If the Festival of Voice was a fantastic immersion into exceptional new voices and new experiences it’s fair to say Utopia curated by Charlotte Church created a microcosm of this. After experiencing LUMP, WNO’s Rhondda Rips It Up!, The Tiger Lillies, Double Vision and Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) I wondered what else the Festival of Voice could throw at me.
I was far from sure what to expect, as work hit peak I hadn’t really paid attention to what I was going to be taking in, just that any form of escape was welcome with both arms.
After LUMP I was curious to see how Charlotte Church would cope with the immense Donald Gordon Theatre. I needn’t have bothered myself. Of course, this was an evening of turning things on their head, appreciating this immense theatre from its stage.
We had taken the evening slowly, having arrived in time for Carys Eleri, and arriving at Utopia a little later than intended. We took in the end of Some Voices, a choir setting the scene for the evening. There were sequins. This was an evening to do your thing, and it would seem, sequins have their place in utopia.
From there to Talia Randall, a poet taking on the voices of London. Her voice reaches out, and as becomes familiar with the evening, you are left for searching from where. She is found in the boundary of the stage, from on high. Whilst her voice is reminiscent of London, it could of course be from anywhere. Observing life, our changing culture, yet our pride of heritage.
And then, there is the next voice, familiar, of home. And amongst this new home, on the stage of the Wales Millennium Centre, we are with Charlotte Church. The most surreal words to type and singing ‘The Water is Wide’ seemed at odds to her ability to successful part the audience which welcomed her. Not only are we left with a feeling of beauty but that the evening will be far from the expected.We are able to appreciate the joy of the Donald Gordon theatre from the stage. Under the spotlight we appreciate what will become commonplace over the evening. Voices performing from within the auditorium. This carefully curated evening ensures there is no time left unappreciated.
And to what would unexpectedly transpire to be my favourite section of the evening. Le Gateau Chocolat. Just wow.
I don’t know where to start.
It’s fair to say the sequin theme of the evening was continued. But this was far from a tick box. This was drag, opera, history, theatre, today and yesterday brought together in beauty. This was the part of the evening in experiencing you just agreed ‘yes’ was the right summation.
There is no way of reconciling this full bearded, sequin dress wearing, comfy armchair homing, Margaret Thatcher sounding radio playing, creation. Everything about it was sight defying, everything about it absorbing every sense. Defying any response not to appreciate. This was simply beauty.
It is ‘The Ship Song’ which breaks us, as an audience. And it seems in doing so, offers belief in Utopia.And from here, we are back with Charlotte Church’s hopes for the evening. Talia Randall creates beauty as she creates in words the vulnerability, and reality, of female. I wonder initially of her feelings of this being brave, until her reality sinks in, we have so far to go.
There are more voices, more beauty, from around this amazing space, and then Fatoumata Diawara.
Fatoumata is stunning. And I realise quite quickly that whilst I would never have bought a ticket to a performance to see Fatoumata, my life is better for having done so.
We narrow our lives by what we feel are our preferences. Limiting our opportunity. Creating our own barriers.
In Fatoumata and her band I am reminded of natural energy which enjoyment creates, of the ability to bring so much sound and breadth through music. To read Fatoumata’s story brings everything to being, yet even without this, her passion and beauty reverberates around the space of the Donald Gordon stage.
There is so much in her performance I wish my daughter could witness. The power and strength which emerges from her voice and is conveyed in sheer passion.The evening progresses, there are more voices from around the auditorium, creating beauty and the sense that all voices deserve to be heard. To be appreciated.
We moved to Ionnalee. I was unstuck. So far from removed from anything I would have chosen. And yet beyond the pre-conceptions came a feeling that yes. This is something which I can appreciate. I wouldn’t choose to listen to on Spotify. But yes.
And as I looked around me, of so many others appreciating everything which was conveyed through this audiovisual electronic pop I couldn’t help but think all was well in the world.
The evening was drawn to a close with a collective embracing the lyrics of “Stand By Me”. I don’t ever think there will be a time when I won’t appreciate these lyrics. In an evening of diversity, or the creation of utopia, there was a feeling of pertinence. Of whatever life holds, of what we can create in life, nothing is possible without the love of others.
The Festival of Voice takes place bi-annually across Cardiff. Check out the website for more information.
Disclosure: I was invited to the performance for the purpose of this review. All words and opinions contained are my own.