28 July 2020
Until We Gather Again (2020 Glanville-Hicks Commission)
In 2020, in response to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMC has commissioned thirteen artists and artistic teams to create new works and online presentations under the banner of the prestigious Peggy Glanville-Hicks Address. The first project to be launched is Until We Gather Again by Alice Chance, an aleatoric, audiovisual work created in collaboration with the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus under the direction of Michelle Leonard OAM. You can view it in its entirety on YouTube (see also embedded video below). In this article, Alice writes about the birth of this new work, and feeling 'out of sync' during the pandemic. See also: 2020 Peggy Glanville Commissions.
Hi, my name's Alice Chance. Welcome to my work Until We Gather Again.
This was born in March of this year, when Covid-19 was starting to seriously affect Australia. The rate of infection was mounting, the curve wasn't flattening, there were new rules and restrictions almost every day. These restrictions, although necessary, were turning our lives upside down. It is still difficult for me to comprehend, let alone describe, just how hard this hit the arts community. Suddenly, we could no longer gather, and nobody knew how long till we'd be able to do so again.
I started thinking about what it means to be in a group who can no longer meet. Especially a group of musicians. Many groups of course continued to meet virtually, many artists navigated obstacles to continue bringing their work to the world in a new format, but the sudden isolation and uncertainty took its toll regardless. I saw a lot of content involving musicians lining up videos of themselves playing and singing along with each other. Although I was very impressed by this sort of thing, I have to admit it left me with a slight feeling of emptiness. I was seeing virtual ensembles all 'in sync' with each other, but I felt completely out of sync.
Out of sync with others
Out of sync with myself
Out of sync with my plans, dreams, and priorities.
Out of sync with people I was trying to talk to on zoom…
And I'm quite confident I wasn't alone in feeling this.
In this work, I wanted to paint an honest portrait of a scattered choir who can no longer meet. I wanted to unearth their stories, their experiences, their hopes for themselves and each other. I've aimed to shine light on the bonds that are still holding them together. And by extension, illuminate that which continues to hold us all together.
I was really fortunate to find that the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus, who have been huge supporters of me ever since I started composing, were very enthusiastic about the project. They even added their support on top of the Peggy Glanville-Hicks Commission.
I asked participants from the choir to do a whole range of things. I asked them to document their challenges, what they loved about their homes or environments, what they could hear or no longer hear in their neighbourhood. I asked them to record their voices both speaking and singing, and asked them to film things which inspired them or related to their reflections on isolation. Anything they found beautiful and meaningful while isolating at home. I also asked members of the choir to wish things for each other.
I asked the choristers to record themselves singing a short refrain in many of the parts that are designed to be scattered in echoes and canons. I wanted the music to reflect the way I believe we were all feeling about our own synchronicity with that of our world. To me, aleatoric textures are a perfect mirror of some of the online spaces and networks we turned to in isolation. I was overwhelmed with responses, and at first I wished I could make several episodes of this work. But in the end, I found that every single recording, photo, word, and wish I received has influenced the project as a whole and created what I feel is a true portrait of the choir at this time.
I want to express my deepest thanks to the Australian Music Centre and the Leichhardt Espresso Chorus for believing in my idea. I felt so lucky and honoured to have the support to continue my creative practice in a time when so many were not in a position to do so. Even though, at the moment I write this, restrictions have eased in NSW, the devastating effects of this will be felt for years to come in our community. I hope I've made a work that enables its viewer to feel less alone with their experience of isolation, and in coping with what this year has become.
Alice Chance - AMC Profile
Leichhardt Espresso Chorus (https://espressochorus.com.au/)
© Australian Music Centre (2020) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
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