Footage from Exhibition Road tunnel performance – ADRIFT – InTRANSIT 2016

With Sing To Live, Live To Sing community groups and soloists from the London Contemporary Orchestra.

Walking down the long Exhibition Road tunnel on a quiet Monday night you felt that haunted feeling of goosebumps and cold shivers as the voices began to drift towards you. Unseen at first, the groups of transitory singers mingled with stray commuters who became part of the scene or stood to listen and watch in the centre of the tunnel where the acoustics of this mobile composition were superb.

Lead composer Haris Kittos, Professor of Composition at the nearby Royal College of Music, spoke to Final Note Magazine about the work:

“Harry Ross, who is running InTransit festival with Helen Scarlett O’Neill, asked me if I wanted to be involved with a project for community choirs for the refugee week in South Kensington; this was partly because I am Greek—I’ve seen lots of refugees in the streets of Athens and Thessaloniki who arrive from the islands or nearby camps. But also in fact, I myself come from refugee families too: my maternal grandparents were from Greek communities in Turkey, who had to flee after WWI and lost everything. On the other side, my paternal grandmother’s family was deported from Yugoslavia to Greek Macedonia, while my granddad Kittos was an immigrant teacher from a village in Cyprus that is now on the Turkish side.

Additionally, I teach in RCM, which is part of the South Kensington local community. So this was a unique opportunity to create music with local people (the choir is made up of groups from Sing to Live, Live to Sing) and make it a direct reaction to what’s happening in Europe at the moment. I also asked two of my RCM composition students, Lillie Harris and Dan McBride, to join me in the project, as they are both not only very talented with lots of fresh ideas, but they also have experience with outreach workshops and collaborating with various community activities.

The idea for Adrift centred on a moving installation of people inside a big space in South Kensington. So we immediately decided to have the choir singers walking while singing; in other words, a symbolic walk with groups of people drifting between destination points, forever searching. Also, we decided to keep it simple, just people walking and singing, with no additional effects or gimmicks.

The musical material for the piece came together with a full-day workshop that we did in May with the whole choir in the V&A Auditorium. This workshop was instrumental in deciding how to devise simple actions for the singers and put them together with aleatoric techniques in an open score. So the score was actually a list of instructions, four sets of musical actions and gestures, and plans for the walking routes—all memorised by the choir leaders, because we didn’t want the singers to have to carry a score while walking.

Overall, the choir splits into groups while performing an initial set of musical gestures. Then they walked from one point to the other, where they then stopped and, after a minute’s silence, started singing the next set of musical material and began to walk to the next destination point, and so on. I hope that it was a haunting piece that in some way reflected the travels and struggles of people who are forced to search for a safe place to live their lives.”

You can read the full article here:



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