'I sing because I sing. Why? Because I sing.' Round and round it goes, a question made rhetorical, and oratorical, by the manner of its asking." — Alan Franks, The Times Magazine, 5 May 2001
Ein ungewöhnliches Unterfangen – ist dieser belgische Regisseur und Choreograf, geboren 1956 in Gent, doch durch seine Bühnenstücke weltweit bekannt und unserem Festival besonders eng verbunden. Dem ersten Gastspiel »La tristeza cómplice« (»Die Traurigkeit teilen«) 1996 in Leipzig folgten »Bernadetje«, »Iets op Bach« (»Kleinigkeiten zu Bach«) und »Allemaal Indiaan« (»Jedermann ist ein Indianer«). Und nicht zuletzt stammen von ihm Konzeption und Idee unseres Wettbewerbs »Das beste deutsche Tanzsolo«, der seit 1997 schon fünfmal während der euro-scene und zuletzt innerhalb der »Tanzplattform Deutschland« im Februar 2002 in Leipzig mit wachsender Beliebtheit stattfand.
Alain Platel äußert sich selbst zu seiner Arbeit: »Technik, Bewegung – das ist alles nicht so wichtig, aber wenn es einer mitbringt, kann man natürlich ganz anders miteinander arbeiten. Mich interessiert die Spannung, die sich zwischen Menschen auf der Bühne entwickelt, die technisch sehr oder weniger begabt sind. Das strahlt eine ganz andere Kraft aus. Auch verschiedene Alter, verschiedene Generationen auf der Bühne, das ist etwas, was mich ungeheuer fasziniert. Wahr ist, dass ich immer auf die Suche gehe nach Menschen, die sich – auf den ersten Blick – voneinander unterscheiden« (aus: »Neugier und Leidenschaft«, Festivalschrift zur 10. euro-scene Leipzig 2000, S. 34).
Nun also ein Film, ein Dokumentarfilm. »Because I sing – The Film« (»Weil ich singe – Der Film«) fußt auf einem ungewöhnlichen Konzert von 16 unterschiedlichen Chören in Londons Roundhouse, das Ende März 2001 zweimal zu erleben war. Platels Regie ist ein behutsames Zusammenführen der unterschiedlichen Chorgruppen mit insgesamt über 500 Stimmen unter der musikalischen Leitung von Orlando Gough. Beide Künstler forschten nach Charakterstimmen in Londons Stadtteilen und vereinten Amateurchöre städtischer, kirchlicher und weltlicher Art mit Sängern aus Armenien und dem Kongo, mit Hausfrauen, Juden, Gospelsängern, Kindern und Jugendlichen, um nur einige der Mitwirkenden zu nennen.
Entstanden ist ein musikalisches, persönliches Portrait von London und eine Hymne an die Toleranz, Demokratie und Klassenlosigkeit des Gesangs. Und hier schließlich, sei es in den Probenausschnitten, Gesprächen (auch Alain Platel kommt zu Wort) oder im Konzert selbst, ist wieder diese Menschlichkeit zu spüren, welche die Bühnenstücke Platels so einzigartig prägt. Die Sympathie für die Größe der kleinen Leute – darin liegt vielleicht das Geheimnis des Theaters von Alain Platel und auch seines Films.
Im Anschluss wird Michael Freundt mit Alain Platel über Entstehung und Anliegen des Films sprechen. Auch dessen künstlerische Leitung von Les Ballets C. de la B. und sein neues Bühnenprojekt »Zur Wohltätigkeit« nach Musik von Mozart, das innerhalb der RuhrTriennale im Mai 2003 zur Uraufführung kommt, wird Gesprächsthema sein.
The Shout was formed in 1998 by the composers Orlando Gough and Richard Chew. The singers come from very varied backgrounds - gospel, jazz, blues, contemporary classical, opera, early music - and include several accomplished improvisers. It has been called a 'vocal big band', a 'club choir', a 'vocal Stomp', a 'dangerous choir', a 'choir of Babel' and a 'choral phenomenon'. It is, they hope, all of these things.
Orlando Gough was a founder member of the bands The Lost Jockey & Man Jumping. He writes music mostly for the theatre - operas, plays, dance pieces, music-theatre, directs The Shout, and devises and directs large-scale site-specific choral pieces. Recent work includes The Singing River, for 12 choirs, 18 boats, two cranes and a locomotive (Theater der Welt, Stuttgart), an oratorio The Most Beautiful Man From The Sea (Welsh National Opera), We Turned On The Light (Proms), Swarm for marauding chorus (Barbican), a music-theatre piece Critical Mass (Almeida Opera Festival), an opera The Finnish Prisoner (Paddock Productions and Finnish National Opera), a music-theatre piece One, Two for six pairs of identical twins (Dartington),Open Port the closing event of Stavanger2008 European Capital of Culture, for 800 singers, brass band, wooden trumpets, and Raketensymphonie the opening event of Linz09 European Capital of Culture, for voices and fireworks. He is an associate artist of the Royal Opera House and is currently working on an opera with libretto by Caryl Churchill.
// Credits //
Mitarbeit und Kamera: Sophie Fiennes
Musikalische Leitung: Orlando Gough
Dauer: 75 Minuten / Farbe / englisch
Party for Freedom was commissioned and produced by Artangel with the support of Arts Council England and Bloomberg.
Artangel is generously supported by the private patronage of The Artangel International Circle, Special Angels, Guardian Angels and The Company of Angels.
// AutorInnen //
Alain Platel is trained as a remedial educationalist, and is an autodidact director. In 1984 he set up a small group with a number of friends and relatives to work collectively. Emma (1988) signalled his concentration on directing. He was responsible for Bonjour Madame (1993), La Tristeza Complice (1995) and Iets op Bach (1998), with which les ballets C de la B (as the group was now called) rocketed to the international top. In the meantime his collaboration with Arne Sierens had a similar effect on the Ghent youth theatre company Victoria, with the three plays Moeder en Kind (1995), Bernadetje (1996) and Allemaal Indiaan (1999).
After Allemaal Indiaan he announced that he was stopping making productions. But shortly afterwards Gerard Mortier persuaded him to do Wolf (2003) based on Mozart for the Ruhrtriennale. The choir project for the opening of the new KVS marked the start of close collaboration with the composer Fabrizio Cassol. vsprs (2006) proved to be a turning point in his career. So far his work had been exuberant in both the diversity of performers and the themes, but now it became more profound and intense and revealed a world of passion and desire. And violence, as in Nine Finger (2007) with Benjamin Verdonck and Fumiyo Ikeda.
After the baroque pitié! (2008), Out Of Context – for Pina (January 2010) is an almost ascetic reflection of the movement repertoire of spasms and tics. Platel consistently continues to search this language of movement for incarnations of feelings that are too vast. The yearning for something transcending the individual is becoming more and more palpable.
In collaboration with director Frank Van Laecke, he created Gardenia (2010), a production in which the closing of a transvestite cabaret affords us a glimpse into the private lives of a memorable group of old artists. In 2015 Platel and Van Laecke renew their collaboration, joined again by composer Steven Prengels, for En avant, Marche ! a performance about a society inspired by the tradition of fanfare orchestras and brass bands.
In 2012 Gerard Mortier convinces Platel once more to work with the opera’s from Verdi and Wagner: C(H)ŒURS becomes so far Platel’s biggest project. Together with his dancers and the Teatro Real choir he examines how ‘dangerously beautiful’ a group can be. The political connotation in performances such as tauberbach (2014) and Coup Fatal (in collaboration with Cassol, 2014) lies in the joie de vivre and energy that is displayed on stage to show how people sometimes live or even survive in undignified circumstances. “Lust for life” as a way of rebellion. It’s this lust for life that pushes the dancers in searching the possibility for transformation in nicht schlafen (2016), a performance on music by Mahler, that carries the restlessness and sense of foreboding doom of an accelerating society.
The theme of death had always featured significantly in Platel’s work, but never before it has been so central as in Requiem pour L. (in collaboration with Cassol, 2018). By writing a book of the same name, Platel digests the heavy process of this Requiem’s creation.
Meanwhile, Platel is also focusing on the development of connexions in his hometown, Ghent. Together with Lisi Estaras and Quan Bui Ngoc, he unites 300 townspeople of all ages and backgrounds in an unprecedented performance of Le Sacre du Printemps (2018).
But let it be clear, Platel is not just into large scale projects nowadays. In the recent past, he worked on small projects such as Nachtschade (for Victoria in 2006) and coaching work for amongst others Pieter and Jakob Ampe and their production Jake & Pete’s big reconciliation attempt for the disputes form the past (in 2011). Two projects which have had a significant influence on his way of perceiving theatre.
He also almost surreptitiously entered the arena of the dance film together with the British director Sophie Fiennes (Because I Sing in 2001, Ramallah!Ramallah!Ramallah! in 2005 and VSPRS Show and Tell in 2007) and solo with de balletten en ci en là (2006), an impressive view of what goes on in a twenty-year-old dance company, taking us all the way to Vietnam and Burkina Faso, but also and mainly being an ode to his hometown Ghent.
Sophie Fiennes began making films in 1998. She is widely acclaimed for her unique observational eye and strong sense of cinematic form. Her films include The Late Michael Clark, Because I Sing, Hoover Street Revival, The Pervert’s Guide to the Cinema and VSPRS Show and Tell. Fiennes often employs a collaborative approach to filmmaking. She has worked with artists and thinkers ranging from dance maker Alain Platel to philosopher/psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek. Her films therefore also act as powerful portraits of some of today's most iconic individuals. Current projects include a film with Anselm Kiefer called Over Your Cities, Grass Will Grow and an observational feature documentary titled Grace Jones – The Musical of My Life.
// Alain Platel on making Because I Sing //
Four years it took Artangel to seduce me. And I never regretted it. You wouldn't believe it when you heard that I have travelled all over the world the last decade, being away sometimes for weeks and that, at the same time, I get homesick when I have to work abroad even for two days.... So when Artangel asked me if I wanted to make something for the Roundhouse, I first tried to explain in a polite way that it would be difficult because of my 'time schedule'. But then I gradually got so amazed by their initiatives, that I wanted to be part of it. That's when I said "yes".
From then on I came to London on a regular basis. Let's say once a month. For a weekend or so. That was the longest I could manage. London is too overwhelming. I get sad in these big cities. I feel like I lose my identity, my 'importance'. Of course it's also very exciting for a 'voyeur' like me to wander around. It took us a while before we finally decided to organise a musical event in the Roundhouse, inviting a selection of amateur-choirs who would sing their favourite song. Orlando Gough, one of the directors of the amazing choir The Shout, became the perfect musical director of the event. People thought we were brothers when we arrived together to witness choir-rehearsals. We must have visited about forty choirs together, or apart.
The visits were a wonderful way for me to get used to the big city, to bring it back to a human dimension. And of course the way we were welcomed wherever we arrived was amazing. More and more we were concerned about the fact that we would never be able to translate these experiences to the event in the Roundhouse.
We first had wild ideas about it. Maybe we could bring in an old train, use horses or construct an immense 'wip-plank' (see-saw) on which we could move the choirs. But the more we got to know the choirs, the more we were sure we had to "cut the artistic crap" and just listen to the voices.
The first miracle happened a week before the event. We had selected sixteen unique choirs and invited them for the (unique) rehearsal in the Roundhouse. All together there were about 600 people arriving from all corners of London. They entered a huge, empty and cold 'cathedral' as nervous and excited as we were (and we were VERY nervous). We just asked them to sing their song and listen to each other. It sounds very sentimental but most of us could not hold back their tears... and we were not able to explain it. And here I also must confess you that I have NEVER in my whole career been involved in a complicated event like Because I Sing, where the support and the engagement of every single person involved in the project (and we were MANY people) was so ... full and perfect.
A second miracle happened on the 31st of March and the 1st of April when hundreds of people witnessed Because I Sing and got trapped in the same emotional effect of the singing. I couldn't rationally explain it. But it was there....
And finally a third miracle was given to us. Sophie Fiennes, who made a documentary about some of the choirs and the event in the Roundhouse, was able to translate this strong two-year-long experience into the right images. So overwhelming that people who weren't there on one of those two days in the Roundhouse, could have a similar experience by watching 'the movie'. Sophie and I are sure we got a little help from the Holy Ghost.
// Press //
In all our conversations with the choirs, we asked what made them sing,' says Platel. 'we never found an exact answer. Some hide behind God and talk about spreading a message. Others describe it as a feeling of power, to be able to communicate. One thing everyone has in common was once they started talking bout singing, their behaviour changed. They become very excited.'" — Louise Gray, The Independent on Sunday, 25 March 2001
The 16 participating amateur ensembles were colour-coded – smart blacks and reds for Maspindzeli, the wonderfully gritty Georgian Choir, national dress for the Armenians and Maoris and smart uniforms for the school choirs. In this context, Orlando Gough and Richard Chew’s professional choir The Shout were just another ensemble, MCs whose own repertoire provided links while new sets rumbled into position. — John L Walters , The Guardian, 2 April 2001
Rather than presenting her material within a net of words and preordained ideas, Fiennes’s languorous feature-length film ‘Because I Sing’ has courage in its footage. It’s not that Fiennes wanted to make something oblique, she just believes in the audience and their powers of observation and connection. ‘I pitched it as a sound piece – narration comes in between the viewer and the experience of the material. It’s a lot harder to make it work without narration, but you don’t want everything interpreted for you.’ — Emma Perry, Time Out, 11-18 July 2001
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