Vocal Futures is very sorry to learn of the death of its President, Sir Colin Davis CH CBE HonDMus. He was an inspiration, and a wonderful supporter of our cause. May he rest in peace.
“I have listened to the St. Matthew Passion and have the following to say: A moving,visionary and dramatic musical experience that crystalises the heart of the meaning of the text – outlined in St Matthew’s account of the Passion of Christ. The vehicle for all this shines through the sublime, peerless and uniquely inspired performance given by all the collaborating artists led by Suzi Digby. I’ve heard a lot of performances but nothing that rivals this one.”
As broadcast on Friday 6th April 2012, telegraph.co.uk/culture
A moving,visionary and dramatic musical experience that crystalises the heart of the meaning of the text – outlined in St Matthew’s account of the Passion of Christ. The vehicle for all this shines through the sublime, peerless and uniquely inspired performance given by all the collaborating artists led by Suzi Digby.
I’ve heard a lot of performances but nothing that rivals yours.
- Philip Herbert FRSA MA B.Ed Hons LRAM ARCM
Take a look at this: ABRSM with Vocal Futures – and an interview with Suzi:
Suzi says: “Suggestions please as to how this could feed into classical music performance!”
A well-expressed perspective! Post us your views via Facebook and Twitter.
With the highest possible production values and musical standards, Vocal Futures presents great choral, multi-media works in unusual spaces and unites with youth organisations across London and beyond to deliver imaginative and ambitious ‘Induction’ programmes to 300 ‘Young Ambassadors’. These prepare them for our life-changing, transfigurative productions, at which they mix with the general public, our sponsors and the musicians. We evaluate the impact and ‘track’ the YAs for 6 months (through our team of leading music psychologists), giving them a rich follow-up menu of top quality public concerts and an international social network platform to nurture their new-found passion for Classical Music. These are the audiences of the future.
By re-imaging Classical Music and creating a dynamic, strategic blueprint for arts organisations worldwide, Vocal Futures is helping to ensure a healthy, safe future for great Classical Music as well as bringing a new dimension to young lives.
Our first production, one of the greatest musical works of all time, J.S. Bach’s Matthew Passion, stunned the YAs. What three of them said:
‘I have begun to appreciate what goes into this kind of music and how difficult it is. Very inspiring.’
‘It felt good to try something new and it’s a great experience. I never thought that I would get to try something like this.’
I couldn’t believe it was over 3 hours long- I completely lost track of time…’
‘I really want to go again..and bring my friends…’
The event was a success and absoluetly ace – awesomeness! Two thumbs up and a peace sign!
St Matthew passion was incredible, a really emotional experience. I’d definitlely do it again.
Peer to peer, the Vocal Futures Young Ambassadors are helping us to unlock the secrets of ‘leading the young horse to water ensuring it is thirsty when it gets there (induction), watching it grow red bull wings as it drinks (life-changing Vocal Futures performance) and flies into its future, landing from time to time for a re-fill (a lifetime of concerts)!
‘The performance of the St Matthew Passion, staged by Patrick Kinmonth and conceived and conducted by Suzi Digby, was one of the most inspirational evenings I can remember. The power and theatre and passion of Bach’s music, combined some of the greatest vocalists in the world, both solo and choral, with a virtual choir of ‘Young Ambassadors’, almost all of whom were new to “classical” music. This made for a performance that caused the hairs to rise on the back of the neck from the first bars to the great close. It was beyond wonderful to see the Young Ambassadors in the audience (watching themselves in the projected Virtual Choir video for the final chorale) overcome by a music that might have at first glance seemed irrelevant to those of us who are secular and very 21st century. But the power and the infinite emotional depths of the Bach’s masterpiece clearly inspired those singers as much as it did the mesmerised audience. If the Vocal Futures model does not provide a visionary example of how to develop the young audiences of the future, nothing will.
The Daily Telegraph – Saturday, 3 DecemberAn enduring passion for Bach – Damian ThompsonThis week I attended an amazing performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. It was an appropriate time of year to hear the piece: Bach’s thorny harmonies reminded us that Advent is a penitential season. The setting was nicely sinister: an underground warehouse near Baker Street. One choir was behind me, the other opposite, and the staging dragged us into the action. The evangelist would start singing into my left ear, then push past on his way to the action. Suzi Digby conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment as part of her Vocal Futures scheme to introduce classical music to young people. I don’t know about them, but I felt I was hearing the Passion for the first time. I still haven’t recovered.
…Digby and this inaugural Vocal Future projects have made quite the start and quite the statement. I only hope someone in government is listening.
It was AMAZING. I cried when the digital Choir came on- it was genius. The music was awesome and the staging inspired. I loved it all. I am wearing my “I’ve got the Passion” t shirt….
Many thanks, Suzi – we are very proud indeed, and you should be even more so !!
Very well deserved !!
What a triumph. Well done. Only you could pull it off. This is really fantastic. Enjoy the wonderful reviews.
My guests and I were enthralled by the performance last night. It was fantastic. I can’t imagine how exhausted you must all be, but it really is worth it. My teenage guests have been impassioned!
Congratulations to everyone involved.
Just to say a huge congrats on last night’s performance. Not just your vision for the whole extraordinary project, and indeed the future of young people’s attitudes to Western Classical music, but also for your tour de force performance yourself. I was sitting in the first half right opposite you in the balcony, so got a bird’s eye view. You showed us you clearly adored the music, and gave it great fluidity and expansiveness that was just right for the space. Whilst the choirs and orchestra sounded nigh perfect, it was your melding of these forces together with the soloists that wowed me most. I honestly don’t think the piece could ever have been given a better musical performance in semi-staged format.What a fantastic accomplishment. Congratulations to all concerned.
A wonderful evening with the most memorable performance of Bach’s St Mathew’s Passion I have ever heard and seen (and certainly the first scenic-pantomimic-high tech one on a former industrial site!)
I expected an enjoyable evening and very much believe in your cause.
But “enjoyable” is hardly the right world.
It was extraordinary!!! The voices were glorious, the chorus so beautiful, and the orchestra a delight. I felt your interpretation got the “pace” absolutely right (some conductors seem to think the tragedy demands a more ponderous sound, which emotionally is much less satisfying)
It was all such a joy.
You and your collaborators were absolutely magnificent this evening!
That was absolutely magnificent in every way. Thank you so much. What a treat.
A tour de force, a triumph and so utterly utterly moving
Congratulations on an extraordinary achievement!
I thought I knew the Passion very well, but there were many new insights. Although I remain loyal to the Bach Choir performing tradition, it was a great privilege to look at it from a quite different perspective. The most important thing was the way the story-telling, the arias, and the chorales were all integrated into a single, dramatic vision of the work.Knowing how difficult the ensemble can be even with a static performance, I was impressed by the co-ordination of all the performers under your direction, even when there was so much movement going on. Even the notoriously tricky final chorus of the first part worked well, and I liked the idea of the chorus symbolically abandoning the scene (in the same way as does the music).
What to say? the performance was vibrant, so moving a feast for the ear and visually, you should be so very proud. I was thrilled this morning to open the Evening Standard and read the piece on the real crux of Vocal Futures.
What an amazing project. I was transfixed by the moving tale and your wonderful soloists and actors. The double evangelist and alto renditions were very imaginative and worked so well. You are so brilliant to have brought it all off.
Congratulations – enjoy your well deserved success.
Just wanted to express my heartfelt enthusiasm for yesterday’s performance, thank you – what a huge achievement. The music making was simply fantastic and so was the organisation. Bravo!!”
“I just wanted to congratulate you on a very powerful performance last night. The evening could not have been better. My daughters were totally impressed by your music and your stamina (their advantage over me is that they have a formal knowledge of western music). I was in India on 29th November, determined to make it back in time for your performance. To avoid any hassles at Heathrow I took a flight to Paris and then the train in from there, to arrive just a few hours ahead of ‘curtain up’. I was so absorbed by the wonderful performance that I quite forgot my tiredness, and together with my two daughters stayed to enjoy the entire evening. We all three loved the music and the staging”
“WOW that was incredible last night!!”
“ We loved the performance, thought it was amazing and very moving.
Suzi was incredible.”
“it is very seldom that an evening has stayed in my mind for so long after the event”
What a triumph! You are such an inspiration. It was a truly amazing performance and utterly moving. Huge congratulations for your vision, sheer will power in bringing it to fruition.
What an outstanding production, it was overwhelmingly beautiful. I am sure
that you have been inundated with congratulations, but I just wanted to add
It was an amazing evening, it was completely unforgettable and my wife was entranced also
and had nothing but the highest praise. Thank you.
Bravo! It was a tour de force . A brillant production I loved the staging it was stark and dramatic and the voices divine- it seems criminal for it only to have had three nights but how happy I am to have made the last night and especially delighted to have shared it with Zoe (17) who was “bowled over ” by it all!
I am sure you have been showered with so many plaudits from so many many people, but I just wanted to add my name humbly to the list!!
That was simply awesome!!! Awesome!!! I was blown away, riveted for the full three hours with my 16 year old son!! The brilliance of the unique production, with the choral group seemingly participating within the audience, the quality of the orchestra and voices, the superb conducting, the connection with us all… I could go on!!! (Could have fallen in love with Helen-Jane’s singing, including “my” aria!) And what’s more, to have seen you from afar putting it all together! You are one special person and I know very few people who could have even conceived of this project, never mind pulled it off!!!! …. So very very well!!! I am left so very proud and happy to have been a small part in your project and look forward to where this will lead!! WOW!! Well done!!!
What a tremendous achievement! How lucky we were to be there on wednesday to hear and see such a wonderful profound and moving production. Many many congratulations.
Thanks so much for the beautiful music tonight….Sublime. I’m totally inspired
(after 2nd consequtive night) Amazing, amazing suzi, i’d come again tomorrow night if it was on! Thank you for the delight.
What a triumph! I’m so happy to have been part of it, You must be so thrilled with everything – you are a wizard indeed!
Your achievement is stupendous , and this week was the most incredible culmination of a brilliantly conceived , and now flawless project of the highest quality. I have had the music in my head ever since Wednesday , and am listening to it now : it was incredibly enriching to see the staging of the narrative , but the singing and conducting were sublime and the praise in the press ( again in the telegraph today) are totally deserved. To commission a new translation was outrageously ambitious , but so successful. You deserve the richest admiration for inspiring so many at every level of the project , but also for such a wonderful musical achievement .I am sure this is only the beginning!”
Dear Suzi, Alinka, Martin Neary has offered the attached comments
into the evaluation. He is happy for them to be circulated within the
Vocal Futures team, but we should probably think carefully before
doing more with them at this point, particularly the comments about
the young people. Best, John.
What a wonderful way of being
introduced to one of the greatest works of music ever written!
The chorales sounded fresh, and the undoubted masterstroke was the inclusion of a recording of the final Passion chorale sung by the youngsters, while a video mosaic of their faces gradually appeared on the floor.
Millions of congrats on last night. Amazing sound, very immediate. Loved dramatic spacing of choirs and venue worked brilliantly.
What a stupendous performance! It was a wonderful evening
Congratulations! I have heard glowing accounts of your concert, You worked so hard, and very much deserve your success, delighted to be at such a ground-breaking performance, and simply loved it. Well done for this triumph – you have been fantastic in every way.
From the USA:
Hear marvelous reports about the St Matthew, Congratulations on the fabulous press clippings and the monumental undertaking and success. Wish I could have been in attendance.”
I attended the performance twice, on Monday and Wednesday. Both were
fantastic, but Wednesday’s had that extra something that made it an
even more memorable, and moving, evening. Quite apart from the
experience of the Young Ambassadors (and that is something for us to
systematically explore now), there were clearly many experienced adult
audience members in the room for whom this was a “peak experience”.
The Peter sequence into Erbarme Dich could hardly have left a dry eye
in the room.
What a privelege to have been a small part of this.
I just wanted to write to you to say I thoroughly enjoyed the St Matthew Passion concert on Tuesday evening. Congratulations to you on a wonderful performance. It was very moving and I am pleased to see it was well received by the press as well.
What an achievement!! I am in TOTAL admiration!!”- Pianist, Melvyn Tan
Now that the dust has settled a little after the Matthew Passion performances, I just wanted to write and let you know how much I enjoyed being part of the project. It was a thrilling experience to be part of such exciting performances of the piece, and to be part of what is obviously a very important and inspiring drive to encourage young people into experiencing live classical music. It was also brilliant to sing in a chorus with so many fantastic singers around. The experience of sitting in quartets was fantastic too, making everyone take real responsibility for their part and sing like consort singers even in the context of a larger chorus. As I said earlier, this made each performance very exciting and rewarding.
I look forward to keeping up-to-date with the research outcomes in the coming months via the VF website and I hope that I may be involved with the project again as it develops in the future
We were all completely blown away…it was so utterly beautiful!The movement and staging was superb!
Everyone was unaminous in their praise for the amazingly powerful interpretation of the Passion and the wonderful voices of the singers. It really was an extraordinarly moving experience and I feel honoured to have been involved.
My wife and I together with daughter and grandaughter considered it a privilege to be in the audience for your first performance last evening at Ambika P3. The transformation of the venue was brilliant, the production stunning and the standard of singing superb. The orchestra too was similarly impressive and the concept of “all in it together” inspirational
I have been listening to Matthew Passion every day now since the wonderful performance
From this week’s Saturday Telegraph:
This week I attended an amazing performance of Bach’s St Matthew Passion. It was an appropriate time of year to hear the piece: Bach’s thorny harmonies reminded us that Advent is a penitential season. The setting was nicely sinister: an underground warehouse near Baker Street. One choir was behind me, the other opposite, and the staging dragged us into the action. The evangelist would start singing into my left ear, then push past on his way to the action. Suzi Digby conducted the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment as part of her Vocal Futures scheme to introduce classical music to young people. I don’t know about them, but I felt I was hearing the Passion for the first time. I still haven’t recovered.
Putting on a dramatized version of Bach’s “St. Matthew” Passion would seem a big enough challenge on its own. But for musical polymath Suzi Digby, it has served as a launch pad for a large-scale project whose aim is introduce disadvantaged youth worldwide to classical music.
She has raised prodigious amounts of money to do so and recruited 1,500 “young ambassadors” for one of the biggest social experiments the music world has ever seen.
The scheme, entitled Vocal Futures, aims to connect classical music with people who are least likely to encounter it in its normal environment. “Hard to reach” is the kind of challenge that Digby relishes, fired up by her own early experience of Bach’s work. “The ‘Matthew’ Passion blew my world apart when I was 17,” she told Classical Music magazine. “The piece has grown inside me ever since, pushing my horizons of what art can say about human expression. The greatest works of art have that power.”
Vocal Futures kicked off with three performances of the “Matthew” Passion on Nov. 28, 29, 30 with Patrick Kinmonth as director and designer. The event took place in a wacky venue known as Ambika P3. Despite its central London location, its original function was to test concrete in preparation for the building of a particularly labyrinthine road junction near Birmingham known as Spaghetti Junction.
After these London performances, the project is planned for Los Angeles, Cologne, Shanghai and Johannesburg.
Dramatizing the Passions remains a tricky assignment, though no longer a rare one. In 2000 Deborah Warner offered food for thought in a controversial version of the “St. John” at English National Opera; in 2007 director Katie Mitchell stirred it up with a “St. Matthew” for Glyndebourne; and in 2010 Peter Sellars staged a “St. Matthew” for the Berlin Philharmonic. But first in the modern dramatized Passion queue was Jonathan Miller, who presented the “St. Matthew” in a London church in 1993, a production that has recently been revived at the National Theater.
In its original church staging, it was a gloriously intimate experience, the actors and singers interacting with the instrumentalists in a truly memorable way. Miller’s production provides a standard against which all others should be judged.
Truth to tell, for all its strengths, drama was perhaps the least memorable part of the Vocal Futures version, with the question “Why?” hanging over much of it. But then this is a production aimed not at late-middle-aged music critics but at young people meeting the music afresh. On the first night, there were not that many young faces in the audience, but during an eight-week run-up some 60 related workshops took place, the tangible evidence of which was a climactic moment when the floor was covered by the projected images of young people singing the great chorale “Wenn ich einmal soll scheiden” following Christ’s death.
It was very well handled, and more group participation of this kind would have been welcome. There was another moving moment following Peter’s denial, when he and Jesus stare at each other silently across a void.
The building was fully used, with many staircases populated by characters from the drama. Half the time you didn’t know whether they were latecomers or about to sing. The production gives young people cultural references aplenty, highlighting mob violence and deploying odd hand gestures. It must certainly be the first time St. Peter has been seen wearing a hoodie.
It was presumably also for the young audience that two of the disciples are seen making out while Jesus is praying and preparing for his death.
Whatever the effectiveness of the drama, musically this was on much surer ground, with a first-class cast and chorus and tremendous playing from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Suzi Digby is a sensitive and accomplished conductor, and there were whole arias where she had the humility to stand motionless and let the musicians make their own way.
They did so magnificently. The orchestra was placed on three sides of the playing area, with two banks of audience seats forming an amphitheatre. The front row of both seating areas was filled with the chorus, with extra singers sounding out at the beginning from higher in the building. It made for a highly involving aural experience, with the added quality of the soloists singing from all parts of the auditorium.
The chorus was the ABRSM Vocal Futures Consort, highlighting a collaboration with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music.
Willard White was exactly right for Christus, singing with great dignity and humility. The role of the Evangelist was split between Samuel Boden and Joshua Ellicott, both excellent, and the other members of a first-class cast were Robin Blaze, Catherine Hopper, Helen-Jane Howells, Andrew Tortise and Stephan Loges.
This “St. Matthew” Passion should be looked on not just as a performance piece but as the start of what could be something really big in music education. It is greatly to Suzi Digby’s credit that she has put together such a groundbreaking project, and even more so that she is not content just to present an experiment. She has commissioned one of the world’s leading authorities on music psychology, Professor John Sloboda, to research the young participants’ perceptions of classical music as the project unfolds. The results should make fascinating reading.
Wells music students are taking part in a ground-breaking education project to inspire a generation of classical music followers. Wells is the only school outside London to be chosen as part of Vocal Futures which involves 300 “young ambassadors”. 53 Wells students will be part of the virtual choir for Vocal Future’s first major project, Bach’s Matthew Passion. Vocal Futures, the brainchild of Suzi Digby (Lady Eatwell), has been set up to identify, involve and inspire young people, aged 16 to 22, to begin a lifelong relationship with classical music.
The performance of Matthew Passion will be staged in a disused concrete factory in London. The virtual choir will be projected on to the stage during the performance. 70 Wells students have been primed through the day of workshops to “hear” the Matthew Passion in an informed way.
“It was such a thrill and experience for the students to spend a day with Suzi Digby and to work on this innovative project,” said Dorothy Nancekievill, Director of Music. “They are all now excited about going to London to see the performance that they are involved with through the virtual choir.”
Vocal Futures also involves an ambitious research project. The young ambassadors will be tracked for six months after the Matthew Passion project is staged to determine if their attitude and behaviour towards classical concert-going has changed.
Suzi Digby said: “If any great classical work has the power to transfigure it is Bach’s Matthew Passion. Key to our vision is that this work and our ground-breaking project will not only open the eyes and ears of our 300 Young Ambassadors and their friends but also provide a model of good practice for caretakers of the classical tradition all over the world.”
From the Wells Cathedral School website