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  • Miles Hedley

BIRTH ENSEMBLE at St Alfege’s Church

There are free lunchtime recitals at St Alfege’s pretty much every week of the year and the range of programmes on offer is extraordinary, from traditional classics such as Bach and Mozart to premieres of music just written by Trinity Laban composition students. Sometimes you even see those pieces combined with dance.

That was exactly what happened when Birth Ensemble – singer-dancers Franziska Boehm, Svenja Buehl and Heloise Tunstall-Behrens – joined forces with the TL Organ Pipe Orchestra at the parish church for an immersive exploration of the sublime.

As the name suggests, composers Darragh Kelly, Michael Clulow, James Fawcett, Billy Leach, Joshua Kaye, Ines Murer, Mikey Parsons, Ben Leigh-Grosart and Max Winter blew on a selection of individual pipes and also used prerecorded electronica as they lined the church’s upper gallery to create a weird, ethereal soundscape of minimalist motifs to which the trio moved and vocalised.

For almost an hour, as audience members walked between them, the dancers - all TL alumni - ebbed and flowed through St Alfege’s like a tide as they uttered a string of calls, cries, grunts and gorgeous musical phrases that conjured up, for me, a meditation on the dawn of humankind with mythological tones referencing the fatal beauty of the sirens’ song and the ancient story of Heracles and the python.

Of course, I might be completely wrong about the meaning. But where else can you go on a Thursday lunchtime and be provoked into pondering profound questions about life and death? This was a magnificent performance in a magnificent series of recitals.

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