Since 2014 Rosemary Lee and Simon Whitehead have been developing their collaboration on Calling Tree. Located in and around a mature tree in a significant site, and working with a team of aerialists, singers & performers they have created a durational performance made up of cycles of songs, movement and messages. Bird-like calls, songs and messages echo out from the trees’ canopy and surroundings as performers continually appear and disappear fluctuating between restful perching to passionate vocal and physical activity.
Rosemary and Simon have to date presented three manifestations of the project. Originally commissioned by Migrations, they created the first Calling Tree in 2014 for a mature oak tree in the heart Betws y Coed, North Wales. Four performers animated the oak for six hours. Differing cycles of songs, movement, messages and greetings in Welsh and English were created especially for morning, afternoon and evening. They then went on to develop the project further for two London locations, presenting Calling Tree in Tottenham during LIFT 2016. In the huge boughs of the 500 year old Great Oak in Bruce Castle Park the 4 performers danced, sang, called and whispered to the audience, under the” canopy a group of young singers gathered to sing a newly commissioned song. Calling Tree in Bloomsbury, presented by The Place & Bloomsbury Festival, took place in and around the elegant London Plane trees of St George’s Gardens. In the autumnal dusk, the performers created a sonic field that flooded through the garden, whilst the dancers slowly ascended and descended the tall trees. (They were joined by) A flock of dancers swept through the garden periodically. As the light faded, they were lit only by their own head torches.
Each was a bespoke response to the trees themselves, their unique site and to the communities - human and otherwise which share the trees’ environment. Reaching out to the surrounding neighbourhoods, an associated programme of activities was also developed with the local people and woven into the daily performances. Using the tree as a gathering point, these ranged from performances by a community choir; spoken word & dance events; local history & nature walks; talks with artists, ecologists and bird specialists.
Calling Tree is an on-going project that Rosemary and Simon can adapt and develop according to new contexts and locations. Whilst always keeping its distinctive quality and features, new manifestations can range in scale and focus from one itinerant lone performer and ladder calling from the trees across a city, a sound installation whispering from the branches to a performance involving several performers inhabiting a sentinel tree and surroundings.
A gentle yet powerful act of reclamation and activism Calling Tree is designed to encourage us to look up and be attentive to ourselves and our environment; reframing our relationship with the natural world. The tree acts as a catalyst to bring people together, celebrating the rich diversity of the area.
‘left me with a sense of hope. I had the feeling of being washed through, and at the end was on the brink of tears, not of sadness, but of joy & delight.’
‘this beautiful, moving, human and so much more then human happening. Beauty, connection, soul, song and silence what a feast!’
‘The performance was a beautiful evocation of the community …'
'It touched a need to share and return to a notion of connection to nature that seems to be retrograde in this ever so sophisticated urban 21st Century.’
‘I experienced Calling Tree as an oasis of calm, purposeful creative endeavour in the city.’
‘I left calm, reinforced and uplifted.’
‘What I loved most about this work was the subtlety of the choreography and how that term embraced not just a tree, but a whole park and community.’
Wales-Commissioned by Migrations and supported by the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project, with funds from The Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Akademi, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Dance Initiative Greater Manchester, DanceEast, DanceXchange, Fierce Festival, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival, Independent Dance, Royal Shakespeare Company and South East Dance. Additional support from public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and Made at The Place.
Tottenham Co-produced by LIFT and Artsadmin, presented in association with The Place.
Bloomsbury Co-produced by The Place and Artsadmin, presented in association with Bloomsbury Festival.
Imagine 2020 (2.0) and Create to Connect projects, supported by the Culture Programme of the European Union. Supported with public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Additional support from the Adobe Foundation Fund and the London Boroughs of Haringey.,and Camden.