September 29, 2015, by Emma Thorne

Mental health choir joins forces with acclaimed composer for Nottingham performance

A choir funded by the Institute of Mental Health is set to perform a unique piece of music written by an award-winning composer, which aims to reflect the experiences of living with anxiety day-to-day.

The Nottingham People’s Choir was set up in 2013 to promote mental health and wellbeing through the joy of singing. Open to anyone — whether or not they can sing — it aims to foster an inclusive attitude and meets during the day to meet the needs of those who are unable to work.

The choir will be joining forces with the Jocelyn Pook Ensemble to perform Pook’s Anxiety Fanfare and Variations at Nottingham Contemporary later this week.

The piece, which was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation and premiered at the Wigmore Hall as part of the Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014, is a musical exploration of everyday mental health disorders written in five movements.

Exploring anxiety in its many manifestations — hyperventilation, adrenalin rushes, indecision, insomnia — the piece is scored for a string sextet, a quartet of brass, four soloists and a large community choir.

Composer Jocelyn Pook is one of the UK’s most versatile composers and the winner of numerous awards and nominations including a Golden Globe, an Olivier and two British Composer Awards. Her work includes the film scores to Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and Michael Radford’s The Merchant of Venice, as well as the opera Ingerland for the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio in June 2010. She is also no stranger to the theme of mental health as her family has been touched by mental illness over three generations.

She said: “It’s very positive to talk about mental health issues which are still stigmatised in society and yet they are so common.”

Errol Francis, Artistic Director at the Mental Health Foundation, added: “We are living in anxious times. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health problems in the world and anxiety is experienced by everyone at times. The arts tend to reflect individual experience in a human, non-clinical way, and in a format that many people feel comfortable exploring.

“The work is specially written for the participation of a community choir, in this performance the Nottingham People’s Choir, along with professional soloists and aims to address the mental health stigma and promote social inclusion and wellbeing. In doing so, the Fanfare places mental health at the centre of cultural and artistic activity.”

The performance will take place at Nottingham Contemporary on Wednesday September 30 at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £10.72 and can be booked online via the Nottingham Contemporary Website.

The Institute of Mental Health is a partnership between The University of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and is based on the University’s Jubilee Campus. It aims to improve people’s lives through the use of ground-breaking research and pioneering educational activities.

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