellish and tiring doesn’t it? But actually the whole thing is so well organised it is tiring but it is also a joy. There is nothing like seeing the children arrive excited and then hearing them sing their hearts out before heading home on coaches – often tired – but still smiling!
I also had a lot of fun working with the Young Voices Teacher Choir – who all had an amazing time despite often being quite nervous at the beginning of the day at the prospect of singing in such huge arenas.
Here are a couple of my pics:
Being the Producer of BCMG’s world premiere performance of David Lang‘s Crowd Out in June was one of my career highlights. The videos made by the wonderful Rebel Uncut are now out and I have to share the edited highlights here as it is a wonderful memory. The full version is also worth watching and can be found via a link on the BCMG website…..
Planning has started in earnest for Simmer Down 2014 and it promises to be a very special year. The headline act this year are Steel Pulse for who this will be a very special homecoming performance. Other acts include Apache Indian and Musical Youth.
My job now is to get all the permissions and infrastructure in place and make sure the event runs smoothly so everyone can enjoy this amazing line up on the day.
Come along and have enjoy the party….
Next week I will be running a symposium for Birmingham City Council’s Culture Commissioning team in the beautiful Library of Birmingham.
The Cultivating Culture Symposium event is being held at the Library of Birmingham on March 18th from 12pm – 7pm.
The Symposium will be the opportunity to share Case Studies and discuss issues and challenges that have emerged from the past 3 years of work by Local Arts Fora & Arts Champions and to reflect on how arts development can overcome barriers to participation and engagement.
The Cultivating Culture Symposium is an afternoon of debates and discussions for local people, arts organisations, policy makers and anyone who is interested in developing amazing arts activities at a grass roots level where they live.
The days starts at 12noon with a networking lunch and is kicked off with a Keynote Speech from
Claire McDermott Cultural Programmer for Derry Londonderry 2013 will be the key note speaker. There will also be small group discussions and the chance to see performances and presentations of the work done by Birmingham’s local Arts Fora and Arts Champions.
There are a handful of FREE tickets left so if you want a day of debates and discussions you can book here – https://cultivatingcultures.eventbrite.co.uk
I’ve recently started work with Young Voices and in December 2013 had the pleasure of tour and stage managing the YV Hallelujah Choir Festival in Dublin.
It was an amazing way to learn how Young Voices works! There were approximately 3000 children per night for four nights so I soon got used to dealing with thousands of children arriving and departing in short spaces of time.
Since then I worked on the UK tour at the O2 in London, LG Arena in Birmingham, Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield and the Phones4U Arena in Manchester. It’s great to be part of the team and the excitement and atmosphere of each night can’t be described – you have to be there:
Posted in Music, Schools, Singing, Uncategorized
Tagged Clare Edwards, Connie Talbot, Diana Bunici, Dublin, Gearoid Grant, Tabby Callaghan, Young Voices, YV Hallelujah Concerts