15,000 free tickets to the epic outdoor digital and live performance were snapped up by audiences joining the International Festival for its annual opening event.
Anna Meredith composed the 25 minute work structured in five movements, each one focused on an aspect of communication during World War One, with some surprising similarities drawn to contemporary communication. Collaborating closely with Meredith, Richard Slaney of 59 Productions created and directed the multi-media show with spectacular light and projections mapped onto the façade of Usher Hall.
The first movement Spin, explored the disparity between reality and public communications and the impact of that distorted reality during the First World War. Vivid colours created ribbons which spiralled over the building fusing into a hypnotic clock ticking away to the relentless building score by Meredith. The words Brave, Magnificent, Success and Increase flashed up faster and larger before spiralling out of control.
Performers emerged scattered among the audience in the second movement, Field Postcards, echoing the voices of the young men writing home from the Front. The movement opened with strands of fiery light running up the front of Usher Hall flowing in a rich and gentle wash of voices and music into words from telegrams – I am well, I am wounded – layered across the building to the emotional and poignant score.
Redaction, explored the impact of the reduction and redaction of personal communication from the frontline. Strips of brightly coloured projections were peeled back one by one, as black blocks interrupted the bold colours until there was just the skeleton of the idea left, illustrated by spare euphonium chords played live by two young players positioned within the crowd.
Strong geometrical shapes also dominated the fourth movement Codes which explored visual codes, patterns and the deconstruction of mass information – each informing the frantic rhythmic energy of the score, with virtuosic antiphonal trumpet and snare ensembles going hell for leather either side of the hall, and eye-catching strobes broadcasting outwards from the very top of the Hall.
The final movement, Armistice, underlined the magnitude and weight of the conflict, an eerie stillness starts with solo cello lines which build as sound and light grow to a huge emotional climax before disappearing into a hollow resolution as the young performers processed into the light.