REVIEW: Voices from No Man's Land

REVIEW: Voices from No Man's Land

REVIEW: Voices from No Man's Land

First published in Entertainments

TO commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the First World War, Salisbury Festival commissioned a new work from composer Lucy Pankhurst.

Part installation, part concert performance, the sound of massed male voices was already ringing out as we entered the Cloisters.

There is a collective poignancy about this sound, and the use of older songs, particularly carols, mixed with new songs, gave an added layer of depth and thoughtfulness.

The chorus was split into two groups facing each other across the cloisters in an antiphonal use of space, and there was an electronic soundscape that included sound effects of birdsong, explosions, ambient sound and readings of letters and poems from the war.

The audience was free to wander or sit as they wished, and experience the work from different perspectives, with the choruses and brass players also moving at times, and the indefatigable Howard Moody presiding over everything.

Unfortunately, there were some very officious ushers who somewhat undermined the contemplative nature of the event, but they couldn’t detract from the quality of the work.

The piece felt loose in structure - although was probably highly organised.

Some unexpected comic moments appeared, where carols rang out against marching songs and brass.

And a pair of mallard ducks wandered about, seemingly unconcerned about all the noises around them.

The final carol, where all sang united together (The Brothers Carol), and where we heard English, French, German, Dutch and Russian languages all being sung simultaneously in the centre grassed area, was beautiful and very moving.

A great way to commemorate this important anniversary and, at the time of our recent elections, reminded us how easy it is for a society to slide towards intolerance and fear.

SARAH COLLINS

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