Review #1 – Emily Peasgood: Lifted (2016)/Crossing Over (2016)

Review #1 – Emily Peasgood: Lifted (2016). What do you get when you mix community, small spaces, muzak, and a brilliantly bonkers composer?

Above: Emily Peasgood with the Lifted choir at The Turner Contemporary
Credit: Lee Thompson

In 2016 I had the pleasure to bare witness to a strange, bizarre, and frankly quite claustrophobic piece.

Lifted, conceived by Emily Peasgood in 2011 and completed in 2016 features a live choir singing movements between floors in an elevator music installation. Peasgood’s intentions were to make us re-think about how we perceive and value music, particularly of the background music genre ‘muzak’.

Lifted premiered in the The Turner Contemporary lift (Margate), on Sunday the 17th January 2016, and with its mixture of jazzy scats, tingling harmonies, almost meditative moments, and its unconventional moments, Lifted certainly made an impression on the audience. I have never seen so many bodies all crammed round a lift and up stairs to watch and hear people sing in a lift. It truly was surreal.

Since then it has been a part of the 2016 Folkestone Fringe Festival Profound Sound on Saturday the 13th of February, where it was performed in smaller and more modest lifts in places like Asda. Further, even though it’s been more than a year since it’s premiere, I have yet to get all the ‘do dos’ and ‘mind the doors’ out of my head. Truly a majestic ear-worm.

 

peasgood_crossing_over_1_photo_credit_jason_pay

Above: Emily Peasgood with the Crossing Over choir at The Turner Contemporary
Credit: Jason Pay

One of Peasgood’s most recent projects, entitled Crossing Over (29th November 2016), was also performed at The Turner Contemporary at the end of 2016, to mark the anniversary of the Zong Massacre. The first movement consisted of selected recordings of politicians and other figures in the media that oppose migrations and refugees. This was juxtaposed with recordings of people in the community describing what ‘home’ meant to them. Audience members were asked to put on blindfolds in order to experience the sound and meanings emanating from the performers.

Many audience members, and performers, afterwards were left with a new sense for the meaning of ‘home’.

The choral part of the second movement was complex in its simplicity. Starting with a powerful “Ex Patria” moving into a soft lullaby, and ending with the performers calling home to their loved ones, you really did get this sense of longing, of belonging, with a hint of sadness, mixed with melancholy.

I was astounded to learn that both these pieces were performed by (to all intents and purposes), an amateur choir, with members from all over the Kent community. Peasgood is well known within Kent for creating BIGMOUTH Chorus, a choir which is made up of members of all abilities from the wider Kent/Thanet community. To this day, Peasgood provides the right mixture between experimental, contemporary, and community.

Peasgood is also in her final year of here PHD at Canterbury Christchurch University. I hope there is much more to come.

– Jason Hodgson (27th January 2017)

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For more information about Emily Peasgood, you can visit her website at:

http://empeasgood.com

BIGMOUTH Chorus can be found here:

http://bigmouthchorus.com

You can watch a 20 minute documentary on Lifted here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mm6pK8vJYMs&feature=youtu.be

You can also read more about Crossing Over on the Canterbury Christchurch Music and Performing Arts blog at:

https://blogs.canterbury.ac.uk/mpa/crossing-over-by-emily-peasgood-open-call-for-singers/

Featured Photo: Emily Peasgood. Credit: Lee Thompson