Be overwhelmed by the noise, the energy and the commitment of 1000 people – it will be wonderful!
Simon Halsey, Crowd Out Musical Director
1000 individuals give the world premiere performances of Crowd Out, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang‘s new piece for 1000 voices, in one of the largest vocal events Birmingham has ever seen!
Experience the first-ever performances of a brand new piece of music by one of the world’s leading composers, led by Simon Halsey, one of the world’s top choral conductors.
Influences for Lang’s Crowd Out encompass a wide range of public singing and vocalising, including football chanting – a common theme being the sense of community created through ‘performance’. The result is an entirely new kind of piece that anyone can perform.
Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year, the passionate, prolific, Pulitzer Prize-winning David Lang is one of America’s most performed composers. BCMG has enjoyed a long and successful relationship with Lang – his last BCMG commission The Passing Measures received huge acclaim and was subsequently recorded on Cantaloupe Records, a recording which was named one of the best CDs of the year by The New Yorker.
David Lang: Crowd Out (BCMG Sound Investment, Spitalfields Music and Berlin Philharmonic co-commission / world premiere)
It’s by turns stirring and touching, in the way so much of Lang’s best music is.
Written to be performed even by people who cannot read music, it went a long way to capture the excitement, but also the fear, loneliness and confusion of being in a crowd.
But what was different from the olden days was the sheer commitment and expertise of these amateurs drawn from all over the Midlands, and who had been brilliantly prepared and rehearsed top-down from the directorship of Simon Halsey, no less. And there was a real structure to this piece, its theme of loneliness among crowds bringing to mind Holst’s Hymn of Jesus, and its central point a moving melodic confession.
Think of extraordinary pieces written for unaccompanied choirs and what bubbles up from the brain? Tallis’s 40-part soul-shaker Spem in Alium. For the cosmic voyagers among us, maybe Stockhausen’s Stimmung. Now there’s a new contender: David Lang’s Crowd Out, premiered on Sunday by 1,000 voices splayed over the atrium inside Birmingham’s eastside complex Millennium Point.
The method of performance alone made this Birmingham Contemporary Music Group commission exceptional. The conductor, choral wizard Simon Halsey, stood on a stationary escalator, beating no time, no rhythms, but raising very expressive arms. An assistant below hoisted pennants of four colours, signalling the next vocal invasion from the subdivided throng. And from the mouths of performers of every age, gathered by public invitation, out came a tapestry of simple words, whispered or shouted, crumbled into syllables, endlessly sliced this way and that, or spiced with clapping and sudden raised fists.
We needed no guessing to spot the seed from which this jungle grew. As soon as a tumultuous roar rose from the hubbub, I knew I’d just heard Arsenal score a goal, or just possibly lose one. But watching an Arsenal match decades ago gave the American composer, an imaginative post-minimalist, more than just aural inspiration. It started Lang worrying about the individual and the crowd: worries possible to share as we stood or sat, assailed over 35 minutes with phrases beginning with the first person pronoun. “I start to panic . . . I feel energy . . . I start to sweat . . . I lose control” — Lang pulled them all from an internet search for people’s own crowd experiences.
This particular first person pronoun never panicked, though I did fear that the aural ball Lang set rolling occasionally got stuck, with loss of shape and momentum. But thrilling moments kept sparking new life, from the arrival of the first sustained notes to those incandescent mass yells. There was also the joy of seeing community art so eloquently enthroned, involving all sorts and conditions, without need for trained voices. Uplifting, thought-provoking, the Crowd Out phenomenon visits Berlin this weekend, then the Spitalfields Festival in London on June 21.
A piece by a prize-winning composer, inspired by a visit to an Arsenal football match 20 years ago, has premiered in Birmingham. About 1,000 local people performed Crowd Out, described by US composer David Lang as being “an orchestra of people using their voices”. The majority of the piece was not sung, with the crowd instead speaking, talking and murmuring.
Information No.0121 202 2222
All public areas of Millennium Point are fully accessible for wheelchair users. There are two lifts located in the centre of the building which provide access to all four floors. Disabled toilet facilities are provided on each level of the building, plus there is an adult changing facility available within the Thinktank museum. Free parking is available for Blue Badge holders in the Millennium Point multi-storey car park, which offers direct level access to the building. (Note – the car park is owned and managed by Birmingham City Council). If you have any difficulties, security staff within the building will be happy to offer guidance.