Vocal Manoeuvres – Elegant, Classy and Incredibly Talented
The Universe has blessed me with many talents; the capacity to sleep on planes, hair like the paddle pop lion, the ability to make a whole bag of m&m’s disappear instantaneously. Unfortunately I cannot count singing among these wondrous gifts. Fortunately all the choristers at Vocal Manoeuvres can. I’m not one to wax lyrical. Usually if I’m waxing anything is sarcasm, or leg hair. But permit me this one time as I try and describe my experience shooting choir group Vocal Manoeuvres at St Stephen’s Cathedral in the Brisbane CBD.
I love classical music but tend to stick to the instrumental pieces. Unless, of course, it involves Bugs Bunny. So when Vocal Manoeuvres’ Choir Master Alison Rogers got in touch to shoot portraits of her three choir groups Exaudi Australis, the Australian Vocal Arts Ensemble and the Queensland Festival Chorus, I was really keen to see what a group of highly trained vocal performers could do.
Listening to them sing in the Cathedral of St Stephen was one of those moments where my body responded entirely without input from my conscious brain. Standing on a ladder as I was photographing them from above I suddenly stood straighter and with more strength. The sound didn’t just enter my ears; it wrapped around me and seemed to fill the space between the muscles and bones in my body. As soon as they started singing it made me see them and the space we occupied in a totally different way. So, I changed my lighting and tried to recreate what I felt.
I’d never experienced that before – to be in a space so big filled wholly and completely by sound so large it felt as though it physically occupied all the empty space around you. And that was just the small 12 person choir – the Australian Vocal Arts Ensemble. I still had the 21 member Exaudi Australis and the 80 person Queensland Festival Chorus to go. I can be bold and brazen (read: obnoxious) at times. But there’s nothing like a sight and sound so magnificent to make you shut up and listen for a while. A few times when I was trying to move, position, nudge and coax people into position I would had to of shouted over the choir. But I didn’t want to hear my own voice over the beautiful sounds echoing from the high cathedral ceiling.
Instead I just took a moment to make it look like I was considering my next move. Really, I was just enjoying the show. The Queensland Festival Chorus and the beautiful Cathedral of St Stephen Special thanks to Alison and all the Incredibly patient Choristers. Especially everyone who moved a bit to your right. A bit more. No, too far. Back again. Okay, too far. Split the difference. Yep, perfect. No, a bit more to the right. Are you standing on your tippy toes? Yes, you I’m talking to you, Sir. Oh, you are. Okay swap with the person on your right. No, swap back. Try with the person on your left. Okay, take half a step to your right…