On January 25th I attended Sanka’s Winter Ritual; a performance at Urbanguild by the mixed media collective Ensō Watt. Just as when I attended the Autumn Ritual in October, I was completely enthralled by the mounting energy of this show. It really is a treat to see talented artists from so many varied disciplines blending their abilities so successfully.
At an Ensō Watt performance there are two screens, one poet, and musicians positioned around the room… The audience is bathed in colour and sound.
Of course, it could have all gone horribly wrong. On the one side you have a classically trained composer and conductor (Yannick Paget), and on the other you have an unruly bunch of experimental musicians, video artists and soundscape technicians (everybody else). You might assume that their natural instincts would pull them in two mutually incompatible directions, and you can easily imagine the resulting riotous blasphemy of chaotic sound and colour that would result. Ensō Watt manages to keep the balance between order and liberty just right however, and I think it is that fine balance, that tension between two compulsions that makes their performances so thrilling.
A limited score gives some structure to the performance, but the rest is improvisation…
Those experimental artists who are used to playing with complete fresdom, are given a structure in which to contain their genius. The composer/conductor Yannick Paget, who by his training has always played completely fixed and rigid compositions, is suddenly set free to improvise at will. Everyone is playing outside their comfort zone and this provides a sense of adventure.
Yasutaka Okada on contrabass
And all of this is inspired by the mystical refrains of Chris Mosdell’s poetry. His words conjure visions of a people (the semi-legendary Sanka tribe) who are swept up in both dread and ecstatic passion at the most elemental forces of life.
Poetry assaults the senses!
Clearly he is in his element, and it must be a great joy for the poet that his words have inspired the other artists to produce for this one night a magnificent shimmering sanctuary of light and sound.
The poet too, is caught up in the magic of the moment.
Meanwhile, Yannick Paget throws himself into an enraptured percussive performance, while simultaneously (and most wondrously!) maintaining control over the ritual’s flow by conducting the other musicians. How he does all this is a mystery, but as he banged out the final crescendo of rhythm on the drums, it was all I could do to stop myself from throwing up a horny handed salute! The man might be a classical musician by trade, but at heart he is a rock star!
Yannick in the dark.
It is unfair though, to single out individuals for special praise in this collective. All of the members are brilliant, and their seamless collective pooling of their talents a remarkable phenomenon that I would encourage you all to see. The next miracle from Ensō Watt, the Rite of Spring will be performed at Urbanguild on April 29th. Mark it down in your diaries.
The ring leaders, left to right: Samuel André, Yannick Paget and Chris Mosdell.
To learn more about Ensō Watt and their seasonal rites, visit their website here: http://ensowatt.org/