Saturday, 30 October 2010

"Rose" - The Flower of Flowers: Illuminating York 2010

"Ut Rosa Flos Florum, sic est Domus Ista Domorum"
(As the rose is the flower of flowers, so is this the house of houses)

Inscription at the entrance of the Chapter House, York Minster.

Currently live at York Minster, “Rose” is a son et lumière installation for the Illuminating York Festival. A collaborative work by myself and Ross Ashton, we had such a positive experience creating “Accendo” for the Festival in 2008 that we decided to put forward “Rose” as a project idea for the Minster this year.

The piece is an exploration of the rose, within the central focus of the whole piece being the Rose Window in the Minster. The window gave us our initial inspiration and we found the rose itself to be a very deep and powerful symbol, not least because it is the symbol of Yorkshire and the city of York.

The piece follows a journey from earth to sky, and I wanted to make it one seamless growing flow of sound. It begins with a section which moves through Yorkshire. From a sound perspective, this includes sounds of birds native to Yorkshire and includes recordings of woodland birds and samples of others, including birds of prey, and one of my favourites, the red kite, with recordings by Helen Olive of (Many thanks Helen).
This part is also quite sensual, blending wild nature with other human and more industrial sounds.
This section transforms into the Rose Garden, where spoken poetry speaks of love, emotion, and the rose as a symbol of love. I very much wanted to fuse the sounds of a living thriving natural world with the emotional capacity we have for deep feeling and response.
The voices in this section give way to a recording of the Magnificat by the York Minster choir (permission kindly granted by Regent Records) which takes us to another Rose, that of the Virgin Mary, that ideal of selfless womanhood. This connects strongly to the Minster itself. I wanted to use a Renaissance piece for this section as that contains the polyphony that I could hear in my head, a natural progression from the Rose Garden, from spoken poetry to layers of song.
The final section builds out of the Magnificat chanting. Perfection is symbolised by tones played on glasses with additional sounds of glass as visually we see images of the mathematical significance of the five petalled flower change to vibrant colours and the architectural shape of the building is reimagined in lifesize stained glass.

All my volunteer speakers for “Rose” are local to York and they are:

Sue Casson
Rob Jeffs
Lindsay Ibbotson
Nick Ibbotson
Jill Pratt
Graham Sanderson
Sue Skirrow
Gweno Williams
Tony Wright
Paul Yardley

The recording sessions were a joy and their enthusiasm for the project tremendous, so many thanks indeed to them.

Those of a medieval bent may be interested to know that the medieval carol "There Is no Rose" also appears as musical quotes within each section with a variety of additional harmonies.

If anyone has found themselves intrigued by the compositions of Lassus from listening to "Rose", the Magnificat I chose can be found on this disc along with other compositions of his. Lassus was one of the first Renaissance composers I studied and so I have always had a special resonance for me personally.

Lassus - Great Choral Works

I’ve found the response to be enormously positive, the people of York have been incredibly supportive of the piece and it has been yet another great experience for me working in this city. The culture of York and Yorkshire is incredibly rich and vibrant and it has been a privilege to have been invited back to be part of that once again.
Attendance figures are currently around 40,000 and the Festival still has one more night to go, so do come down for the last night tonight.