By Holli Harms
It opens with a young choir, The Hamrahlid Choir, forming in front of the stage. They are dressed in Icelandic period costumes. I counted 52 of them.
Their conductor, Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, a lovely woman of timeless age, stands, raises her arms, moves her hands, and conducts. And the sound that emanates from these wonderful voices is like nothing I’ve heard. They are ethereal.
We are at the church of Iceland, the church of Björk.
Let me say again, they were unbelievable, and that conductor? She stops at one point and waits for some latecomers to get their seats. Not at all rude or disgusted by their tardiness. She is happy they finally made it to the party and acknowledges their presence. Then she is back to her choir whose voices are sent up to the gods for their pleasure and down to us for our amazement.
The choir disperses and on the scrim/curtain appear images of flowers, of nature, their colors so vibrant. They are moving, folding and unfolding, and spiraling and twisting, all in slow motion so that we do not miss their brilliance. This is the hope for our relationship to nature, to the pulse of nature. It is the subtle “theme” of the evening.
We hear her voice first behind the scrim, that voice that is itself a choir of many, a monk’s bell ringing, a category all to itself. And then there she is, Björk, in a costume that is part seashell and part angelic madwoman and part rock and roll. She enters like a beam of light. Is she one of us? Is this how a goddess would enter our realm? Then the visuals on the scrim turn to nothing but colors and shapes, and you wonder, “Is this what outer space looks like?”
We are in space, underwater, in the earth. And an unknown creature has landed on our shore. Possibly a Chimeric, a mythical animal formed from parts of various animals and in the case of Björk air, space, anger. You think what a privilege it is to live at the same time as this artist known as Björk. You’re glad you have made it to the World Premiere and The Shed ‘s Commission of Björk and her most elaborate musical performance known as Cornucopia to celebrate with her and her fellow artists this planet, its sounds, and its glory.
On stage Björk has added to the amazing flutists, VIIBRA, FLUTE SEPTET, percussionist Manu Delago, and choir, a reverb room. The reverb room – think of your shower where the acoustics are perfect and you sound remarkable. She will enter this room on several occasions, sometimes alone, and sometimes with a flutist, and almost always a cappella, her voice more than enough, more than needed to move us. She has a duet with the artist known as serpentwithfeet and this is remarkable. They match each other with intention and depth. Under the direction of filmmaker Lucrecia Martel the evening is flawless transitions from sound and image and chorus.
I sat and thought of Hamlet: “What a piece of work is man, How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, In form and moving how express and admirable, In action how like an Angel, In apprehension how like a god, The beauty of the world, The paragon of animals.”
The musicians are wonderfully costumed and choreographed. The stage a dissected seashell. The percussionist uses bowls and water for sounds, and drums and beats that vibrate through your body, bones, and blood.
This is where nature and technology collaborate for a better future. A future of harmony, a place where we do not destroy, but create.
This amazing performance does eventually come to an end, but like any good concert there is the return and final song and this is the only time Björk changes costume and we are awarded a few more minutes with these amazing artists. While the change is happening, we watch a video on the scrim of the young activist, Greta Thunberg. Her speech was a quietly spoken requiem to us about the effects of global warming and the need for change. She like Björk is taking a stand to save our planet. Here is most of it…
“We are about to sacrifice our civilization for the opportunity of a very small number of people to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. The biosphere is being sacrificed so that rich people in countries like mine can live in luxury. But it’s the suffering of the many which pays for the luxuries of a few. In the year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday. If I have children, maybe they will spend the day with me. … Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act. You say you love your children above all else, and yet you’re stealing their future in front of their very eyes. Until you start focusing on what needs to be done rather than what is politically possible, there is no hope. We cannot solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis … And if the solutions within this system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. They have run out of excuses and we are running out of time. But I’m here to tell you that change is coming, whether they like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”
This is the message of the entire evening. So go forward and make a change, and remember music is magic and some of its musicians are made of more than stardust.
Björk’s Cornucopia created and performed by Björk, directed by Lucrecia Martel
Production Team: Björk creator and artist, Lucrecia Martel Director, Tobias Gremmler Digital Visuals, James Merry Co-creative Director, Chiara Stephenson Set Designer, Olivier Rousteing Costume Designer, Iris Van Herpen Costume Designer, Katie Buckley Harp, Viibra Flute Septet, Manu Delago Percussion, Bergur Þórisson Electronics, Margrét Bjarnadóttir Choreographer, Bruno Poet, Lighting Designer, John Gale Sound, Nick Verstand Laser Design, Hungry Makeup Artist
Music Credits: String, flute, choir, and harp arrangements, and production and musical direction by Björk, Music produced by Björk, Original music co-produced by Arca
Isobel and Mouth’s Cradle new versions imagined by Arca
Rehearsal direction and score preparation by Matt Robertson and Bergur þórisson
VIIBRA, FLUTE SEPTET
Melkorka Ólafsdóttir, Áshildur Haraldsdóttir, Berglind Tómasdóttir, Steinunn Vala Pálsdóttir
Björg Brjánsdóttir, Þuríður Jónsdóttir, Dagný Marinósdóttir
THE HAMRAHLÍÐ CHOIR
Þorgerður Ingólfsdóttir, Conductor
LOCATION AND DATES
The McCourt At The Shed (The Bloomberg Building, 545 West 30th Street, New York, NY 10001)
Final performance June 1 at 8 pm, Tickets are sold out. Limited tickets may become available on the day of the show. Please call (646) 455-3494 for more information. This performance includes the use of strobe lights, lasers, and flashing video.
Running time: 100 minutes.