Tuesday 23rd May 2017

Roaming singing performances hit all the right notes

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More than 150 people stepped into song on George Street in St Helens over the weekend to watch a promenade performance by a group of untrained male singers from St Helens.

Composer Verity Standen created the new roaming, choral experience specifically for St Helens, due to the historic significance the town has with conscientious objection.

St Helens was the home of school teacher, Ernest Everett who was arrested due to his refusal to undertake combative service in 1916.

He was court-martialed and sentenced to two years’ hard labour, the first conscientious objector to receive such a sentence. Over the next few years, he was sentenced seven more times.

In Refrain, Everett’s story, symbolic of many more cases of this kind, was given voice once again by local men.

The participants, who were recruited through taster sessions, led audiences on four shows over the weekend (May 20th & 21st) from The Masonic Hall along George Street to The Friends Meeting House.

Olly Ford, a participant from St Helens, said: “It was quite surreal but very cool. Sometimes you’d be walking through town on the day to day and you’d see the streets. Then to actually be involved in a performance amongst these streets is really nice.”

Suzanne Dempsey Sawin, of Heart of Glass, said: “It was a pleasure to see the hard work and talent of the participants and Verity come to fruition over the weekend.

“I found the performances were very moving and the audience feedback has reflected this. The George Street Quarter came alive in a truly unique way, and it was great to work with two historic St Helens sites.”

Verity Standen is an award-winning artist, composer and choir leader, whose unique work with voices has surprised and enchanted audiences around the UK and internationally. From intimate concerts to immersive theatrical experiences, Verity’s work seeks to reimagine how audiences experience vocal music. Refrain is her most ambitious project to date.

Refrain is produced by Situations with Verity Standen Projects, in partnership with English Heritage, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Heart of Glass, St. Helens. It is generously supported by Arts Council England, the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, The Space and Heritage Lottery Fund.

Photos by Wesley Storey courtesy of Situations.