Young Sussex voices combine for pandemic-inspired composition Together And Apart

Together and Apart brought West Sussex Youth Orchestra, West Sussex Youth Choir and West Sussex Young Voices together in Chichester Cathedral to perform a special composition inspired by the pandemic.
NED MERSEY (Bigham) - composer by Clive BardaNED MERSEY (Bigham) - composer by Clive Barda
NED MERSEY (Bigham) - composer by Clive Barda

The evening offered the world premiere of Ned Bigham’s new piece, a composition inspired by the experiences of West Sussex’s children and young people living through the Covid emergency.

Ned said: “I was approached by James Underwood who is the head of West Sussex Music to write a piece to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the West Sussex Youth Orchestra. He wanted something really collaborative and his idea was also to take in the West Sussex Youth Choir and West Sussex Young Voices. The idea that he came up with was that he wanted a celebration of coming out of the lockdown, out of Covid and also just to look at the stresses that it caused young musicians just not being able to perform together, the loneliness that they went through and then the joy of being able to get together again at last to make music when we came out the other side

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“And the idea that we all came up with was to interview the young musicians and singers about their experiences of making music during lockdown and what it was like to be able to play together again. They interviewed a good number of young people and what came across very much was the sense of isolation that they had during lockdown. And also the sense of bewilderment that they had that it was happening at all. No one had ever experienced anything like this before, neither young nor old. They spoke about the impact that it had on them and then the people doing the interviews sent me the strongest comments, the most apposite or perhaps the most poignant ones, and I collated a text, a libretto which I then set to music.

“What was quite neat was that it naturally had a narrative, a before, a during and an afterwards. Quite early in the piece there are the words ‘Hit hard’ and then silence and then slowly it all starts up again.

“The text is a collation of all the interviews but I added some poetry by a local Sussex poet Charlotte Smith who lived in the 18th century. She had three really beautiful lines about the honey bee and I just thought it added something poetic and lyrical to the piece.

“It was the world premiere and it was a very moving occasion. It was very special to be able to stage it in the cathedral. The choirs were on terraced banks above the orchestra and they gave a fantastic spirited performance. It was difficult. It was not intended to be easy. It was intended to give them something hard, something challenging, something to play together but they really did rise to all those challenges and they put it all together magnificently. This is the start of the 60th anniversary and I do believe it's going to be performed again during the anniversary year.”

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