WAIL: Songs of the Brier Island Siren

12 May

 It was our first choral theatre experience and it won’t be our last! Camerata Xara Young Women’s Choir presented WAIL: Songs of the Brier Island Siren last night at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. (It’s on again this evening. Probably sold out. You snooze, you lose.) Where to begin? Choral theatre is an emerging art form being practiced by only a handful of ensembles worldwide. Inspired by a theme or idea, the artistic duo behind Xara (the stupendously talented Christina Murray & Claire Leger) create an original performance piece using existing choral music and songs from a variety of periods and styles. Music is the text in these beautifully crafted plays. Movement, visual and sound effects are woven in effortlessly.

As for WAIL, wow. WAIL is a full-length piece of choral theatre that imagines the life of the mythical sirens who live on the shores of Nova Scotia’s Brier Island. Christina and Claire devised the show by combining ancient cross-cultural lore about Sirens with the true story of Joshua Slocum, native Brier Islander and first man to circumnavigate the world alone.

“It was amazing to us that Nova Scotia, or even coastal North America, didn’t have a siren myth since almost all cultures have a version of this story,” says Murray. “When we read about Joshua Slocum and the ship-wreck history of Brier Island, we knew we had the ingredients for a fascinating tale.”

WAIL tells the story of a group of Sirens and their relationship with young Joshua as he dealt with his difficult childhood and prepared for a life as a sailor.  In Xara’s imagination of this story, Joshua’s years playing with the sirens on Brier Island made him immune to their lure elsewhere as he sailed around the world.  “Most siren myths paint these creatures as evil seductresses without any story of their own,” says Murray.  “As a performance group of women, we wanted to explore what might have made the sirens sad or angry enough to spend their lives luring sailors to their death with their songs.”

With WAIL, Xara has added a new story to Nova Scotia’s folklore cannon. It was 120 minutes of beauty, passion, imagination – art that truly brings chills down your spine, thoughts to your mind and hope to your heart. The 20 young women of Xara have mind-blowing talent, and their voices together in harmony was magic. Their grace – in voice and movement – in telling this rich story seemed effortless. The music chosen to tell this new and vibrant story was eclectic, yet seemed destined to be sung together. Simple yet effective costuming and stunning make up really complemented the performances.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic proved to be an excellent venue for such a performance. The acoustics were ideal. The use of two levels, the lights dancing across the sails of the boats in the Museum, the windows overlooking the water…..all we can say is site specific productions really work.

Choral theatre is an exciting new art form and we encourage all to engage. Drop any pre-conceived notions of what it may be or what you may or may not like and go see some choral theatre. (Preferably tonight, if you can still get tickets.) Keep an eye out for Xara, as they have already performed internationally and are no-doubt headed for a bigger spotlight. Follow them on twitter and like them on facebook to stay in the loop, as you don’t want to miss what they got going on! Awaken your soul with beautiful music and amazing storytelling.

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