So the Autumn season kicked off in style at Dartington with @anasilvera. A packed Barrelhouse (we had to turn people away – many of whom apparently stood and listened outside) – as Ana and Jon weaved their magic. There can surely be very few people who can make the story of a young girl jumping into the Thames and staring up at the sky from the riverbed sound so beautiful.
As I waited for a late sleeper train on a cold and lonely Totnes station (thanks FGW) it struck me how one of the themes of the evening (for me) had been the importance of what can be seemingly random connections.
Take for example the fact that yesterday I saw Catherine Breillat’s film Bluebeard (I blogged about it here) at Dartington’s Barn Theatre. The film ends with the startling image of Lola Creton lovingly stroking Bluebeard’s head which has been delivered to her on a silver platter. Then tonight I’m transfixed again – but this time by Silvvera’s heart felt lyrics (never more so than on Song for Daniel) and soaring melodies. Mid way through the set she launches into Salome, her song about the ‘biblical bitch’ who demanded the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter.
Eyes closed the image I have in my head is not of Ana at the piano but of Creton lovingly stroking Bluebeard’s beard. Although physically squeezed in a corner of the barrelhouse Ana and Catherine transport me to a totally different place. It was a reminder for me about how personal the arts experience is – my re action was I suspect unique – and probably only meaningful – to me. Peter Brook writes about how all that is needed for a theatre experience is a performer and an audience. And for that moment Ana’s experience and connections joined in the middle of a venn diagram with my own.
In Letter to New York she sings ‘I have made myself an island but I don’t mind if you come ashore’. I’d hazard a guess that it was an invitation that many of the audience took up – but the real wonder is each of us will have been on different islands with Ana. The real artists have the ability to make you feel as though they are performing for you one on one, regardless of the size of the audience. Ana has it in spades.
Sometimes though those connections can be less ethereal and much more practical. Ana it turns out was a regular participant of Dartington International Summer School – returning as recently as last year – just to ‘hang round’. It all started at Dartington she enthuses telling me about how she first met long term musical partners here, how her connection with Anthony and the Johnsons began here and how her major project with the Roundhouse came about through connections made up at the hall.
It’s a small world!