Rehearsing the Apocalypse

R. Murray Shafer’s 1980 “musical pageant”, Apocalypsis, is being restaged this year by Luminato.  It’s currently in rehearsal and yestrday I got to see part of a staging rehearsal.  It’s an unusual work requiring massive forces (500-1000 performers depending who you read) and combines spoken word, dance, singing and other things I’m not sure I have the vocabulary for.  Oh, and yes, it depicts the end of the world!  It’s big, loud, exciting and a bit mad.  Part ego trip, part acid trip perhaps?

The first part, which I saw yesterday, is called John’s Vision and is largely based on a reworking by Shafer of parts of Revelations and Psalm 148.  There’s also a fair amount of Latin text from the mass in there.  Telling the story are multiple choirs processing hieratically, a Maori dancer, sundry other dancers, soloists who scream more than sing and a chorus banging on pans with sticks which sounds rather like 500 raccoons found the bins at the Fords’ annual BBQ.  There is also more conventional singing, as well as whispering, from both children’s and adult choirs and a lot of spoken text.  I’m not sure why Shafer felt the need to mess with Revelations because his version strips it of poetry and, indeed, sinks into utter banality at times.  The section mandating proper thought and behaviour after the Apocalypse might have been written by a committee of the TDSB.  There’s lots of brass and percussion and electronics and it goes from meditative to “where are my ear protectors?” loud.

I really thought it was a mixed bag with some ideas that worked really well and others not so much.  But let’s be fair, this was a rehearsal and it’s got to be much better to see it with costumes and lights and from an angle where the movement can be better appreciated than at the back of a huge rehearal room.  Snark aside, I really am curious to see the finished result and to see Credo, the second part.  This is likely the only chance any of us will get to see a most unusual, even weird, piece as I don’t think it likely it will be done again any time soon.  There are going to be three shows at the Sony Centre on June 26th and 27th at 8pm and on the 28th at 2pm.  Tickets start at $39 and are available from Ticketmaster.

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