Choeur Maha Sonic Choreography
On Sunday May 29th, 2011, I attended the event Sonic Choreography: The Goods held by experimental women’s choir Choeur Maha in Jeanne-Mance Park (Montreal, Quebec). The event happened the day after Choeur Maha’s 20th Anniversary Spring Gala and was free and open to public participation. The invitation noted that no rehearsal was necessary and encouraged bringing a portable radio. This 30-minute piece was held in collaboration with DJ Andy Williams, who played accompanying music over the radio from CKUT show The Goods.
Choeur Maha artistic director Kathy Kennedy has presented several “sonic choreographies” internationally that involve performers moving and singing through public space, often with portable radios, including Hmmm and Counting Game.
As I approached Jeanne-Mance Park, I was greeted by blue balloons, long red ribbons and yellow umbrellas. Highly danceable afro-beat played from the hand-held radios and a voice gave instructions over the airwaves: “Yellow umbrellas go to the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Rachel!” “Red ribbons form a line!” Colourful chaos ensued. The voice invited us to sing along to the instrumental music with nonverbal melodies, such as “Oooh ooh ahhh”, resulting in a choir of beautiful, improvised harmonies. Bemused park-goers stopped to watch and listen, some gradually joining in and grabbing the tail of a dancing red ribbon train or singing along.
The event was truly participatory, transcending expected roles of performer and audience. I had not only come to experience a performance, but rather to become an integral partaker. As we interacted with each other and the radio broadcast, I was struck by the idea that an important aspect of performance is listening. This is particularly true with improvisation, which requires reaction/interaction with other performers or one’s environment. I left the event feeling that I had taken part in a joyous public intervention, one celebrating community through radio, art and participation.