By Molly Govus
Walking into ‘The Little Man Coffee Co.’, I had no idea what to expect. Floating around my head were the words ‘sound art’, ‘music’ and ‘spoken word’. All words that I was not too familiar with before today. It was an experience I will never forget; I went in with a million questions and came out with even more.
If there were a place to perfectly encapsulate the Danish word ‘Hygge’ – this coffee shop would be it. All tables and chairs were pushed aside to form a stage-like space in the centre. Naturally, everyone clung to the edges of the for dear life and I was relieved that I wasn’t the only one. Dim lights hung low from the ceiling, heightening my curiosity over what I was about to witness. ‘Reserved’ signs were placed on random tables, chairs and areas of the shop and at that point I really was not sure where the performance would be taking place. Thirty minutes later I was greeted with my answer: the performance was everywhere.
That really is the only way to describe it.
Amid colloquial chatter and natter, unnoticeably, a man swiftly got up onto the table. Before I knew it, I was being serenaded by the most beautiful voice. ‘Yr Eneth Gad Ei Gwrthod’ is a traditional Welsh song that I had never heard before this moment. Not being a Welsh speaker, I was more than happy to listen purely to his voice rather than take notice of the words being spoken. The notes flew seamlessly through his lips, and I became one of the many – watching, astounded. Just through his voice, the performer was able to convey the story of ‘The Rejected Maiden’, and at that moment I knew why I was at an event celebrating the impact of the human voice. Without words, he had told a story. And I got it.
As the evening progressed, I became more and more involved in the event – physically and emotionally. I didn’t even have a choice. I moved in sync with the audience around the room, following each performer that popped up in random places around the stage. Linda Walsh’s performance of Fleur De Bray’s ‘Ghost Train’ will never leave my mind. Imagine someone telling a ghost story and mimicking a ghost train entirely through sounds. The range of her voice jumped from deep rumbling growls to the screeches that are reminiscent to the pantomimes of my childhood. I was both in awe and in complete shock – how was this possible? I’m still unsure. The evening was a combination of this type of sound art, poetry and monologues. It could not have been a more inclusive experience; The audience moved around the room like a shoal of fish, with each performer becoming the most important thing in the room each time. People were even laughing with sound. What surprised me was that even I, the avid English student, found myself laughing purely at sound.
My eyes have been completely opened by newCELF’s event. All my judgements and preconceptions of the human voice were proved wrong in such a wonderful way, and I was happy to be wrong. I’ve learnt that sometimes, sound is far more important than the words of a piece. And that’s coming from a writer – that says more than I could ever convey in words.