This summer we’ve been touring our flagship programme Supersize Polyphony 360 with the Choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and their director of music, Dr Geoffrey Webber.
The concept is simple: take large scale 16th century polyphonic choral music and perform it with the audience encircled by the choir to create a completely immersive ‘surround sound’ experience. In practice, as our Artistic Director Christopher Monks confessed to the Birmingham Post, “it’s scary for the singers, terrifying for the conductor”.
The concert performances included Tallis’ Spem in Alium and Striggio’s Ecce Beatam Lucem interspersed with the ethereal chants of Hildegard of Bingen and other works of the period. We also sang Striggio’s rarely performed 60-part mass Ecco Si Beato Giorno for which local and community choirs swelled the ranks to provide the additional 20 parts.
Over 550 young people in Poole, Coventry, Solihull and Cambridge took part in workshops to learn a ‘part 41’ to the Striggio, specially written by our composer-in-residence Toby Young. They sang it alongside the professionals in front of an audience of parents.
“100 or so children (including 10 from my school, St Augustine’s in Radford) performed a specially commissioned 41st part. It was an amazing experience and the children were completely bowled over.” (Jac Mills on Facebook)
Our travels have taken us across England: we opened the Thaxted Festival, gave a concert in the beautiful Coventry Cathedral and performed under the stars at Petworth in Sussex. In between, we took to the airwaves on BBC Radio 3’s In Tune programme, surprised shoppers in Coventry with a pop-up performance, and made a recording for release in 2019 on the Signum label.
We’re hugely grateful to everyone involved in the project, and particularly to Arts Council England for funding it.