The white space erupted with the sound of a hundred voices; soaring to heights and rumbling in the depths. The music was Orlando Gough’s new composition The Red Volcano commissioned for the opening of Turner Contemporary, to be premiered next month.
The performance will coincide with the inaugural exhibition at which the Turner master piece depicting the eruption of the Souffrier Mountain on the Island of St. Vincent in 1812 will be exhibited.
The choir has been formed by Thanet District Council and the project is called The BIG Sing! I and a hundred others have been rehearsing under the musical direction of Tony Castro an eminent conductor, composer and musician. Tony is well known for his work in the West End, at the Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. The rehearsals have been fun and exciting.
The rehearsal on 9 March took place in a bare white painted room at the new art gallery, and on this occasion Orlando Gough himself introduced the singers to his commissioned piece, The Red Volcano. He is a youthful fifty something and looks like a pop star. He is noted for projects written for ballet, contemporary dance and theatre. Surprisingly he is also a mathematician and has written an A level text book!
The composition is modern and challenging both for the singers and the audience. It describes in sound the peaceful island just before the eruption with bird song and sugar cane fields. It goes on to describe in sound the rumbling and eruption of the volcano followed by the sounds of the field workers panic and flight from the path of the lava flow and ends in grey volcanic ash.
It is difficult to describe the feeling of exhilaration and excitement in that room. Not used to modern composition with its minimalism and discords many of us felt puzzled at first. But by the time we left we were all Orlando’s disciples.
To all the knockers of the Turner Contemporary art gallery, I’d say this; I believe it is the most significant event to have happened in Thanet, and arts and cultural projects such as The BIG Sing! are just a beginning. Thanet has got talent and the Turner could well be the cultural centre of the South East.
The Red Volcano by Orlando Gough will have its world premiere at Turner Contemporary on Snday 17 April and will be performed again on Saturday 23rd April 2011 at 2.30pm and 4.30pm.
Orlando has written and performed across the world, writing mostly for the theatre. He also creates and directs large-scale site specific choral pieces.