Swedish group VoNo presents Earth Call
by Emily John for Vocal Area Network
Posted June 3, 2017

VoNo--Earth CallVoNo (formerly Voces Nordicae) is on tour from Sweden to perform the group's new work, Earth Call. The production is inspired by the 17 sustainable development goals dictated by the United Nations, in a way that focuses on the interpersonal aspects of these goals: "How can we live together, and how can each individual take part in these goals in everyday life?" With this theme running through the performance, the selected choral music enhances the search for the answer. The singers are in constant motion, as in a ballet, interacting both within the ensemble and with the audience. The music ranges from Monteverdi (16th century) to contemporary, with a number of pieces written exclusively for the ensemble and this production. Choreography is by Susanne Jaresand, and musical direction is by Lone Larsen. The premiere was in Stockholm on April 16, at the art gallery Fotografisk.

For those interested in science or in the intersection of science and art, this is a particularly powerful performance. For lovers of choral music, VoNo is a phenomenal group. And if you're concerned about the future of the planet, you may gain ideas for how to talk about this important subject from a new vantage point.

The UN Sustainability Goals include basic but giant concepts:

  • end poverty in all its forms, everywhere;
  • achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls;
  • promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development;
  • provide access to justice for all;
  • build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The fusion of these goals with music from the Baroque era to the present day is astounding. The texts, by Darwin, Teasdale and Nelson Mandela, are provocative. The music, by Purcell, Monteverdi and contemporary favorites Ešenvalds and Sandström, juxtaposes ideas and sounds, reminding us that we are all experiencing the human condition and that it is imperative that we all stand up and figure out how to live with each other and with the Earth.

Of particular interest is the improvisation based on the sustainability goals. VoNo is known for its improvisational work; members of the group were featured artists in the Conducting21c programs in Stockholm and at Yale University. In performance, the audience gets to select goals that will be the basis of the improvisation.

VoNo is a Swedish vocal ensemble, founded in Stockholm by Lone Larsen in 1999. Over the years the ensemble has attracted professional singers from various choral backgrounds who all share a desire to create a new approach to choral music and concert presentation. With theatrical means of expression, improvisation and variation in musical genres, VoNo has developed a unique style and has come to play a leading role in expanding and renewing the Swedish choral tradition.

Performances of Earth Call are Wednesday, June 7, 8 PM at LeFrak Concert Hall on the Queens College Campus; $10 suggested donation; and Thursday, June 8, 7 PM at Scadinavia House, 58 Park Avenue in Manhattan. Purchase tickets for the Scandinavia House performance at www.scandinaviahouse.org/events/vono-earth-call/.


Editor's note: This article has been updated to provide correct information about the Thursday, June 8 performance.
Emily John is an adjunct lecturer at the Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College.