Lewisham Borough, in southeast London, teamed up with local conservatoire Trinity Laban this autumn to produce a festival featuring older adult performers. Someone had been very busy thinking up appropriate titles for these events - Age Against the Machine, Inspired Not Tired - but I most liked the subtitle Creative Ageing. Particularly as I now fit snugly into the target demographic, and this wording offered an aspirational way of looking at the life to come.
I sometimes worry about the repertoire given to grassroots community choirs – all those heteronormative pop ballads, and songs from the shows that no-one has ever seen. So it was good news indeed to learn that composer Liz Lane was going to write a half-hour finale for the Festival, performed by seven Lewisham-based elders’ choirs. Liz is an exceptionally skilled and sensitive composer, and the range of musical groups she has created music for is rather astonishing. Secreted beneath the complicated goings on in Laban’s bendy foyer area were ravishing passages of golden instrumental sound for a tiny band (including sax, cello and harp) – genius arranging by Liz.
Admirably, the texts had been written by the singing groups themselves – a process which can take many a day to assemble into a cogent libretto. My other favourite feature was the numerous tribe of dancing people, old and young, slowly writhing down the concrete gangway – the younger element being elegant Laban students (choreography by Lizzi Kew Ross.) A cogent reminder that, under the right conditions, ageing people thrive amidst contemporary life, rather than wallowing in nostalgia as is often supposed.