IN THE DARK :: EVOLUTION
FROM PLAINSONG TO POLYPHONY
Imagine the magical sensation of listening to exquisite choral music in complete darkness…
Following three sold-out performances in the popular series IN THE DARK (2016-2018), VOX Cape Town, under the direction of John Woodland and in collaboration with Biblioteek Productions and Youngblood Arts and Culture Development, returned to the Youngblood Gallery for a programme of rarely-performed music that traced the evolution of the choral tradition through the centuries.
From the monastic sounds of unaccompanied plainsong and the organum of the Middle Ages, to the Age of Discovery and the glorious flowering of harmony after 1500, major milestones in choral development were presented in works by Dufay, Palestrina, Thomas Tallis, John Sheppard and Thomas Tomkins. Together, these represented over 1 000 years of choral music in the cathedral-like space of the Youngblood Gallery, in complete darkness.
This recital was based on a lecture-demonstration that was presented by Grant McLachlan and VOX Cape Town at the UCT Summer School in January 2020 entitled “A Brief History of Harmony, the Universe, and Everything”. The initial performance on Wednesday 19 February sold out so rapidly that an extra performance (also sold out) was added on Friday 21 February 2020.
“I’m still in a daze of wonder at tonight’s VOX performance, magnificently delivered. Spectacular for soul and ears. I was lifted out of this troubled world into nether regions of human expression and supreme beauty. I’m especially thrilled that it’s so popular: that gives me hope for humanity! I bought two CDs which I shall also listen to in the dark. Looking forward to that. Thank you for this incredible experience, a shuttle back in time. Good on whoever came up with the idea of listening in the dark. I do it regularly at home but it’s new as a concert collective experience. The Darwin piece was brilliant too, nice ending.”
“We attended your performance last night at Youngblood Gallery, we are so impressed, so inspired, so touched, we loved it, the introduction so professionally done, we want to follow you and most important, we never ever want to miss any of your performances!”
Interview on Fine Music Radio's "Cape Diary" (7 February 2020)
We’ve all heard the story about the superhero who lost his sight and used his other heightened senses to fight crime. Well, I felt a lot like said superhero when I attended IN THE DARK, a collaboration between VOX Cape Town and Biblioteek Productions. It’s not because listening to an hour of choral music blindfolded turned me into a masked vigilante but because it gave me a superpower so many of us lack in today’s world: the ability to be fully present and engaged. The event, also produced in partnership with the host Youngblood Arts and Culture Development, was the fourth in a series of sold-out recitals. It took inspiration from a lecture-performance that was presented by Grant McLachlan and VOX Cape Town at the University of Cape Town Summer School at the start of 2020, tracing the evolution of choral music from plainsong to polyphony over a thousand years. To hear VOX Cape Town, whose 2018 performance of the Stabat Mater by Karl Jenkins moved me to tears, felt like being serenaded by angels, and was made all the more special by the absence of distractions. In a world so full of noise, it was profound to realise how much you can see when you close your eyes.
The ensemble hovered above the auditorium from a second level platform that extended thinly from the narrow brick walls. A faint seraphic halo projected against the upper ceiling while the silhouette of Woodland’s hands moved in choreographed waves of motion that brought gentle poetry to the flowering counterpoint of the music. (Read full review…)