RNS Presents: Mira Calix & Sarah Turner’s Oot-Ower
An innovative, creative collaborator, we were so proud to have worked with composer Mira Calix on this commission, which opened Royal Northern Sinfonia’s 21/22 concert season in September 2021. Made during the Covid-19 pandemic, Oot-Ower was a specially commissioned piece of work by Mira Calix, and filmmaker Sarah Turner, using the voices of our community as its creative spur. This work now serves as a fitting tribute to Mira’s talent and ability to bring communities, disciplines and genres together.
Dinis Sousa, RNS Principal Conductor, writes:
‘I was heartbroken to learn that Mira Calix is no longer with us. Mira was an intensely creative spirit and a true artist. Her kindness, warmth and acute sense of humour made her an amazing person to collaborate with and I have very fond memories of working with her last summer on Oot-Ower. How poignant that the title she suggested for what would turn out to be her last orchestral collaboration meant ‘on the other side of’ or ‘just beyond’. We will miss her very much.’
Oot-Ower was a way of responding to and reflecting on the period we have all just lived through, and how music has kept us connected.
As we mark two years since the UK first went into lockdown, we look back at this powerful and affecting commission. One that takes on new meaning with the passage of time, and as we continue to reflect on our own experiences and start to emerge ‘out the other side’ together.
The ancient Northumbrian, or we could say Geordie, term meaning across, beyond, or on the other side of. For example, on the other side of a hill or, in our case, more poetically beyond this period of lockdown.
‘Rhythmically we move, we are moved, we are thrust forward at what feels like a voracious speed, in comparison to our curtailed past’
Mira Calix – on the score:
‘The score as I see it, is in three movements that unfold into one another without pause. The first reflects on those early days of entering the tightest of lockdowns over the past year or so. Most of us experienced a temporal shift, a stoppage of our familiar routines and freedoms. On the first page of the score the musicians find my instruction ‘stillness is the move’. We became cocooned, submerged, as quiescence descends upon us. At the opposite end in time and pace, the third movement, speaks to the now, after the anthropause, as we emerge with mixed emotions and abilities. Rhythmically we move, we are moved, we are thrust forward at what feels like a voracious speed, in comparison to our curtailed past. A brief second movement considers the transitions and juxtapositions at play from inaction to action. It takes musical elements from what has passed and what is to follow. Throughout the piece I have deliberately made the musicians work in unison, or within smaller orchestral pairings or sections of unity. At times I challenge them to work together with difficulty, counterpoint, at others they complement each other, and are stronger together. While I was writing I was mindful that our personal experiences of the pandemic have been varied; some found joy in lockdown, others great difficulty or loss, and a plethora of feeling in between. I am grateful to those who held us altogether by working on throughout. This played a big part in the writing of the work, particularly in the last movement where hopes, tensions and ambitions are set free. In commissioning this new work, Dinis [Sousa, RNS Principal Conductor] asked us to create a piece to mark this moment… by bearing witness to our recent past, I’ve endeavoured to capture it’s many moods in the language of music and to look beyond, out over, there to our collective potential… may it be a healthy one.’
‘Words, images and sounds were patterned together to form a portrait of this transformative time’
Sarah Turner – on the film:
‘Our vision for Oot-Ower was to involve Sage Gateshead’s community in a collective reflection on the experience of the pandemic. Participants were invited to submit short mobile phone films responding to the themes of inside, outside, and, the return to connected living. Thoughts, emotions and ideas were then developed through more in depth interviews and these formed the basis of the Sage Two portrait photography, which brought us out of darkness and into the light. The Sage Two sessions were then interwoven with the participant footage and expanded landscape photography in order to create a collective composition. Words, images and sounds were patterned together to form a portrait of this transformative time. The film’s soundtrack is designed as a word – sound poem – a vital art form that straddles poetry, sound and music. Here, individual words and phrases are built into loops that form a kind of chorus, creating a choral refrain through the polyphonic voice that works in synergy with Calix’s composition.’
Oot-Ower was first performed by Royal Northern Sinfonia, conducted by Dinis Sousa, on Saturday 18 September 2021.
Cast & Creatives
Featuring: Clarence Adoo, Joan Armstrong, Joseph Eldridge, Paul Emery, Linda Elms, Tom Elms, Peter George, Alicia Da Silva Gomes, Mario Da Silva Gomes, Mario Gomes, Jean Greenwood, Graeme Helliwell, Yohan James, Alison Mattinson, Lucy Shields, Steven Udale, Susan Wilton, Owen Wright.
Film and Soundtrack: Sarah Turner
Music: Mira Calix
Music Director / Conductor: Dinis Sousa
Performed by Royal Northern Sinfonia
Photography: Jason Thompson, Sarah Turner, Dan Alecks