There’s creativity in the air at St Paul’s, Knightsbridge. This is the church where I have sung on Sunday mornings for the past twelve years, as one of an eight-part professional choir. The church is rightly known for the high quality of its music-making and I think it’s fair to say we are a happy group who look forward to working together even when many other people in London are having the day off. The church is blessed with a thoughtful and engaged congregation – whose support extends well beyond the usual parish duties – and a Vicar, Alan Gyle, who has Big Plans for us all.
One of these plans is a project exploring the nature of creativity as it manifests in collaboration between different artistic disciplines. Taking the text of the Advent “O Antiphons” as a starting point, a group of us are generating a brand new work which brings together dance, composition and performance. Nothing particularly unusual so far, but the process is also designed to be as open as possible and so we are documenting it as we go along. Creativity is often seen as a mysterious process that takes place behind closed doors and the intention here is to shine some light on it for those who would not normally witness that process.
It takes a certain courage to let someone peer over your shoulder while you are trying to engage the creativity that you use professionally. Luckily, composer Tom Hyde (also one of the congregation) and choreographer Hubert Essakow are willing to allow the camera in and Liz Smith of entertainingtv is making a series of videos showing how the discussion, and then the piece itself, develops. I am representing the choir in the collaborative process and three professional dancers and the rest of the music team will join us when we start building the performance. We intend the congregation of St Paul’s to be involved too, and will be inviting them to observe and comment as we go along, as well as attending the premiere on 29th November which takes place at the Advent Carol Service.
The O Antiphons are beautiful texts, full of hope and anticipation at the coming of the Messiah. Surprisingly, perhaps, they haven’t often been set as a group. We intend that the St Paul’s settings should work both as individual anthems and as a whole, not least so that they have the possibility of an afterlife in future Advent programming.
We, too, are full of excitement and anticipation as we start the process.
I’ll let you know how we get on.
Watch an introduction from Father Alan Gyle.