Soharóza, a group of 25 singers led by their conductor, Dóra Halas, decided some years ago to dedicate their time and collective creativity to a 12th-century woman, outstanding in both her nature and her works. Small working groups were formed, who did research on different aspects of her life: her music and painting, her healings and visions, Lingua Ignota – her imaginary language, her leadership of the convent and her personality. After a year of research and discussion, the results were taken to the choir rehearsals and musical work began with the singers.
Based on the text and melody of one of Hildegard’s greatest works, Ordo Virtutum, a morality play, the singers began to improvise and collect musical games together. In the meantime, each Virtue was given her solo part and the task of composing an idea for the special atmosphere she wishes to create in her scene. As a result, each Virtue scene resembles the soloist’s personality combined with the features of the Virtue itself. The choir invited Anikó Fekete, a theatre pedagogist, to help with the movements and the dramaturgy. A member of the choir, Ákos Lokody, was working in the background on sound design to be implemented into the musical material at some points. The final phase was to put the scenes – or impressions – together with Ákos Kiss, a VJ and light technician. He and his colleagues decided to build a “brain” or “diamond” – as members of the audience called it –, onto which he could project different kind of visuals to aid the atmosphere of each scene.
The result of the two years’ work was an abstract polyphonic choral piece based on Hildegard’s plainchants and elements of her life, performed as a kind of theatre or opera, backed with movement, electronics and visual effects. In the performance, the choir plays with natural acoustics and amplification, weaving sound experiments into the plot and text of the morality play written and composed by the abbess herself. The thoughts behind the original theme were reconsidered to find a link to our world and living of now.
Soharóza is now working on revising the performance – especially part one. The creators wish to arrive at a more abstract level, including a moderator as the voice of the “Soul Factory”, so as to aid the understanding of the modern plot and to improve dramaturgy of the whole piece. The new version will be performed at the EUROPA CANTAT XIX Pécs 2015 international choir festival in Hungary on 31 July 2015.