Pic by Lara Genovese

INTERVIEW: Festival Voices’ Gregory Batsleer

Hi Greg, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Big question! Fundamentally all is good. Though the world is seemingly caught in a total combustion of chaos and identity crisis, I have tried to find ways of learning new things and continuing on the musical journey that I’ve been on most of my life which has provided needed escape and nourishment from the crisis.  

As the world was entering the lockdown – did you have any worries you might not be able to run any event?

I think most musicians have been fearful that live events may not return, and, in many cases, they still tragically aren’t able to go ahead. We remain in completely uncertain times and months of work can be seemingly undone by one change and announcement. However, from the start of the pandemic I’ve remained hopeful that we would and could perform again, and I believe very strongly it’s our duty as creatives to try every means possible to achieve this, push against difficulty and find ways of getting our music heard and maybe use this moment of madness to try new things. 

How did you come up with the idea for Festival Voices?

Festival Voices was born out of desire to find new ways of presenting and performing choral music which has been part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love it, it sits at the centre of who I am. However, as a performer and artist I have become frustrated at the lack of innovation at times. Festival Voices was formed by me and a few mates a few years ago to actively challenge this and try and bring fresh and new ideas into the conversation.  

What was the setting and logistic process like?

For this particular gig finding a venue that we could safely accommodate our audience was our initial challenge. We explored a number of venues and were chuffed to find a space in the middle of Peckham, south east London that could accommodate us. Of course, it’s been a challenge to ensure the event is adhering to all guidelines and that audiences are briefed but ultimately, it’s completely worth it to be able to perform. 

What was it you were looking for when coming together with the set of artists to perform?

Festival Voices is primarily a collective of like-minded singers and musicians who all share the love of innovation and exploration. I guess that’s what brings us together. We don’t believe in just conforming with traditions and maintaining the status quo. I think it’s these ideas that are what we look for when working with artists. People who aren’t afraid of the new and want to challenge but are also willing to learn, I think that’s what we look for…

Did you come to the conclusion maybe a particular genre or artists would work best under this condition?

At the centre of most of Festival Voices work is our electronic re-imagining of well-known classical choral works. The pieces in the gig are carefully chosen to be work well with some of the most popular electronic beats. The classical baroque period in particular works well with electronic music as it has such an instance on beat and energy. It started as an experiment and has grown becoming something much more. 

What would you say was the most challenging aspect of putting this together?

I guess there are two answers to this question. It’s been a massive challenge to ensure that the health and safety and risk assessments were all in place for audience and performers. Then more creatively the challenge in ensuring that what we are doing is artistically integrated, that we are repeating the music of the composers we play but also not being afraid to be daring and ambitious with the sounds new ways of re-imagining their music. 

When and where can people catch this?

October 3rd (this Saturday) at Copeland Park in Peckham. We’ve got two performance one at 4pm and one at 7pm. It’s going to be a top show and we can’t wait to share it with everyone. 

There are still some tickets available and you can buy them here.

What else is happening next in your work?

Festival Voices will be returning again in the new year with a brand-new piece and brand-new collaboration. For me personally I am working on quite an exciting commission project that will be announced to the world very soon. 

Further details: https://www.festivalvoices.com/upcoming

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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