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Choristers lying down on the job

24 March 2016


Flat out: Untitled (a retrospective view of the pathway) (2016)  

Flat out: Untitled (a retrospective view of the pathway) (2016)  

CHORISTERS will be lying down on the job during two special evensong services at Birmingham Cathedral this summer.

About a dozen of the younger singers in the 50-strong choir will deliver their music from a supine position in the nave of St Philip’s, as part of an art installation on 15 and 17 June. The event is being curated by the artist Roger Hiorns, who was a choirboy at the cathedral about 30 years ago. His earlier works include a model of a cathedral, and an entire ex-council house, both encrusted with copper-sulphate crystals.

It is being presented in partnership with the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, where a collection of his works will be on display from December.

The Dean of Birmingham, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle, who will be taking both services, said that the event was to be a continuation of the cathedral’s involvement with artists in recent years. “It’s been really exciting to see how they view things, to invite them to come in and help us to experience things differently.

“I don’t want to try to define the point of doing it too closely — perhaps we will only discover the point as we do it — but for me what’s really exciting is turning things upside down; experiencing and seeing things differently. I will probably preach about creation, and our relationship with the ground and with the breath of life. Setting an artist loose on the worship will help us experience evensong differently in a profound way.

“It also opens it up to a whole new audience in Birmingham’s artistic community, which is a wonderful opportunity for us. I am expecting a lot of people who never normally come to evensong, and I think they are going to be stunned, because many of them will not realise that this goes on day in, day out, in the middle of their city. We are not just expecting them to come and sit with us — we are also willing to open ourselves to their world and their way of looking at things.”

She said that she had no worries about what the choirboys would make of singing lying down. “They are very keen,” she said. “We’ve put them in some unusual situations over the years; they take everything we throw at them. I am more worried about whether their surplices get dirty”.

The cathedral’s Director of Music, Canon Marcus Huxley, who will conduct the choir from the balcony, said on Monday that lying down had no real impact on singing. “If anything, it improves the way the choristers breathe, because their bodies are more relaxed,” he said. “The main practicality from this perspective is that they can hold their music more easily without the assistance of choir stalls.”

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