So, yesterday I had the chance to go to a really surprisingly interesting and subtly high-brow event: a live viewing of “Voices of Light: The Passion of Joan of Arc” featuring the musical talents of Anonymous 4 as well as a LOT of people that I see around campus but never fully realized that this is the stuff they live for. Seriously, it was amazing! It’s events like these that make me proud to have chosen the University of the Pacific over any other institution. Undergrad research plus the opportunity to see world-famous artists perform their craft? Score!
Now, the event itself was described as “an oratorio with silent film”. What that basically translated to was an orchestral dugout filled to the brim with string instruments, some of whom were people that I’ve been in the same classes with; a stage laden with everybody that was singing, be they soloists or Anonymous 4 or the Pacific Choral Ensembles (which are simply massive); a projector screen hanging from above where the film was going to be, well, projected onto; and a very enthusiastic, very intense conductor coordinating everyone in order to match up with the film. Because it’s a silent film; the music was composed well after the movie was made.
The story behind what happened to the film is kind of creepy, actually. Not “The Grudge”-scary, but just unsettling enough that it makes my spine tingle. Apparently, the film’s original negatives were destroyed in a warehouse fire, which is disturbing given that it’s a film about Joan of Arc, who happened to be burned at the stake. It was reconstructed a bit after…only to be destroyed in a fire. Again. Very creepy. And then, fast-forward a few decades, and some guy finds an immaculate copy of the original in some kind of insane asylum(?!?) and another guy, Richard Einhorn, thought to himself, “You know what this needs? Music!” And thus was born “Voices of Light”, a kind of accompaniment track to the otherwise silent film.
Haunting. Beautiful. Majestic. Powerful. These are all the words that come to mind when I think back to yesterday, when I was sitting in the concert hall, staring at the projection screen. I’ve got to be honest, these guys are good. The University Symphony Orchestra and the Pacific Choral Ensembles, they are damn good at what they do. And rightly so; I can only imagine the time and effort that was just poured into this one performance. But then you have the talents of Anonymous 4 and the film itself, The Passion of Joan of Arc, and everything just… I sat ramrod straight the entire time, which is saying something because those seats are damn comfortable! I’ve got to be honest, if I had to see the film by itself, with no sound at all, I would’ve probably gotten bored about thirty minutes in. It was interesting, but the music just stuck it to me. It was wonderful! Some people were moved to tears; I didn’t cry, but that’s because I can hold myself back from doing so, otherwise I would’ve been blubbering too no doubt.
I’m really, really glad I was able to partake of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I still have my ticket stub, which is going into my journal, all neatly taped in and tucked away. This is the kind of thing that makes me very glad to have friends in departments and schools that are well outside my own little niche; it was all because of my friend (who was a part of the performance herself as a soprano in the Pacific Chorale Ensembles) that I got my ticket in advance. And for free, no less! Being a student definitely has its perks! But yes, I got my ticket about a month and a half in advance, which turned out to be the right thing to do, as the show sold out relatively quickly. It was a splendid performance, I had fun at the show (and afterwards, when I went to dinner with a few friends), and yeah! Bravo!