Jennifer Bell - In A Town

A "townscape" of unadorned song, In a Town sees choir director Jennifer Bell further exploring what we first saw during 2011's Ferment Fortnight, delivered here in soaring a cappella by an ensemble choir. "We get a sense of people going about their daily lives, connecting with each other or longing to connect... the whole piece is full of moods and fragments of personal stories..." said Venue magazine last time out.

Fri 2 Aug

How is your Bristol Proms concert different to any normal concert?
In a Town is a cross between a concert and a theatre show. It is a song cycle that explores the extraordinary lives, loves and losses of all of us. It is a celebration of people, through a-cappella. We tell the stories of people who don't usually get heard, like the girl from Poland, clambering out of a window, or of the things that don't usually get told, like John's difficulty to connect with people. But this is not a musical. The 11 strong cast of singers are not actors. We aren't acting the songs. We are ourselves, creating soundscapes and taking journeys through the streets of any town, anywhere.

We are choreographed in the space by the phenomenal Dan Canham, and styled by music video maker, Maria Mochnacz. This is an exploration of the acoustic of choral singing, in which I take singers and physically compose them to give a 3D quality to the music, that magically skips across, and deep downstage, whilst delivering simple stories. And these stories pack a punch. It is a highly emotional, highly sincere, shimmering piece of musical theatre.  

Tickets for these concerts are available for as little as £5 to make them as accessible as possible - is elitism a problem for classical music?
Classical music - or in my case choral music - is generally financially and culturally exclusive, yes. A strong element of my work is to break with this convention, through performing in unusual settings, and to wide audiences, so it is just so exciting to be a part of The Bristol Proms. It is an extraordinary showcase of work of the highest quality, with an open invitation. More of this please. This sort of work is life-changing, and memorable, and should be available to everyone.

Will you be sticking around for any other concerts during the week? Who are you looking forward to seeing?
Should rehearsals allow, I am hoping to see Hauschka and Rod Maclachlan, and Sleepdogs' The Bullet and the Damage Done.  

Is this the way forward for 'classical' concerts? Does the classical music world need to change the way it presents itself?
I think this is the way forward. I think a mixed, innovative programme is very appealing, and, like The Bristol Proms, ought to be presented with generosity. It should include people from all walks of life, both on and off stage. It should seek to inspire and engage people of all ages too, and provide them with a promise that the work will be relevant to the sort of experience they would hope to get from live performance. It should feel familiar, by breaking with some of the formalities of concert conventions, whilst retaining that sense of it being very, very special.  

What's been the strangest concert you've ever performed at?
I have performed on buses and in supermarkets and in the heart of the woods. I am about to perform a concert to people in offices around the Bristol Temple Quarter. There will be a public showing in an office, as part of Mayfest, during sunset, Saturday 25th May 2013.

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