Launching on the evening of Friday 14 October with free live pop-up performances by The Portrait Choir, there will also be a specially created sound installation of choral music, inspired by the Gallery’s Collection, by electronic musician named Scanner.
The Choral Audio Guide, which was made possible with support from Gallery donors, was recorded by The Portrait Choir which is at the heart of the Gallery’s Choir in Residence programme.
Narrated by actor Simon Russell Beale, the Audio Guide illuminates portraits in the Gallery’s permanent Collection by offering visitors the opportunity to hear the choral sounds of each time-period spanned by the portraits in its 500-year Collection. A specially commissioned narration provides the context for each choral piece.
Starting with Tallis, the guide moves into the Tudor galleries with Wilbye and the Stuarts with Bennet, moving into Purcell and Handel in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century galleries; Mendelssohn and Sullivan in the Nineteenth; and Elgar, Britten and Tippett in the Twentieth; the Audio Guide will provide a unique soundtrack to five centuries of portraits.
The Choral Audio Guide is brought to the Contemporary Galleries with music including Tavener’s The Lamb from 1968 before ending right up to date with a specially commissioned choral piece Te Lucis ante terminum by composer James Burton. Burton’s piece sets to music extracts from the National Portrait Gallery’s Special Constabulary Report Book, from 1914-20, when the basement of the Gallery was used as a place of safe haven during the First World War London bombings.
Artistic Director Gregory Batsleer will discuss the Choral Audio Guide at an In Conversation event at the Gallery with BBC Radio 3 presenter Clemency Burton Hill.
The Audio Guide is being produced by Philip Hobbs of Linn Records and will be available to download online, via iTunes and to stream via Spotify, for ١.
In addition, on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 October The Portrait Choir will be performing at 14.00 Everything you Can Imagine is Real – a multi-disciplinary event combining the music of Stravinsky with spoken word, lighting and sound display to explore the themes associated with Picasso Portraits.
Formed in 2013 The Portrait Choir is the National Portrait Gallery’s Choir in Residence. The Portrait Choir has commissioned and performed at least one new work each year. Performing with up to 22 singers The Portrait Choir is made up of some of the UK’s finest young professional singers.