Lunar love and out of this world with Dorset Moon

THE arrival in Dorset of Bristol artist Luke Jerram’s giant installation, the Museum of the Moon, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first man on the moon, has captured the imagination of thousands of people.

The Dorset Moon project began at St Peter’s Church, Bournemouth, and moved to Sherborne Abbey for the weekend of 6th-7th July, moving to Nothe Fort, Weymouth, on 13th-14th July, and a Dorchester Arts celebration at Maumbury Rings the following weekend.

After the Bournemouth weekend and the first day at Sherborne, the Dorset Moon project had already attracted around 8,000 visitors – passing the target of the project organisers Dorset Activate and InsideOut.

On Sunday, when there were two premiere performances of Helen Ottaway’s new work, Wind and Unwind, the Abbey was again full of people who were entranced by the giant moon. Many stayed in the evening to hear the music.

Wind and Unwind is an extraordinary composition for traditional wooden wind-up musical box and voice (the versatile soprano Melanie Pappenheim). Inspired by short compositions Helen made on a small musical box during a residency in Sri Lankar, the new piece involved a ribbon of music measuring 15 metres. The earlier pieces were hand punched one hole at a time, but the new roll was machine punched by a company in France, mechanical music specialists Le Turlutain.

The sung texts began with extracts from Giovanni Battista Riccioli’s lunar nomenclature (1651) – sung by Melanie from the altar and choir, with the peerless purity of a Renaissance choirboy. As Helen began the slow winding of the musical box and the deceptively musical patterns began to emerge, Melanie moved to the nave to sing a mournful setting of Thomas Hardy’s In the Moonlight – the moon as viewed from Dorset with a poet’s melancholy eye.

Wind and Unwind, with its minimalist musical score, interlaced with the pure soprano voice singing Hardy’s intensely sad words, created an other worldly atmosphere, mesmeric and mystical – a significant departure in Helen Ottaway’s composition style.

It is another step towards Helen’s new Requiem, a series of works written in memory of her mother which will eventually become a large scale performance piece: part choral work, part sound installation, part visual performance.


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