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Playing in the dark

One performance experience in particular stands out from my time as a student at the (then) RSAMD- playing Claude Vivier's Piece pour Violoncello et Piano in the college's contemporary music festival. It is a very powerful piece, but the main reason I have such a strong memory of it is down to the staging; we performed the work in complete darkness except for small stand lights.

Playing in the dark is something I'm used to; as an orchestral player I frequently work in the pit for opera and theatre productions. There is often a moment at the end of performances when the lights cut and we all sit in complete darkness before the applause starts and the curtain calls begin; I always love that feeling of darkness and silence, an intimate moment to reflect after the power of the musical journey you've just taken.

It's not so common to sit in the dark on stage however, especially not in a more solo role, or while you're actually playing.

The way that lighting can be used to evoke atmosphere is well explored in fields such as theatre, but not so strongly associated with classical music performance. It can have a huge impact on the way we listen and change the musical experience for listener and performer alike.

Alice and I are delighted to have the opportunity to work with lighting designer Kai Fischer on our latest project; 'NOCTURNAL: Exploring Light and Sound After Dark'. We're interested in how our perception of the world changes at night- familiar places feel very different after nightfall, sounds are somehow heightened, shadows hide some shapes whilst revealing new ones, even time seems to pass in a different way.

Creating NOCTURNAL and working with Kai has given us the opportunity to explore this nighttime world more closely as performers. It has been a journey of discovery for us; we hope our audiences will find the experience enlightening too.

Image credit: Mikah Smillie

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