By Jamie Howell, MMus Composition. On Monday 5th December the audience in Turner Sims were treated to an extraordinary new piece which seamlessly blended dance, live instrumental performance, electro-acoustic recordings and theatre. The work, entitled ‘Rituals To Mould Her With’, was a collaborative composition devised by composers Litha & Effy Efthymiou, harpsichordist Jane Chapman, actor Esmé Patey-Ford and dancer Harriet Parker-Beldeau. It arose from a multi-disciplinary research group at the University of Bristol who are working on liturgy from 8th century Spain and focused on the portrayal of Mary as an idealised woman and the subsequent effect of this on society through the ages. The brilliantly realised performance moved between moments of quiet stillness, ritualistic formality and harrowing struggle. It was a beautiful and provocative experience which will live with me for some time.
After the performance the whole team spoke to the assembled postgraduate music students about the process of developing the piece, and led a stimulating discussion which mostly centred on the ways that cross-disciplinary artists can work together collaboratively. This was followed by the group workshopping and performing pieces by two MMus students; Mark Wiseman and myself. My piece was up first and any apprehension I had was quickly dissolved by the commitment and seriousness with which the performers approached my work. As well as being virtuosic in their given areas they were all very easy to work with and created an atmosphere which was conducive to getting creative work done. I was very pleased with how my piece turned out. The performers brought so much to it that I couldn’t have imagined myself.
Mark had devised a piece which brilliantly integrated the parts of the dancer and harpsichordist such that during the performance they both took on the shifting roles of leader, follower and collaborator. It was refreshing to see a piece conceived for music and dance which did not follow the traditional pattern of ‘dance choreographed to music’ but instead made the two performers interdependent equals. The piece provoked a good deal of in depth discussion about how such processes can be made to work and what is important when composing a ‘game piece’.
I left the hall on a high after the workshop; it is not often I get to experience such a range of emotions and creative works in one day. I look forward to the next one.