Ana Silvera & the Estonian Television Girls Choir

Imogen Heap & the Holst Singers
Reverb Festival – Roundhouse, Camden, 26.02.12

by Ruth Thomson

Ana Silvera and Imogen Heap’s show at the Roundhouse was an innovative mix of all things choral, Baltic and surreal. As part of the contemporary classical music Reverb Festival, there was much talk of genres redefined and boundaries pushed… but it did turn out to be a an inspiring night.

The first half featured the classically trained singer Ana Silvera and the real stars of the show, the Estonian Television Girls Choir. Aged around 14 -19 and wearing their national dress of three quarter length vertically striped multi-coloured dresses, crocheted shawls, thick cream stockings and flat shoes (surely every adolescent girl’s dream) they were led by their alarmingly wolverine conductor Aarne Saluveer and sang fantastically. Their rich harmonies and ethereal sound added much to Silvera’s song cycle ‘Oracles’ – especially in the upbeat I Draw You in a Circle of Chalk and the whimsical I Grew Up In A Room as Small as a Penny. Silvera herself was channelling Kate Bush a little in floor length silk gown complete with flowing sleeves.

In the second half, Imogen Heap took to the stage with the Holst Singers (and a few Estonians now dressed less conspicuously) to perform her a cappella score to the 1928 French surrealist film ‘The Seashell and the Clergyman’ whilst the film itself was projected on to large screens above the stage. Heap looked appropriately creative (huge shoulder pads, something that looked like a neck brace, mad hair etc) as she told us that the film charts the erotic hallucinations of a priest (who surprisingly looked a lot like Chris O’Dowd of Bridesmaid’s fame). I struggled to find it overly erotic, but then maybe that’s why I’m not in the priesthood. Heap and the Holst singers accompanied the film with an amazing range of vocal and physical effects (rhythmic thigh slapping and chest thumping for instance) and some mesmerising sounds – including a bass moment reminiscent of the oompa loompas. It took only a matter of minutes to engage completely with the crazed priest who spent much of the time running around with a glassy and slightly pervy look in his eye – finally defrocking a heavily kohled temptress who surprisingly turned out to have on a bra made of shells – who knew?! I’d never seen Heap before and had heard she’s a bit of a love/hate character….on the basis of this my vote is in… Love!!

But the last word has to go to the ETGC who reconvened with Ana and Imogen for an extended encore section. I had the pleasure of hanging out at one of their rehearsals in Tallinn last January and can vouch for the fact that they are an incredibly disciplined, talented and well rehearsed group. Here they closed with one of their trademark choreographed performances – singing an Estonian folk song whilst performing moves that were a weirdly intriguing mix of sultry, tribal and innocent – not unlike a Baltic Lynx Ad. That priest would have loved it.

Leave a Reply