Voices Project

Voices Project


community workshops, 4-channel sound installations at three different sites around Christchurch, large-scale video installation onto Cathedral façade

Voices Project is a community focused sound project that took place at three earthquake ruined churches in Christchurch, New Zealand. The project involved three neighbourhoods that had been considerably affected by the initial earthquakes of 2010/11 and by years of significant aftershocks: central Christchurch and the ruined Catholic Basilica, Lyttelton and their destroyed Holy Trinity church, and Mairehau with their demolished church of Our Lady of Fatima. Created with the direct participation with these communities, Voices Project sought to create a live, sonic monument, re-energising spaces for the community groups involved and documenting the social architecture with which small communities re-form and adapt in response to changing environments.

I invited local residents and parishioners to attend a series of singing sessions where we would learn together a piece of polyphonic choral music – “If Ye Love Me” by Thomas Tallis. Rehearsals were recorded in surround sound; capturing from all angles, from start to finish and over several weeks, the formal and social nature of these singing sessions. From the sounds of people arriving and gathering in the space, the vocal warm ups, learning each part, failed attempts to sing together, through to performing the piece in its entirety.

The recordings from each singing session formed the basis of a one-day performance/installation; an ambient 4-channel sound work situated at each site of these former churches on Sunday 29 June 2014. At this time three years after the initial earthquakes, each site was in various states of demolition or repair and aftershocks were frequent. For the listeners who visited each site, it was as if a choir – their own community – stood before them in a place so recently unrecognisable.

Voices Project is a form of living monument; re-energising these spaces for the parishes and community groups involved, and documenting the social architecture with which small communities reform and adapt in response to changing environments.

In 2016, Voices Project was presented at the Edinburgh Art Festival with a new documentary of the project and alongside a newly commissioned project, Lapides Vivi.

My heartfelt thanks to the communities of Mairehau, Lyttelton and central Christchurch for your welcome, hospitality and enthusiasm, and to The Physics Room Contemporary Art Space for supporting this project.

More info:

The Physics Room Contemporary Art Space

Voices Project: Essay by Dr Malcolm Riddoch