Soprano soloist Mary Bevan (Gabriel) and director Patrick Kinmonth are interviewed on BBC Radio 3 In Tune about our Creation production:
"I would recommend it to anyone who was going to a classical concert for the first time, as it is creative and innovative, and strays away from the traditional idea of a ‘sit and listen’ classical oratorio concert in a church."
"I loved the performance. It was so much better than I expected it to be. I was very much into it! I couldn't stop smiling on so many occasions. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!"
"It really was a great wonder to see this performance. It uplifted me and made me want to work harder as a musician. It changed how I feel about classical music and made it easier for everyone to connect with."
"I enjoyed it so much! It made me feel really connected with the music and the emotions it created. Now I know that I enjoy it a lot more when it’s live and I can see the musicians."
"I enjoyed it. I felt it challenged my expectations of what performance should be."
"I really enjoyed it. It was new and it made me feel alive. For sure it changed my view of classical music!"
"I recently went to see Vocal Futures perform Haydn's Creation in London. Being a pop musician steeped in the music of the late-Twentieth Century I was expecting a work of antiquity, somewhat dusty and dated. What I got was an exhilarating performance combined with cutting edge visual presentation. It made for a spectacular introduction to a work I might otherwise have ignored. Suzi Digby and the young singers of Vocal Futures have a fantastic energy and dynamism. I look forward to seeing all their upcoming productions."
"Working on Haydn's Creation with Vocal Futures really brought the piece alive for me in so many ways, but it was particularly inspirational to work with and meet the young people involved in the project, those in the choir and those in the audience. Having been exposed to classical music from an early age myself and knowing the benefits it brought me, I was happy to be performing to such a youthful and enthusiastic audience."
"The performance of The Creation was truly fantastic! It brought Haydn to life instrumentally, vocally and visually in a novel and exciting performance by amazing young artists, using the stark architectural setting to its fullest potential. It was a privilege to join the many young people in the audience mesmerised by this production. Stunning!"
"As a London Youth Choir Scholar, I have had the privilege of being able to be involved in the vocal futures programme. Having participated in classical music from a young age, I often find it difficult to imagine that so many others have never experienced the joy of classical singing. At the workshops I attended, I saw only a small fraction of the many young people in the programme, but I can honestly say that all who I saw were inspired by the music they heard and by the enthusiasm of the people involved in the project. It is a fantastic idea which has been brilliantly executed, and I can only hope that vocal futures will continue to inspire young people for many years to come."
This was a Creation that took rather longer than the six days. Vocal Futures, the foundation set up by Suzi Digby, has been working on Haydn’s oratorio since October. It’s the follow-up to the company’s 2011 St Matthew Passion, and a similar model has been used. Some 300 “young ambassadors” with little or no experience of classical music have been gathered from schools and colleges and given the “full Haydn”, working with musicians, musicologists and even scientists (the original creation did require some physics, after all) to understand more about The Creation but also about what it takes to create it. They’ll now get six months to attend more concerts and workshops free of charge.
From my seat in Ambika P3, which is what the University of Westminster’s industrial basement is now called, it was pretty clear who in the audience were the backers and who were the ambassadors. The good news was that the performers were also bolstered by an infusion of youth: both the chorus and orchestra — grandly but precisely conducted by Digby — included young performers who were being mentored by professionals alongside them.
I’d have liked to have heard those zesty players and singers with a bit more immediacy than this performance allowed. With the orchestra shunted to one side to accommodate Patrick Kinmonth’s production, they were provided with “ambient amplification”, which tended to flatten out the score’s range of colours and dynamic contrasts. The radio mikes attached to the excellent singers, among them David Stout, Mary Bevan and a particularly lovely Adam and Eve from Jonathan McGovern and Charlotte Beament, certainly sent their arias and duets pinging around the vast space, but reduced the character of their voices.
Kinmonth’s abstract, inoffensive staging is full of many thoughtful moments — I particularly liked the dancers’ slowly waving hands as grass growing on the third day — although it ultimately draws on a limited range of line-ups and gestures. It left me basking in Haydn’s humanist glow, but not continually arrested. One more performance tonight (Friday).
There were two forces of nature at this dramatised version of Haydn’s oratorio The Creation. One was Suzi Digby. She was the prime mover behind this latest stage of her campaign to get young people involved inclassical music.
The other was the work itself. The story of the Creation over seven days is pictured in Haydn’s oratorio with awe-inspiring power, and delightful naivety.
The idea that this could somehow be represented in the very bleak surroundings of a disused industrial facility — just a bare concrete box with some raised platforms and metal stairways — seems pretty far-fetched.
But this is to reckon without the gifts of director Patrick Kinmonth. The only set he needed was a newly constructed raised walkway, bisecting the audience. The only materials he needed were human bodies in motion. These were provided by members of the chorus, the five soloists, plus nine actors and dancers. Kinmonth used these minimal resources with endless inventiveness.
In the gloom of the opening Representation of Chaos, the writhings of bodies represented inert matter. As light dawned, they appeared to be woken by Gabriel, played and sung with lovely radiant guilelessness by Mary Bevan. When Haydn referred to the firmament, the chorus’s pointing fingers, tracing a slow arc, raised it up in our mind’s eye. Later, when the “winged fowls” came on the scene, a single feather stood in for them. This represented wings, flight, and finally a quill pen (in the hand of David Stout, vocally impressive as Raphael).
Only one of Kinmonth’s ideas contradicted the music, but in such a thought-provoking way one couldn’t object. As the chorus and orchestra rejoiced at the creation of Man, a baleful-looking figure placed an apple in Gabriel’s unwilling hand, which she displayed to us with a meaning look. The sin that would lead to Man’s fall was lying in wait.