Mil, mile, marvellous

Months ago, a number of local amateur choirs were invited to participate in a mad-sounding project, the so-called “Mile-Long Opera”. This performance piece was going to be staged along the High Line over a week in early October, and would involve 1000 singers/speakers positioned along the length of the park. The choir Tom sings with were among the participants, and they spent most of the rehearsal process complaining about various aspects of the piece, so I didn’t have particularly high expectations, but in the end the whole thing was completely delightful.

Most of the performers were dressed in black, with some kind of illumination on their face (either a baseball cap with a light in the brim, or from a phone/tablet). Each choir had a segment of music and/or words to perform, and the idea was that individual members would speak and sing their designated part in their own time. As you walked along the route you could either stop and listen/watch/interact with particular performers, or just pass by and take in the words as you went.

In some of the wider parts of the park, groups of singers were performing in more of a choral way, and even though the music was quite simple the effect was surprisingly  powerful.

So often, art and music is a rather static, one-way experience, so it was really exciting to be able to walk around the performers, and experience the piece in a completely immersive way.

It was fun to come across people I knew among the performers, and I also enjoyed the views of lights and architecture along the way. The High Line is glorious at any time of year or day, but it’s been ages since I walked its full length and there are a lot of shiny new buildings now.

In terms of what they were all singing/speaking about, the work was described as a “biography of 7pm”. From the website:

The work focuses on the changing meaning of 7:00 pm, the time the performance begins each evening, and a time that represents a transition from day to night, when people shift from one activity to the next. It is also a time traditionally associated with family, stability and home, yet today, those associations are less predictable. The diverse stories told in The Mile-Long Opera are inspired by first-hand interviews with New Yorkers from all walks of life. Their individual experiences reflect unique ways of coping with the contemporary condition—anxiety, humor, nostalgia, vulnerability, joy, and outrage—that together form a biography of 7 o’clock.

My strongest memory is that there were multiple mentions of various kitchen tables, and the ways in which families and individuals interact with and around them. I found this to be quite poignant, probably because a lot of my own family memories include us all sitting around tables, and it was an excellent device for linking the various narrative voices within the piece.

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