Radiale Vokalnacht

my_brightest_diamond[1]By Rebecca Schmid

Vocal music, in all its forms of expression and social relevance, was the subject of a Radiale Vokalnacht at the Radialsystem on Dec.7. It was an opportunity to catch the vocalist-instrumentalist-composer Shara Worden, otherwise known as My Brightest Diamond, who performed with drummer Earl Harvin and accompaniment from BerlinJazzVocals. After the a cappella ensemble opened the evening in the main hall with an Australian polyphonic number, Worden appeared in one of her most successful songs, “We added it up,” strumming an amplified ukulele in a fitted white blazer and signature poof-hairstyle.

A trained opera singer, she was in top form as she crooned about the attraction of opposites—a trite sentiment that she manages to give depth with clever lyrics and catchy but deceptively simple tunes. The replacement of her original orchestration with BerlinJazzVocals was not entirely convincing but created an organic continuity as the audience joined, with few tone-deaf contributions, for the refrain “love binds the world.”

Her choral work “The Pleiades,” about a Native Indian rite involving the constellation, emerged with soothing harmonies but not the most inspired lyrics— “How many stars can you see in the Pleiades,” sang the chorus. The song “That point when,” to dreamy synthesizer and lulling percussion, had more dramatic impact. Worden tuned up an electric guitar for the ethereal, poetic final number, “From the Top of the World,” with sensitive rhythm from Harvin and not so subtle serenading from the JazzVocals.

The rotating program followed with the choice of three different events. On the top-floor dance studio, a Pecha Kucha Night unexpectedly presented a series of lectures. A social scientist touched on the benefits and dark sides of community singing. The presenter of a public choral concert in Germany, Brussels, Norway and England touted his event’s goal of breaking walls “both visible and invisible.” More convincing were the founders of Kiezoper Berlin, a grassroots organization which has staged operas in clubs and industrial spaces with the aim of making the art form more accessible.

If one was left wondering about the purpose of the ad hoc mini-conference, the following act in the main hall provided some food for thought—although no conclusions. The all-female Carmina Slovenica deals, in the words of event curator Laura Berman, with the “abuse of religion” and how its structures “ultimately topple.” The all-female chorus, in its Berlin premiere, performed works from Jacob Cooper to Rachmaninoff to Sirian orthodox chant in choreographed situations that merge spiritual transcendence with a heavy metal aesthetic and abstract theater.

While the performance had moving moments—such as in the earnest, military execution of Boaz Avni’s “Kyrie”—the girls should have perhaps ended the show after they all fell to the ground, presumably under the weight of societal oppression. The buckets of clementines which subsequently scattered across the stage did little to emphasize the narrative about subjugation and the will for freedom.

The evening further included a vocal workshop with Christina Wheeler called Your Voice is Your Oyster and the performance Glacial Revisited with Audrey Chen on cello, voice and electronic. At that point, my head was reeling.

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