Yesterday I took part in the first performance of new music for Advent. Thomas Hyde’s set of O Antiphons were commissioned by the church of St. Paul’s Knightsbridge for performance by the choir and on the organ – and for the purposes of dancing.
This was a very different project to other new music performances that I have done inside a church. Not only did the performance include three dedicated dancers, choreographed by Hubert Essakow but the principal performer, Clare McCaldin and the rest of the creative team recorded a series of videos from the start of the project’s inception to try and chart the process of bringing this work to fruition.
In the event, the performance was relayed onto a screen above the choir screen. This was a good idea, given that the dance took place on the dais in front of the screen and so, as is usual, it would have been difficult for those in the congregation to see.
In addition to the performance, the parish rector Fr Alan Gyle spoke either side of the music. He examined the Antiphon texts and the wider issue of Advent. He also talked about the nature of art in church, and the benefits of being open to it even in the face of incomprehension.
As a performer, it was tricky to really assess the impression or effectiveness of the performance in the immediate aftermath of the post-service reception. My own impression was that Thomas Hyde’s music is really good and the ideas explored exhaustively in each (very different) movement were substantial not only for choreography but also for simple reflection.