Apocrifu | Requiem | NBE & A Filetta | Spitalfields

Reviews Apocrifu:

I have to be honest: we only bought tickets for Apocrifu because A Filetta were performing, although that was reason enough, and we were more than happy to be participants in the Brighton Festival with its guest director Aung San Suu Kyi.  What we found, as we watched Apocrifu unfold, however, was a rich artistic mix well beyond our expectations.

We anticipated, of course, modern dance accompanied by the polyphonic music of A Filetta.  A Filetta’s disturbing and compelling style we already knew and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s innovative choreography and strong message came as no surprise.  But the distinctive dance style of Cherkaoui and his companions Dimitri Jourde and Yasuyoki Shuto was at once unconventional and yet oddly familiar, and drew us inexorably into the action of the performance.

But there was more to come.  This wasn’t just music and dance but theatre too.  And it wasn’t just the use of props, (books as stepping stones, threats and walls) but the spoken word, telling us stories and making us laugh.  And these versatile dancers weren’t just actors and comedians but also superb puppeteers, working as skilfully with their wooden companion and as with their own bodies.

This extraordinary blending and combining of different forms of artistic expression absorbed A Filetta as well.  Dance can often use music as a backdrop, an accompaniment, a support system.  In Apocrifu, however, A Filetta do not take this role.  The singers are an integral part of the performance, choreographed, involved,  the seven men singing and moving, together and separately, as part of the dance, contributing to the drama.  Their whole presence – visual and audible – combined with that of the three dancers to create an amazing artistic entity.

There was such a depth of performance that I probably only saw and appreciated a tiny fraction of what was happening on stage.  I need to see Apocrifu again – and again.
©Helen Neve mei 2011 Brighton


Words, you can read them, devour them, build bridges with them, fight wars over them, they can mean nothing or more then they can tell, you can stick them, throw them and trample them.
The latter is what choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui does in his play Apocrifu, literally.

It’s five minutes to eleven on a wet Saturday evening in a tram depot converted to a dance theater in Düsseldorf, Germany. Finally the curtains open. On stage, seven singers, three dancers, a puppet and books, lots and lots of books.

Wikipedia: Apocrypha (from the Greek word aporcyphus, meaning “those having been hidden away”) are texts of uncertain authenticity, or writings where the authorship is questioned.
When used in the specific context of Judeo-Christian theology, the term apocrypha refers to any collection of scriptural texts that falls outside the canon. Given that different denominations have different ideas about what constitutes canonical scripture, there are several different versions of the apocrypha. During sixteenth-century controversies over the biblical canon the word “apocrypha” acquired a negative connotation, and it has become a synonym for “spurious” or “false”.

On stage a fight over the (hidden) truth unfolds. Dancers squirm through the dust, swirl ‘till they sweat to get in touch with one another. They roll and tumble, rhythmically stamp their feet, they fight for their conviction. They don’t get to an agreement. Of course they don’t. The books which first served as pavement between the players, are now being used as projectiles. Behold, he who dares speak truth, even when made of wood.
Then the white saber enters the play. Books are being stabbed. All with an opinion must die.Is the sword mightier than the pen after all?

Wait. The story isn’t completed yet. We forgot the corresponding sounds.
Mercilessly your ears catch the loud hits of the dancers feet and knees landing on the floor painfully hard. But most of all you hear the bells chained to their legs of which they are trying to free themselves. One of the dancers just can’t get it done. He cries and wheezes. You can almost feel his pain. He is the first to fall in the following survival of the fittest.

Standing ovation.
We still left something out. The wonderful music. It’s being performed live by the seven singers of A Filetta. The polyphonic singing of this Corsican fellowship doesn’t give you Goosebumps in a church or a circus tent alone. In the Tanztheater in Düsseldorf it demonstrated why famous soundtrack composer Bruno Coulais has found his way into the studio with A Filetta so many times. The intensity of the singing seamlessly fits the images which call upon your emotions anyhow. The result is an unmatched synergy between
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and A Filetta, even more because the seven singers contribute to the sophisticated choreography as if they were giant chess pieces.

The shameful retreat of the sole survivor up the stairs, is all that lasts. On A Filetta’s dying, complaining sounds he struggles to the top. He jumps without further ado.
You can kill everyone, but it won’t help, since you were alone all along.
Each on our own, we are prisoners in the solitary cell of our deception.
On truth we will never agree. As if truth was at reach for mortal man.

©Ep Meijer november 2008 Düsseldorf

Reviews Requiem:

“Agnus Dei” – Di Corsica Riposu, Requiem pour deux regards

“Ringrazii di core”
©Marilena Verheus, l’Aghja, Ajacciu 11th april 2011

““I don’t want to say anything, I just want to think back to the most intimate, intense, majestic concert I have ever experienced … ”
©Suzan Lohez, Bouffes du Nord, Parijs 25th april 2011

“Sometimes it is better to wait and not react immediately or, in my case, write a review.  But almost a week after the event I can’t help but post this over here…  (  This is what I wrote on Monday night after A Filetta’s concert in Paris:

I’m in shock!   I’m almost fifty years old and tonight I went to the best concert I’ve ever heard.
Not in the Stade de France, Gelredome, Vorst Nationaal, Werchter, Antwerp Sportpaleis.  Not U2, Springsteen, Rolling Stones, Prince or any other big star ….
But A Filetta in the incredibly beautiful, tiny “Theatre des Bouffes du Nord” in Paris.  Ugly on the outside with the sound of the metro station of ‘La Chapelle’ as background, the honking of scooters and cars, the normal bustle of a metropolis.

Inside, it was total silence and stunningly beautiful!   A small central podium surrounded by ox blood red walls slightly worn by time, similar to those I saw in Pompeii, the Villa dei Misteri.  The columns and dome reminded me of the old mosque in Istanbul – and this was all before the concert began!

I know that I wept with emotion, taken by pure emotion with tears on my cheeks, but I was not alone.

I’m not sure if I was still breathing after the first minute, completely carried away by A Filetta and Daniele di Bonaventura on bandoneon.

Intimate, understated, dark, sad, gripping, like a requiem is supposed to be …

The seven singers, dressed in black, were totally immersed in their music, sometimes lonely, sometimes embracing, entwined, lamenting, the plaintive bandoneon, puffing, groaning, and the audience noiseless.

Notte Tralinta, Kyrei, Figliolu d’Ella, Meditate, Agnus Dei, Altrunimu, In Paradisum… To live is also to die.

After the concert, it proved impossible to sleep, the music pursued it’s being in my mind.

A Filetta – Di Corsica Riposu ,Requiem pour deux Regards For now, better does not exist.”
©Eric Viskens, Bouffes du Nord, Parijs 25 april 2011

requiem-parijs“It is with great impatience that we have been waiting for this Requiem, after being able to listen several times to the CD we bought recently. We once again meet Valérie and Sabine, along with our friends Suzan, Laurent and their son Julien (A Filetta’s youngest fan as his t-shirt proclaims) and we are soon inside the surprising theatre of the Bouffes du Nord. A basic interior but very comfortable.

We settle down, spot some other friends, some well-known faces (Don Kent, Bruno Coulais…) and the concert begins. We instinctively feel that it will be a great evening. The audience is attentive, and our friends on great form.  Starting with Di Corsica Riposu, we tingle with the music.  A wonderful piece, perfectly sung by Jean-Claude accompanied by an astonishingly stable drone.  Unlike on the album, Daniele takes part (very discreetly) in this piece, adding the characteristic sound of his bandoneon to the bass voices. The Miserere, which follows, is just as exciting.  Jean-Luc starts the singing, then we can make out the voices of each singer, Paul, Maxime, Jean, José, Ceccè, Jean-Claude…

As was specifically requested before the concert, there is no applause between the sections, which follow on from each other with just a few seconds to draw breath.  Some intervals during which Jean-Claude speaks some texts, introduced by Daniele, allow more time to breathe before new songs. The contributions from Daniele are perfectly apposite. What a musician!

The concert moves on, the audience is increasingly captivated, each listener adapting his breathing to that of the singers, at the risk of suffocation!

The Requiem comes to a close with In Paradisum and the audience can finally applaud.  They don’t hold back, there is thunderous applause and “bravos” resound throughout the Bouffes du Nord. Jean-Claude announces a piece which contrasts with the mood of the Requiem: La Folie du Cardinal, a satire of a religious song.  After a further wave of applause, the singers return, and Daniele goes to sit in the front row, with the audience. Jean-Claude announces a Georgian song which turns out to be a magnificent Ghmerto. The audience  doesn’t want the evening to finish, and our friends, this time including Daniele, offer us U Sipolcru as a finale.

A spectacular evening!”
©Jean-Claude Casanova (l’Invitu), Bouffes du Nord, Parijs 25th april 2011

Reviews Cry, lament, pray and love:
March 2011 The Netherlands

“A large semicircle in the background: the space for the musicians of the NBE.  In front of them a dark mannequin with a white halo: the light effects later in the program will provide the counterpoint for the solo bassoon in “Ricercare for bassoon and light”. In the front, the music stands, placed in the usual semi-circle of the singers from A Filetta.  Full of excitement and expectation, I traveled 250 km from Germany for this concert.

Music! Singing all alone, Jean-Luc comes onto the stage, quickly followed by a bass player and a Blazer and, gradually, all the other A Filetta singers and NBE musicians join them, all singing and playing , until everyone is in place. The music continues, and NBE’s oboist speaks a short, humorous, poem which makes you reflect: will the world really explode tomorrow morning around coffee time?  Similarly, in reverse order, the concert will also end in the same way.
Between these two moments there is an hour and a half of music without an interval, a constant interplay of instrumentalists and singers, using very creative arrangements by Ernst Reijseger, and without any member of either group being drowned out.  Ernst Reijseger composed music especially for this concert but also arranged the accompaniments to A Filetta’s songs, in collaboration with the NBE.

The polyphony of the voices is interwoven with instruments such as the bass clarinet, trombone, oboe or violin.  Sometimes A Filetta creates a soundscape under the sometimes wrenchingly plaintive music of the NBE.  On their side, the NBE brings new accents to beautiful A Filetta songs like “L’Arditezza”, “Treblinka” or “Liberata”. There are special moments when an oboe or a weeping trombone takes over from the voice of Jean-Claude.  Just before the end, “Sub tuum” is overwhelming!  A soft “Bravo” escapes from the audience, but there is no applause between the songs.  At the end there is a standing ovation and enthusiastic applause which seems never ending. The audience is not satisfied until they are invited into the foyer for an encore.

But I haven’t yet mentioned the best part for me personally: my seat in the hall was in the front row, but far to the lefthand side, and at the start of the concert I realised that I only could see the back of Maxime and Ceccè. Too bad!  But oh miracle, right in the middle of the front row, directly opposite the singers, four places were empty.  When two other members of the audience sneaked up to those places, I did the same. There I was, less than two meters from A Filetta.  I could hardly believe my luck: I could share the experience of every expression, every gesture, every glance and every whispered note.  I even got a fleeting smile from Jean-Claude. This will remain an unforgettable evening for me.
A Filetta has, once again, demonstrated how well they work with other musicians and embrace new ideas. Together NBE and A Filetta knew how to enchant the audience.”

©Gabriele Mertens, Duitsland

“Friday evening, 11th March in Haarlem: my husband and I really enjoyed the concert from the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Netherlands Wind Ensemble) and A Filetta, entitled Cry, lament, pray and love.  Old sounds in new packaging.  Wind instruments and singers complementing each other very subtly and beautifully.  This is really ‘Music’. Thanks”
©H. Spaanderman, Uitgeest

“I found the Music beautiful! The beginning was soft and with the orchestra it was getting louder and energetic.  I love the big drum and the violin made very funny noises, I liked that. It was as if we were in a big church, because of the light, like the windows of a church. After the drum I found the oboe the most beautiful, especially when he played with A Filetta”
©Julien Lohez 7 years old

“Sunday: we switch over to NL1 (Dutch TV) and fall into the middle of a TV concert given by a group of men. I’m breathless, fascinated, watching A Filetta of whom I’ve never heard. When I hear that the group is giving a concert tomorrow, and with another group of fantastic musicians in Arnhem, my husband and I look at each other and decide that non of our other appointments for that evening can outweigh an evening enjoying this music. And how we enjoyed!  Beautiful!!!  The hall was not full, but when the applause broke out, it became clear how many other people had also enjoyed themselves.  Until then, it had been totally silent in the hall for 1.5 hours [or ‘an hour and a half].  What wonderful music, what an atmosphere. It is certainly not the last time that we will enjoy A Filetta!”
©Mariëtte Custers, Arnhem

“I have never given such loud and long applause after a concert!”
©Cobi, Groningen

“Last night we saw and heard a wonderful concert in Zoetermeer. At first we were a little concerned that the strength of the NBE (Netherlands Wind Ensemble) would drown the a capella singing of A Filetta.  But it was not the case, there was a fine balance, showing respect for each other and enjoying each others music.  Ninety minutes of first class music!”
©Harry & Rika, Zoetermeer

“One by one, following each other, the singers of A Filetta and the musicians of the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble came on stage and started a breathtaking evening of enjoyment. Captivating from the very first minute, utterly enjoyable.

A sober setting, all in black, with projections of church windows on the side walls of the theatre.

Sometimes a strange combination between the modern, agitated ‘city music’ of the NBE and the ancient polyphonic singing of Corsica. Sometimes the singers take over, sometimes they do little more than weep with the NBE – the contrast couldn’t be greater. A deserved standing ovation at the end.

Afterwards, in the foyer, there were a few short encores from the musicians of the NBE and also a number from A Filetta.
We spent the two hour drive back to Belgium in sacred silence, still under the spell of the concert”.
©Eric Viskens, België

My name is Lieve van Voorthuijsen, and I participated in “Het Half  Uur” (The half hour). This is a project with the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. We had to create a presentation with the theme Cry, lament, pray and love. It was fun!
After our presentation we were allowed to sit in the concert hall and listen to the NBE and La Filetta. I thought it was enchanting. I was speechless when the men began to sing. Their voices were so beautiful together. It was as if they were one. I didn’t understand what they were singing, but it sounded very moving, as if they were one with the music. It felt like they weren’t singing a song but like they were translating their feelings into musical sounds. You could hear their feelings reflected in their singing. I enjoyed myself immensely.

©Lieve, leerling van het Eerste Christelijk Lyceum Haarlem

“On 12.03.2011 in Zoetermeer we joined a wonderful concert with A Filetta and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble. We enjoyed it enormously.
Very beautiful and that from northerners listening in a Dutch theatre.  Unfortunately the sound was a bit dry. We prefer the sound of a monumental church in France.
They are now added to our list of Corsican polyphony along with Jean-Paul Poletti, Nadine Rosello and Barbara Fortuna”.

©Loes & Cees den Hollander

“Corsican a capella sounds like the ritual of farewell and mourning”
©René van Peer

Cry, lament, pray and love. Dutch Wind Ensemble with A Filetta. 12/3 Stadstheater, Zoetermeer.

A concert with the Corsican a cappella group A Filetta resembles a wake. The traditional Corsican polyphony, which developed from early liturgical music includes sacred songs and laments. The main melody passes along wild meandering trails, sometimes assisted by a second voice. The other singers put down long lines of alternating chords with a soft, hoarse, timbre. The musicians from the Wind Ensemble sometimes surround the vocals like a halo, and sometimes rise in solo above it. From time to time there are dull thuds from the bass drum and the music unfolds in a reflective tempo that perfectly suits a ritual of farewell and mourning. The songs of the Corsicans, mostly written by ensemble leader Jean-Claude Acquaviva, are interconnected by Ernst Reijseger’s compositions.  Reijseger is an improviser and a film-music composer.
The tension endures through Reijsegers balanced approach with variety and emotion. Even long silences provoke no premature applause.

This article was publiced in NRC Handelsblad Monday 14th march 2011, page 22 – 23

Peircing and poignant voices
When the seven men from A Filetta start their lamentations it penetrates to the very marrow of your bones. The voices of the Corsican group are peircing and poignantThe musicians of the Netherlands Wind Ensemble sometimes lay a soothing connection or increase the tension with threatening sounds.
We don’t understand the Corsican texts, but their contents are easy to guess.  There is suffering, and horrors are described.
The gestures of the singers are significant: faces in pain, hands near the head, an arm comforting on another shoulder.

Jean-Claude Acquaviva and his men have been keeping Corsican music alive for over thirty years.  Oboist Bart Schneemann, artistic director of the Netherlands Wind Ensemble fell under the spell of A Filetta and decided to join forces with the Corsicans.  Boundaries between world music and classic compositions, theater and concerts, are there to break, or so think the NBE.
The program Cry, lament, pray and love also has the character of an impressive ritual. The musicians come on stage one by one, singing and after their performance, leave again one by one.

Ernst Reijseger has, in a beautiful way, melded the Corsican songs with original compositions and instrumental layers. These have their own style – a haunting violin, fake air blowing musicians, compelling rhythms, menacing drum beats and a playful duet of a bassoon with a luminous Saint sculpture. But with their dark atmosphere and dark tones they beautifully enclose the songs of A Filetta.
The Netherlands Wind Ensemble also likes to shift boundaries within the educational field. With the program “Het half uur” (The Half Hour) they attract young people not only to the concert but also onto the stage. Students from the Eerste Christelijke Lyceum (a High School in Haarlem) gave their own interpretation of the theme Cry, lament, pray and love. With sketches and songs they painted a picture of the period between 1960 to 2011. “The youth culture of today is lost. Their taste for music is totally corrupt” they rapped. But with the NBE (Netherlands Wind Ensemble) we don’t have to be afraid that that will happen.
Winand van de Kam
This article was published in the Haarlems Dagblad on Monday March 14th, 2011, page 13

Review: Spitalfields festival

‘From Corsican Soil’

If you live in Britain and love Corsican music, live performances close to home are few and far between, so an A Filetta concert in London, at Christ Church Spitalfields, promised to be a real Christmas treat.

Walking down the street towards the venue was a wonderful start to the evening.  The 18th century church was floodlit and the spire towered above us in the night sky.  Christ Church Spitalfields was designed by the British architect Nicholas Hawksmoor (a contemporary of Sir Christopher Wren),  as part of an effort to provide sufficient churches for ‘Godless thousands’ who lived just outside the City of London.  These thousands included a large number of French Huguenot silk weavers who had recently been expelled from France.  What an interesting venue for a group from Corsica!

Inside, we settled ourselves into our seats in the enormous nave, listening to the chatter of our neighbours in the audience – mostly in English but a fair smattering of French too.  Of our little group, two of us were A Filetta enthusiasts but the third had come out of curiosity and I was interested to see what she would make of it.  This would be A Filetta unadorned – pure a capella music from the depths of the Mediterranean.

The concert was to be based on A Filetta’s Bracana programme and we started with O Salutaris Hostia.  I was surprised – not disappointed – but surprised when, despite the expected superb singing, the first notes did not have the usual emotional and physical impact on me, that impact which I have now come to expect from Corsican music. I must be tired, I thought and settled back to enjoy the performance anyway.  I shut my eyes and let the music lift me and float me away.  A paghjella and the Agnus Dei later and I was glimpsing Corsica.  The audience was enthralled and clapping enthusiastically.  The Benedictus started and I suddenly realised that my heart and stomach had, as usual, turned over, and I had left London far behind.  A Filetta had performed a Corsican miracle, built the tension, pulled us all together and overcome the problem – surprisingly difficult accoustics.  What a triumph!

After that my eyes were wide open!  We were enslaved by the intricate weaving of notes and syllables, the subtle interplay of audible and visual.  The delights of Meditate and of Jean Claude Aquaviva’s Figliolu d’ella; the fascination of those familiar voices moving to a different country and culture to sing Makharia, the Georgian prayer.

We loved them and of course they gave us an encore.  Our friend was captivated and enthusiastic.  Afterwards we were lucky enough to exchange a few words with the singers and were not surprised to hear Jean Claude Aquaviva comment on the dryness of the acoustics and the work needed to provide us with the full A Filetta experience.  But they certainly succeeded. Bravo!
©Helen Neve, 14th december 2010