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International SOfa Choir Unveils Original Performance

Budding singers from the UK, Sweden and Denmark have come together virtually with professional orchestra Sinfonia Viva to compose and perform a new folk song ahead of this year’s SO Festival in East Lindsey, Lincolnshire.

Choir members range from beginners to experienced choristers and have worked with Sinfonia Viva composer Jack Ross and choir leader Caroline Swaby to create a new folk song inspired by the Nordic ‘Selkie’ folklore – mythical tales of seals changing to human form by shedding their skin.

The SOfa Choir members recorded their voices individually at home whilst the Sinfonia Viva ensemble recorded the underscore in a socially distanced venue.

The song entitled ‘The Selkie and the Sailor’ tells the story of how the Selkie rescues a shipwrecked sailor in the North Sea against a sky full of stars.

The SOfa Choir wanted a video that offered something visually unique and the Lincolnshire-based theatre designer and puppet maker Ruth Pigott from Curiosity Creators created a six minute video using puppets and creative artwork.

The ‘Tales Across the North Sea’ creative project, organised in partnership with SO Festival and funded by Arts Council England and the Bergne-Coupland charity, has culminated in a recorded animated performance that is available to watch online free of charge WATCH HERE.

Grammy-nominated Sinfonia Viva, the East Midlands’ professional orchestra, has been part of the SO Festival in East Lindsey since its launch in 2009.

In 2020 and this year, the Orchestra was commissioned by festival organisers at the Magna Vitae Trust for Leisure & Culture to form virtual choir as part of the re-worked digital celebration of arts and culture across the district.

Local singers have joined choir members from overseas as part of SOfa Festival’s partnership with PASSAGE which, in normal times, is an international street theatre festival that unites the Danish city of Helsingør and the Swedish city of Helsingborg.

Sinfonia Viva Creative Projects Manager Hattie Coupe explained that the creative project had been a huge success.

“This year, we have expanded the project to welcome more singers from the three different countries who have created their own original song for the performance and we have the additional element of puppetry which is a wonderful visual element to illustrate the story.

“One thousand years ago, Britain, Sweden and Denmark were all ruled by the same Viking king and it has been great fun to reflect on the shared heritage of music, songs, myths and legends that people in all three countries.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the result.  It is so different from the normal virtual choir videos which is exactly what we wanted and we hope everyone enjoys it as much as we have.”

Magna Vitae’s SO Festival co-ordinator Melissa Hommel added: “Obviously we were all extremely disappointed that the 2020 SO Festival could not go ahead in its usual form, but what we have achieved with our virtual activities is fantastic.

“We have met new people and been able to share the work and ethos of SO nationally and internationally. What we have achieved with the SOfa Choir is an ideal example of that.”

Choir leader Caroline Swaby added: “Although it would have been wonderful to have been in the same venue singing alongside each other – coming together every week online has enabled us to bring together people who would not otherwise be able to collaborate together from different countries.

“Many have been isolated during the pandemic and, as well as experiencing the joy of collective singing, some great friendships have been forged.”

Choir member Beryl Baker said: “I am part of Zero Degrees show chorus in Louth and we have obviously not been able to perform or prepare new work for sometime now. The SOfa Choir has been a great way of keeping singing through difficult times.”

Fellow choir member Adele Lee concluded: “I sang with the SOfa Choir last summer and was keen to join this project.

“The new experience of writing lyrics and working out the music score has been a fabulous step out of my comfort zone. Singing someone else’s music is great, but learning and gaining confidence in being creative in this way has been amazing.”

And school teacher Jess Mackett from Louth concluded: “Lockdown has presented so many challenges for all of us but the SOfa Choir gave me some time for myself each week.

“It was a chance to stop everything and immerse myself in doing something I absolutely love so it has been the highlight of my week.  I can’t believe how lucky I have been to be able to participate.”

Magna Vitae receives funding from Arts Council England and East Lindsey District Council to enable SO Festival to take please.  News on 2021 activities will be released soon at www.magnavitae.org.


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