Haydnʼs Seven Last Words, an orchestra, spoken-word, and contemporary dance collaboration. Haydnʼs Seven Last Words is combined with contemporary dance choreographed by Jo Meredith, and newly-written dramatic dialogue by poet Oliver Reynolds.
The original orchestral version of Die sieben letzten Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze was written by Haydn in response to a very specific request: to provide a series of slow musical interludes to the sequence of seven phrases and sermons which made up the Good Friday service at Cadiz in Spain.
Inspired by the the atmosphere, darkness and drama evoked by Haydnʼs own vivid description of this original performance, the idea for this production was conceived not with the aim of reconstructing the original event, but of creating a new equivalent context for the work.
Beyond simply playing Haydnʼs score, or interspersing it -as has often been done- with selections of recited poetry, this production attempts to create an overall ceremony in which it can exist, by combining elements of dance and spoken word with the music presented in its original form. Without any specific or direct religious references, the text and dance employ allusion and symbolism to connect text-to-dance, dance-to-music, music-to-text, through the use of overlapping choregraphic, musical and linguistic motifs.
Oliver Reynoldʼs dramatic dialogue is performed by two actors, and centres on two twenty-first-century characters, exploring their relationship with death and hope; their story embodies a narrative arc which takes the audience through the whole performance. While dancers interact with both actors and musicians, Crispin Lewis conducts the period-instrument orchestra of The Musicall Compass, which plays Haydn's music unaltered, but in this re-invented context.
Membra Jesu Nostri
Buxtehude's visionary cantata cycle "Membra Jesu Nostri" finds new and original expression in a collaboration between The Musicall Compass and contemporary dance. Conceived by Crispin Lewis and Jo Meredith, the piece is performed in-the-round by dancers, singers and an ensemble of period instruments.
Following Buxtehude's celebrated Passion meditation in seven parts to the feet, knees, hands, side, breast, heart and face, Jo Meredith's choreography takes place around the musicians, who share the performing space in various formations.
This work saw its first performance in the glorious baroque setting of Christ Church, Spitalfields. During the performance, the spectacular Nave and Gallery of Hawksmoor's stunning interior were used in imaginative ways, inspired by the symbolism of Buxtehude's immaculately structured work.
The Musicall Compass, an ensemble of voices and period instruments formed by its director Crispin Lewis, has performed a large repertoire of baroque cantatas, oratorios and operas, renaissance music, as well as some specially created contemporary opera.
The ensemble has performed on many occasions at Wigmore Hall; the Royal Opera House Linbury Studio Theatre; St John’s Smith Square; live on BBC Radio 3; at Kings Place Hall One; at the Purcell Room; and at many other well-known venues.
The Musicall Compass has often collaborated with other genres of music, and with contemporary dancers, actors and writers, with the aim of presenting ancient works in new and unexpected contexts, believing that such works, which were written for specific occasions / settings (both physical and ceremonial), can be made accessible to a wider audience by placing them in surprising new contexts, creating new ceremonies in which ancient masterpieces can live.