After the fall of Man Jumping I vowed never ever ever to be in a band again. In 1999 I started the choir The Shout with the singer and composer Richard Chew. Why?
The idea was to gather together sixteen characterful and interesting singers and put them in a room together. Singers from different backgrounds and skills – early music, jazz, blues, contemporary classical, rock n roll, Indian classical…… We didn’t hold auditions, but choose people whose work we liked. Some fluent readers of music, some with no reading ability; some brilliant improvisers, some for whom improvisation was an anathema; some, crucially, with acting experience, some with none. A wonderfully heterogeneous bunch. No consideration of vocal blend, the sine qua non of most choirs. The job that Richard and I gave ourselves was to enable these diverse people to operate, by writing a kind of music that would allow the singers to shine individually but at the same time cohere as a group.
The immediate result was that most of the singers felt…nervous, aware of their inadequacies, underconfident of their strengths.
But the first Shout gig was promising.
This gig set out our stall. The music was inspired by folk music, but with more complex rhythms, harmonies, structures. (You could perhaps describe it as expanded folk music.)
There was improvisation, of several kinds.
There were no scores, and no conductor. There were explicit elements of theatre, albeit embryonic, as well as the implicit theatre of sixteen people singing and communicating with one another
And there was the interesting matter of tuning......
Subsequently we performed a mixture of concerts, music-theatre and site-specific pieces.
We made four full-length music-theatre pieces:
Tall Stories (2002), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew, directed by Rufus Norris,
Deep Blue (2003), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew and The Shout,
Lip (2004), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew and The Shout, directed by Emma Bernard, and
Fingerprint (2007), composed in collaboration with The Shout, directed by Emma Bernard;
as well as A Day In The Life (2003-6), a Christmas show, composed in collaboration with The Shout,
a site-specific piece for the Henry Moore Foundation (2005),
and two pieces specifically to be performed in Trafalgar Square: Stand, composed in collaboration with Mike Henry (2006) and Road To Nowhere, composed in collaboration with Rebecca Askew and Mike Henry (2007).
We worked with amateur musicians and children on large-scale pieces:
The Shouting Fence (South Bank Centre, 1998, Haarlem Festival, 2001, Bath Festival 2002, Westgasfabriek, Amsterdam, 2003), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew, directed by Lucy Bailey,
Corona (first performed at a tin mine at Carnkie, Cornwall, 1999, subsequently at Bath Festival, 2003), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew,
Because I Sing (Roundhouse, London, 2001), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew, directed by Alain Platel,
Sea Tongue (Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, 2001, directed by Rufus Norris; and De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, 2006, directed by Felix Barratt), composed in collaboration with Richard Chew,
Shift (with the Crouch End Festival Chorus, 2005),
The Singing River (Theater der Welt Festival, Stuttgart, 2005 and at the re-opening of the Royal Festival Hall, 2007), directed by Tom Ryser
Fallen Fruit (Canterbury Festival, 2005), composed in collaboration with Jeremy Avis, directed and designed by Strange Cargo,
Open, Stand, composed by Mike Henry, and We Turned On The Light, lyrics by Caryl Churchill (BBC Proms 2006),
Swarm (Barbican, 2007), directed by Emma Bernard,
Critical Mass (with Streetwise Opera, 2007), directed by Emma Bernard,
Why Do You Sing (Burghof Theatre, Loerrach, 2008),
Open Port (Stavanger European Capital of Culture 2008), composed in collaboration with Jeremy Avis, directed by Roland Bréand and Sven Beyer,
Raketensymphonie (Linz European Capital of Culture 2009), composed in collaboration with Mike Henry, directed by Tom Ryser.
Eventually we ran aground on the shores of the recession.
Ten years – not much – though more than The Beatles.
The last gig was at Kings Place, London in January 2009.
The Shout was (very often) Kayte Harding, Adey Grummet, Angela Elliot, Louise Sofield, Rebecca Askew, Hazel Holder, Melanie Pappenheim, Carol Grimes, Louise Schumacher, Jeremy Avis, Martin George, Manickam Yogeswaran, Matt Coombes, Greg Wain, Mike Henry, Jonathan Williams and Jeremy Birchall; and sometimes in its life included Richard Chew, Andrew Burden, Michael Dore, Jonathan Glew, Jonathan Burden, Wills Morgan, Daniela Clynes, Wayne Ellington, Adrian Hutton, Nanna Brincker, Cheryl Pickering, Ian Shaw, and (surprisingly) the percussionist Giles Perring.