Holkham estate hosts musical spectacle inspired by memory

NNF14 The Voice Project rehearse for their performance of Souvenir at Holkham Hall. Photo: JMA Photography. NNF14 The Voice Project rehearse for their performance of Souvenir at Holkham Hall. Photo: JMA Photography.

Thursday, May 15, 2014
6:50 PM

The majesty of north Norfolk’s Holkham Hall and its glorious surrounds are the setting for a new musical spectacle inspired by memory.

Arts correspondent Emma Knights finds out more from The Voice Project’s co-director Sian Croose.

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NNF14 - The Voice Project rehearsal for Souvenir at Holkham Hall. Photo: JMA Photography.NNF14 - The Voice Project rehearsal for Souvenir at Holkham Hall. Photo: JMA Photography.

They have performed in and around the streets of Norwich, among the architectural splendour of Norwich Cathedral, and in the ruins of St Benet’s Abbey, and now members of The Voice Project are to perform against the backdrop of the Holkham estate.

The Norwich-based open access choir’s latest production – Souvenir – will see music inspired by the themes of memory and imagination animate everywhere from the estate’s grand Marble Hall to its beautiful lake and woodland areas as the promenade production takes its audience on a musical walk through one of Norfolk’s most beautiful settings.

“It will be a new experience of an extraordinary setting if you have been before, and if you haven’t been to Holkham before we will introduce you to an extraordinary place with words and music and spectacle,” said Sian Croose, who has devised and directed Souvenir with Jonathan Baker.

“We have got some great ingredients - the choir, vocal soloists, a fantastic brass quartet and a percussionist - all the ingredients will go together to create a whole world of music.”

NNF14 The Voice Project rehearse for their performance of Souvenir at Holkham Hall. Photo: JMA Photography.NNF14 The Voice Project rehearse for their performance of Souvenir at Holkham Hall. Photo: JMA Photography.

More than 150 people have been rehearsing for the show since March. “It’s the biggest choir we have had, which is good because there is a big space to fill,” said Sian.

“When you are working outside with voices it is very different to creating a concert where people are in a hall sitting in their seats.

“As soon as you take things outside it changes. What is great for us is that we have got a lot of voices which we can put in the different settings. You have also got the things that you cannot predict – one of the pieces might be performed by the choir and also some ducks – if the ducks decide to quack during the performance!”

The music for Souvenir is by Jonathan Baker, Helen Chadwick, Orlando Gough and Karen Wimhurst, and the words are by Esther Morgan, Tom Warner and Martin Figura. “We asked the composers and poets to write on themes of memory and imagination,” said Sian.

“It’s not a centenary piece for 1914 but that is obviously in people’s minds. There is also that idea of the landscape holding the memories and all the people that have passed through.”

She added: “It’s not a piece of theatre with specific stories, it’s about impressions. The idea is that it means something different to everybody.”

She said one of the reasons memory was chosen as the theme was because of it’s connections with music.

“I think song is very much a part of people’s memory processes, often song lyrics and tunes are hugely memorable.

“Music plays a huge part in how we experience our lives,” Sian said.

The Voice Project - which won an EDP People’s Choice Award at last year’s Norfolk Arts Awards - performs each year at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival.

Sian said: “I’d like to say how fantastic it is that the festival gives us the space and support to create these new pieces of community work. It means that each year we can develop something new that stretches us and is exciting. The festival’s vision and support makes a huge difference.”

Souvenir is supported by Writers’ Centre Norwich.

• Souvenir is at Holkham Hall on Saturday, May 17, at 3pm, 5.30pm and 8pm. Tickets £16. Visit www.nnfestival.org.uk

• For more NNF Festival Focus features click here.

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