Here All Night, Brighton Festival

The Old Market, Hove, May 18

Using the best of Samuel Beckett to compose a piece of theatre which follows “themes of age, love and that tormenting voice that plays inside us all,” was the aim of director Judy Hegarty Lovett.

What to say? It was a brilliant success – even those who hadn’t made a lifetime’s study of Beckett would have been enchanted by this seamless, thoughtful portrayal of the man’s voice and world through music, poetry and prose.

The clear soprano voice and sculptural, almost sepulchral face, of Melanie Pappenheim set the scene, as she intoned the “here all night” motif across the space, while the faun-like Caomhin O’Raghallaigh contributed his heavenly fiddle; Christopher Allen added gravitas with his cello; John Paul Gandy gave a virtuoso performance on piano; and a finely-pitched and perfectly rehearsed three-woman choir underpinned the musical side of things.

That said, it was the contribution of the charismatic Conor Lovett that gave the evening its raison d’etre. His at times authoritative, at others self-effacing, delivery of Beckett’s random ramblings gave you a gentle nudge towards a man whose genius lay in his ability to put into words those insecurities and uncomfortable truths which put the pain and, paradoxically the joy, into our collective humanity.

The Argus

 

This is a formally experimental work in four acts. Fragments of the novels are performed by Conor Lovett whilst solo soprano Melanie Pappenheim, accompanied by a trio chorus of female voice, cello, violin, and piano, performs an original score inspired by the music in Beckett’s work and composed by Paul Clarke. The music feels minimalist in aesthetic and mirrors the folding and re-folding patterns of Beckett’s texts. The artistry in this collected team is powerful: Pappenheim’s folkish soprano is stunningly fragile. Conor Lovett has a remarkable affinity to the turns and dogged playfulness of Beckett’s prose. His performance makes the text feel like real lines of thought, stripping out the sense of artificiality and over-thinking that can sometimes get in between the readers/audience and the insight, wit and comedy in the writing.

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Telegraph Review : H7steria, 'Hearing Voices'

04 Dec 2012
“Tending towards extreme emotion” is a dictionary definition of hysteria, and right now hysteria is in fashion in the arts.

.....Up to this point, the evening’s aspirations towards lip-smacking relish in horror seemed half-hearted at best, and they fell away completely with Jocelyn Pook’s Hearing Voices. Made in collaboration with director Emma Bernard, it was an exploration of female madness, based on the memoirs of sufferers incarcerated in asylums, including the composer’s own great-aunt Phyllis.

The words themselves, describing the torments of hearing “voices in the head” and the ghastliness of incarceration, were already heartbreaking, and Pook wisely provided a minimal musical dressing. Each episode was based on just two gently rocking harmonies, animated with Glass-like arpeggios, and little melodic tags which mirrored the voices on the archive recordings in a way clearly indebted to Steve Reich.

Phyllis’s words were given to mezzo-soprano Melanie Pappenheim, who rendered them in a performance of part-singing, part-speech that was a marvel of quiet and far-from-hysterical intensity. Truly it was beyond praise. To follow this with Patrick Nunn’s derivative arrangement of Muse’s hit single Hysteria was as crass as telling a joke after a funeral.

original article >>> 

Financial Times Review : Hearing Voices

December 4, 2012 5:42 pm

H7steria, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

By Richard Fairman

The centrepiece of this concert on the theme of music and madness was a suggestive, subtle new work from Jocelyn Pook

Anybody who is familiar with the work of Dr Oliver Sacks will know the power that music can have over the mind. His books have presented some truly remarkable case studies of how music and the brain interact and one of his books, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, has even been turned into an opera.

It is clear that music can touch thoughts and feelings beyond our everyday consciousness. That does not, however, mean it is necessarily an easy subject for composers to explore and a concert such as the BBC Concert Orchestra’s “H7steria” on the theme of music and madness is not the kind of event that comes round often.

The raison d’être of the programme was BBC Radio 3’s commission of a new work on the subject from Jocelyn Pook, coincidentally one of the winners at the BASCA British Composer Awards that afternoon. Hearing Voices was inspired by the experience of Pook’s great aunt and includes the testimonies of five women who had suffered mental illness. The women’s reminiscences are heard on tape and some were also spoken and sung live by Melanie Pappenheim, costumed to play various roles. Pook, best known for her soundtrack to Stanley Kubrick’s film Eyes Wide Shut, has pitched her score at the point where it complements, but does not crush, these fragile memories. Chord progressions stir into movement as in Philip Glass, or spawn sweet lyricism somewhere between Ravel and Andrew Lloyd Webber. The effect is at once suggestive and subtle. And yet –there was something inherently distasteful about such deep and painful confessions being used as fodder to rouse some easy emotions.