Two months or thereabouts. It seems like it was years ago, or maybe last week, but the Wonderstruck weekend came and went. As all things do. But the wonder stuck around.
I’ve not been back to the museum since. Things got pretty hectic pretty fast in the run up to Christmas, but I know that when I do go back (and I will – just try and stop me!) Wonderstruck will still be there. It’s in the peppered moths we studied incognito in the Manchester gallery. In the rocks and stones we time travelled with. It’s under Stan the T-Rex. And if you listen carefully in Living Worlds, you can hear the echoes of five choirs as they sent their voices in pursuit of wonder. And found it.
I had never taken part in anything like that before. I’ve been in choirs, community projects, theatre pieces onstage and backstage, but nothing left an imprint quite like that. I was proud to be in it. Wonderstruck just worked. And by worked, I’m not entirely sure what I mean. But it worked. It smiled, it inspired, it invited and entertained. It lifted hearts and voices to sail around history all in the same place. But most of all, it laughed. Wonderstruck laughed in that unselfconscious, head-thrown-back, tonsil-glimpsing way of pure happiness. And yes, there were underlying messages – you can read miles into lyrics and ideas – but it didn’t need anything except the passion for giving people joy. Because that’s what it was. That’s what music is there for.
Music gives a sound to things we cannot express with words alone. Literally, physiologically, biologically, we do not need it. Music is useless. But psychologically, spiritually, humanly, we do. We need music like air, oxygen for the soul, opium for the mind, a jolt of electricity that shivers down your spine and brings tears to your eyes and makes you feel closer to everything and yet totally, completely alone.
That’s how it worked. Wonderstruck. Because being part of a group, raising our voices to the rafters, watching people watching us… we were one and we were many. We are many. Wonderstruck brought people together and set them apart. Lots of people found their voices in this project. It gave people confidence. Made people sing.
It’s funny really. It feels like hyperbole, and I feel a little silly for going on and on about it, but it’s not silly. It’s not exaggeration. It’s just people and music.
And aside from all this, the project proved to be successful in more than just tuning.
As a community project, it was highly effective. The involvement of the already established choirs provided a safety net for if the Guerillas were small in number or in voice. But we were the opposite, and therefore the entire thing was strengthened. It brought people together without forcing them together – it wasn’t patronising, it wasn’t strict and didn’t adhere to a colour coded timetable for every rehearsal. It was relaxed. People felt at ease. We were hanging out together and learning some songs. No big deal. The project deserves recognition simply for the sheer amount of people involved. The age range was impressive. Singers ranged from under ten to over sixty, because voices are ageless just as music is timeless. The audiences, also, were spread across the board. And so many of them! So, so many people. At times a worrying amount, because when you’ve practised moving from one spot to another in an empty gallery, you forget that there will be pushchairs and kids and adults and people with cameras and people who don’t realise you’re part of it until you’ve sang directly into their ear. Some of the best pictures from the event show Living Worlds filled with people, equalling if not outdoing the number of animals in there.
I’ll go in a minute. There’s not much more I can think of to say without repeating myself, exulting at the marvel of music or thanking the amazing people who made this happen. But just a final thought:
The Wonderstruck masterminds always maintained that this was a one-off project, and at the time, that made me a little sad. Why should something so brilliant only happen once? But I get it now. In retrospect, it works better that way. By only happening once, it is more of an experience than an event. It’s a memory, a musical exhibit in our mind-museums, a footnote to November, a reminiscence. Like all truly magical things, it could only happen once. Any more than that, and the magic would start to fade. And hey – if we’re ever needed again, if something ever comes up where you should need voices and smiles and hearts full of melodies, then bring out the tea and biscuits. You know what to do.
You’ll find us.
We are Wonderstruck.
This blog is from Emma Geraghty’s blog Voices of Wonder. Emma was a participant in Wonderstruck, our 2014 commission exploring the theme of wonder. She was a member of the brilliant Guerrilla choir, the choir formed especially for Wonderstruck.