Chornobyldorf. Archaeological opera
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival
Always a delight, Hudds (as locals brand it) Days, the place feels largely untouched by time, unchanged since I departed, 16 years ago.
On the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival’s opening night, Chornobyldorf is a hot ticket. A Late night gig, 22:45 start and an audience of about 50 at Bates Mill, a good ‘industrial’ venue. 20 min stroll through post industrial back streets. Never heard of Chornobyldorf, that’s the fun, the delight, no preconceptions at the hcmf.
From the programme notes
Chornobyldorf is a contemporary media-opera inspired by the impact of nuclear power on our world, combining folk and classical singing with physical theatre, dance, unique musical instruments and cinematic video-novels. Focusing on the nuclear catastrophe known as Chernobyl, Grygoriv and Razumekio’s award-winning work explores the political transformations the world has undergone post-disaster, reflecting on the man-made nature of climate catastrophe.
Video available only on YouTube⇒
So it was tonight, two people, a bandura, think Oud with 64 strings, supported by a flautist / Apple Mac. In the case of the latter, I’ve had, hmmm disappointing experiences with acoustic and Mac musical marriages. But open ears, heart and soul, taste the unity. Opened with the bandura, capturing my imagined spirit of Rural Ukraine, church bells, bird song and laughter. flitting, fluttering, flute noted, the creak of carts, babbles, chatter, from the Mac, pictures in sound.
The second piece is brutal and improvised, strings sharp, aggressive almost fighting the heavy, Mac provided beats. This longer piece, slashes and slaps, worked in parts, that said there are moments of real invention, as the pair moved and parted with an intimacy that can only come from years of playing together.
Short pieces followed, two of which just featured the strings, sharp, almost a Zither, other times a delicate harpsichord, the range of sounds was fabulous, sharp, bitter, swooping down towards tender melancholy. The flute matched the mood, then led the playing, bobbing and weaving, deployed-delayed, Mac samples and effects that added, in their understated subtlety, to the stings wistful memories and pain.
Some of the best, most interesting moments - the repeating patterns of the strings, looped through the Mac, throwing up duets that change as the strings and flute, find new inspiration from the last chords, repeated, delayed and replayed, This was one of those delights when my ‘Mac’ music phobia washed away, nearly all the combinations worked.
Of course my Mac phobia can never entirely be assuaged. There's always the story of the unknown, like the Tom Waits line, "What's he building in there?"
Chornobyldorf provided a great reintroduction to the delights of the hcmf, I’ve a couple more of these these over the next two days, and looking at players, and locations, I know I’ll not hear anything like tonight, but expect to be equally enthralled.