The Brilliant and the Dark

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The Brilliant and The Dark takes as a starting point a cantata for women’s voices of the same name composed by Malcolm Williamson and Ursula Vaughan Williams, and first performed by 1,000 women volunteers at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969. The libretto approaches history from the Middle Ages to WWII through the eyes of women, via characters including witch-hunters, embroiderers, crusaders’ wives, plague stricken women, mourners and war workers.

Eileen Simpson and Ben White invited the extraordinary 22 piece women's choir Gaggle to reinterpret The Brilliant and the Dark, a 1969 cantata for women's voices. The new work was performed at The Women's Libary in September 2010 and at the ICA in December 2010.

A recording of the ICA performance has been relesed on copyleft vinyl by Transgressive Records

The project was inititated for Out of the Archives curated by Anna Colin at The Women's Library London

For the exhibition Simpson and White negotiated with copyright owners music publishers Josef Weinberger for permission to use elements from the work and invited the all-women choir Gaggle to remix the music and lyrics of the original composition for a new music video. Filmed on location in The Women's Library exhibition hall, the video re-animates the 1969 performance through restaging situations – from the backstage preparations, to choreographed moments in the live event – which are documented in photographs held in the Library’s collection. The performers are seen in new costumes referencing the originals and amidst remade props.

Watch video and read more