PREPARE for a once-in-a-lifetime union of music, creative lighting and architecture on Thursday in York Minster.
If you have ever contemplated lying on your back in the Central Nave after hours and letting the music take control, then I Fagiolini’s second choral concert of the night will provide that opportunity in an illuminated performance from 10.15pm to 11pm.
As part of the 2012 York Early Music Festival, I Fagiolini will be joined by the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, Rose Consort of Viols, Fretwork, The City Musick and University of York Chamber Choir for two promenade concerts on Thursday.
The first, from 8.30pm to 9.30pm, will have no fixed seating; the aforementioned second one will be more informal, having no seating at all, and will be illuminated by a conceptual lighting design by Joe Brook, from the National Media Museum in Bradford.
The promenade concerts have been commissioned by imove, the Cultural Olympiad creative programme in Yorkshire, to explore the art of human movement in the countdown to the London 2012 Olympics.
The concerts will be conducted by I Fagiolini director Robert Hollingworth, who incidentally will be moving to York later this year to take up his post as a reader in music in the University of York music department from October.
In his York Minster debut, he will take the baton for concerts that promise “kaleidoscopic textures” of voices, wind instruments, strings and brass in Striggio’s Ecce Beatam Lucem and experimental 1561 work Mass In 40 Parts, Tallis’s Spem In Alium and Gabrieli’s Magnificat setting for seven choirs.
Audience members are encouraged to let the music flow over them or to feel free to be guided by the performers in a chance to experience the music from different locations: close up, far away, in front, behind and in between.
“We’ve had a few goes at these works,” says Robert. “We got together for the first time to record Striggio and Tallis in October 2010 and that was like a meeting of the clans. Anyone who is anyone in Early Music in Britain was there, and we then performed the Striggio work in 2011 in San Lorenzo.”
Robert was keen to expand the performance still more. “As well as my professional work, I’ve always worked with amateurs too and I wanted to put professionals and amateurs together because the higher level they perform at, the more they’ll get a kick out of it and it will affect their music-making.”
Robert applied successfully for Legacy Trust UK and Arts Council England funding for five performances at Kings College, Cambridge. Bath Abbey, Tewkesbury Abbey and St Augustine’s, Kilburn, and York Minster, the only one to feature a university choir.
“The Legacy Trust came on board with the imove idea, using light and music, and after we started talking about the lighting, I realised it would still be quite light for 8.30pm performance as it’s midsummer, but I wondered if we could make the programme shorter and a little different for a darker second performance,” says Robert, whose baton will be lit up for the 10.15pm concert, when only one part of Striggio’s Mass, Agnus II, will feature alongside the other works.
You may be surprised to learn that despite the cathedral setting, the number of musicians and the scale of Striggio and Tallis’s works, Robert considers Thursday’s concerts to be intimate. “Being able to walk among the musicians will make it intimate,” he emphasises.
Next week, Robert and I Fagiolini will be in North Yorkshire again to link up with the Australian company Circa for two nights of choral singing and acrobatic circus skills in How Like An Angel at Ripon Cathedral at 9pm on Thursday and 8pm and 10pm on Friday as part of the Harrogate Festival.
York box office, 01904 658338 or ncem.co.uk; Harrogate Festival box office, 01423 502116 or harrogateinternationalfestivals.com