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J


onathan, how did the Voice Project start eight years ago?


THE


ARMS OF


26 / MAY 2017 / OUTLINEONLINE.CO.UK SLEEP


The Voice Project started eight years ago, the brainchild of Sian Croose and Jon Baker. A choir made up of non professional Norwich singers, performing newly composed pieces of choral music in unusual settings. What’s not to love about all this? They’ve done spectacular works at City Hall, Norwich Cathedral, Holkham Hall and the Sainsbury Centre. What’s next? Why, a sleepover at The Assembly House for five nights for 40 members of the public, who will be sung to throughout the night as they drift in and out of sleep with additional visuals by Sal Pittmann, all as part of Norfolk & Norwich Festival of course. And natch, a tasty breakfast in the morning. No doubt another unique, innovative and much talked about experience created by The Voice Project. I spoke to Jon about how it all began and where the hell they’re getting 40 beds from.


It’s a collaboration between myself and Sian Croose. We’d been working together for years doing vocal work for people all over the country. We wanted to set up an organisation that brought new music to people with no experience – newly commissioned works by eminent composers who hadn’t perhaps written for voice before, performed by people who didn’t necessarily think they could sing or read music or have any musical background at all. It was a challenge on both sides really. We wanted to work with text, ideas, themes and philosophy, things like birth, death, time, flight, astronomy, community, democracy and other big subjects, but to make them quite small and accessible. As we went on we wanted to do more in terms of placing the performances into more of a theatrical context and with more of a site specific concept. Basically what we like doing is animating big spaces with large scale newly written choral music with a theatrical edge. I know it’s an open choir which means really anyone can join. What if someone just can’t sing in tune or time? Some people come to the choir who haven’t sung for 30 or 40 years. It can be a problem but our choir practices are as much about teaching singing as learning a piece. We worth with rhythm and pitch, and I’ve found that there are genuinely very few people who can’t do it. Te worst one is when people have been told they can’t


sing by a parent or teacher and so they’ve assumed it. But they can do it, and it’s an amazing experience sometimes for someone to realise that they can sing after all. How can the people of Norwich get involved with it? We usually hold a taster session for each big project that we do so people can get an idea of whether or not they’d like to do it. Tere are about 150 people signed up to the choir but not everyone is in every project – it depends on whether you fancy it or not, there’s no pressure. It’s not a static choir – life sometimes gets in the way! Te Arms of Sleep is a very exciting concept for NNF17 – how did you come up with the idea and how long has it taken to develop it from beginning to end? I’ve wanted to do this for a long time, we just had to work out how to do it, and why. Well, we just thought it would be a really beautiful experience, wouldn’t it magical to do something like this. Te NNF thought it was a great idea and so over the last couple of years we’ve been writing it and coming up with ideas and going on site visits. We went to see a sleep scientist at Sussex University and he got very excited about it and we talked about sleep cycles and what kinds of states people get into during the night. He’s been really helpful. We’re doing it for five nights here and then another few nights at the Brighton Festival next year. On a practical note, where are you getting 40 beds from for the event, and how will you deal with snorers? Also, what’s for breakfast? We want people to be comfortable – we are


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