The Voice Project

Norfolk’s Voice Project has tackled one of its biggest subjects yet for this year’s contribution to the Norfolk and Norwich Festival: space.

The now 200-strong choir has staged three nocturnal promenade performances at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts on the University of East Anglia campus, with tonight’s performance the final show.

As much theatre as music, the choir and audience journeyed through the futuristic building – built in the 1970s but still funky enough to serve as a set for the latest Avengers movie – with the performers dressed as scientists, astrologers, administrators, and quite possibly Men In Black.

Stars twinkled in the floors, in the hands of the singers, and projected on to the ceiling and walls of the building.

The tone and unity of the diverse choir was impressive, particularly in the opening and closing pieces performed outside. While the set made full use of the centre’s space as stages – including a delightful passage through the main collection with the singers mouthing assorted short refrains at the exhibits – it could have done more to weave them in to the structure of the singing; groups of singers faced each other on balconies, for instance, but the sound dynamic didn’t engage with their physical placement.

Mixing old and new poetry and prose with original music, the tone came across as a little cold and portentous, though there were brief slices of humour in a piece on John Donne and another using Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns” speech. Space is a big empty place, but it is also capable of wonder, majesty, and beauty.

The sheer scale of the enterprise and abundant talent of the performers was unarguably impressive, I just could have done with the score lifting me to the heavens a little more and emphasising my futile insignificance a little less.