Apocalypse Music co-founder Hermione Kellow headed on down to Southwark Cathedral to watch “All the Ends of the World,” a poignant musical reflection on the state of the world and the impact of climate change through multimedia.
From extreme weather to COP 27, the issue of global warming and climate crisis has been on the lips of many in recent weeks. Indeed, a mere matter of days after controversial public figure Julia Hartley-Brewer dismissed the very notion of climate change on BBC’s Question Time, I found myself sat in a packed-out Southwark Cathedral watching ‘All the Ends of the World,’ a special project intended to provoke conversation around this very topic through combining the heavenly voices of The Sixteen with improvised solo violin by Lizzie Ball, percussion from Gosia Kepa and videography by Heather Britton all under the direction of Harry Christophers. The programme featured a beautifully curated collection of choral music by Hildegard of Bingen, Pérotin, Léonin, Sheppard and Padilla.
In all manners of the word, texture was one of the most fascinating elements of this project. Musically, there was a clear contrast between the various sounds being used that leaned into an atmosphere of conflict. On the one hand, there was the traditional and meticulous sound of the choir whilst on the other, there was the improvisatory solo violin interjections that had more of a raw, unpredictable quality. The addition of the solo violin modernised the music that was being sung by breathing a sense of volatility into a sound that ordinarily strives to be entirely seamless. Indeed, Lizzie Ball’s impressive command of these moments added a real force to the programme and helped to create this thoroughly unique tone.
The use of bells further contributed to this friction, cutting through the texture with a jarring mechanical clank, perhaps to imitate the machinery of modern life. The effect overall was one of absorption for the audience who were constantly pulled to and from the different sonic effects and implored to divert their attention in various directions.
The performance began fragmented with the choir in separate parts of the building and the solo violin floating in from the distance. The gradual coming together of all these elements at the front of the space coincided with the ramping up of thought-provoking footage staged in the background. A particularly haunting part of the video would bring to the fore the issue of overfishing, tinted with a tinge of red, the imagery was of fishes with mouths agape struggling to move or breathe. Further imagery of landscapes ravaged by extreme weather and pollution were similarly shown, pictured with an almost otherworldly, unnatural ether and characterised with a resounding feeling of jeopardy. These were contrasted with quite the opposite, fields of flowers and swathes of nature, imploring the audience to confront what could be lost without action. Britton’s videography was highly evocative and effective, notably ending with a stark, urgent message for reflection as a final flame of hope is extinguished.
Looking around the historic building, the subject matter was made even more poignant by the presence of Gaia, a touring artwork by UK artist Luke Jerram measuring seven metres in diameter and created from 120dpi detailed NASA imagery of the Earth’s surface. The floating 3D depiction of the planet quite literally added a sense of gravity to the conversation, a visual reminder of what was at stake.
It is a lazy yet prevalent misconception that serious, traditional music, such as that being performed in ‘All the Ends of the World,’ is less capable of sparking discussion around modern life. This has largely been the result of decades if not centuries of unimaginative programming so it was incredibly encouraging to watch this project come together so successfully. The multimedia aspect especially felt incredibly modern and brought a wonderful tangibility to the topics raised resulting a memorable and reflective piece of performance art. I hope it can act as an example for those looking to use music and performance as a way to make a statement.
Words by Hermione Kellow
Photos © Lizzie Ball