Paraorchestra – Bristol Old Vic

Friday 11th May, 2018

The Nature Of Why as part of Mayfest.

I’d seen the Paraorchestra deconstructed only a few weeks ago, with my son and had loved them. When I saw this performance announced I jumped at the chance to get tickets. My birthday treat. An orchestra, dancers, at the Old Vic Theatre, performing a piece scored by Will Gregory of Goldfrapp, to celebrate the great scientist Richard Feynman. It had all the elements of something I would love. Tom gallantly agreed to come with me, even though this was well outside of his comfort zone.

Oh my goodness. I’m not sure how I explore and explain in words what this was. I shall try, but how I wish I could simply put you inside my skin and heart and brain and give you the extraordinary gift of the way I feel music.

The first surprise was that we weren’t just in the Old Vic, we were on its stage. How brilliant is that? We were encouraged to move about among the performers and not to stay still throughout the piece. The violins and cellos were at the front with Charles Hazelwood, the conductor, and the rest of the orchestra and the dancers were with us on the stage floor. Singers, guitar, hand held harp, clarinet and dancers weaved in and out of the audience. We were part of the performance. We weren’t there simply to politely nod and applaud, we were every bit as important to the show as each musician and dancer. Music exploded from everywhere, musicians all around you that you could or could not see depending on where you were, as well as speakers discretely placed so that you were completely and totally immersed in the music. A glockenspiel was spun around and around right in front of me, when it stopped the percussionist lifted into the air like the most beautiful arabesque ballerina you’ve ever seen, and she carried on playing. It was stunning and simply breathtaking.

Singers were inches from you, double bass’ were danced with whilst being played, tuba’s were driven among you whilst being blown, the harpist weaved in and out of us whilst playing. All while incredible choreogphy had dancers stretching, reaching, weaving and expoloring the beauty of human movement. It was brilliant.Wonderful. Mind blowing. At one point I stood in front of Charles as he conducted the most beautiful violins. Tears fell from my eyes at the sheer beauty of what I was hearing.

It was very emotional and involving and although parts were quite dark, it was also touching, moving and joyous. To have been close enough to the performers to have smelt their perfume, to see the hairs on their arms stand on end with the emotions of what they were playing, was an incredible privilege.

The dancers created a human pyramid, encircling a member of the audience to do so, we couldn’t have been more included. It was magnificent. Towards the end one of the dancers took my hand and drew me into the performance, circling me round the movements of herself and the other dancers. I was part of the performance, I was part of the art, I was part of it all and I felt as if emotions would simply burst out of me. It was joy. Such joy. And I have now danced on stage at the Old Vic! What a birthday celebration that was. I could not stop smiling.

That the piece ended with us in the middle of the stage, dancing with and among the paraorchestra could not have been more perfect. It was the most immersive, inclusive and enveloping musical experience I have ever had. Moments keep coming back to me, and I cannot wipe the grin from my face. It was extraordinarily beautiful and incredibly moving.

Thank you everyone involved with this extraordiary performance and please keep stretching the boundaries of what an orchestra can be and do. I cannot wait to see, hear and feel more. Music is lifeforce. It is everything.


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