Greenwich Academy Press

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Greenwich Academy Press

Greenwich Academy Press

Turrell: A Night of Lights

Turrell: A Night of Lights
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On Thursday, October 17, The glass building of the Greenwich Academy Upper School was lit, as it is every night, with vivid strips of light that change colors every few minutes: an expansive piece of art by the renowned artist James Turrell.

On this particular night, GA turned off all other lights on campus and pulled out all the stops to celebrate the Turrell display.

Viewers were placed in one of three groups, which rotated between three sets. The first group heard the Madrigals sing two haunting songs on the steps leading from the Circle to the heart of the Upper School. The second began on the roof of the US building, viewing the Madrigals’ performance from above. The third looked in through the glass doors on the ground floor and watched Dance Corps perform in the library.

In the library, the seventeen girls in Dance Corps both performed choreography and improvised without music for seven minutes, using the library tables as their stage. The people watching from the roof of the library as well as from the courtyard outside, undistracted by music or sound, were able to singularly focus on the movement of the dancers, synced with the library lights.

“Having the opportunity to embody the visual design through the dancers’ movements added a new dimension to the installation, and the installation engulfed the dancers in an ethereal glow. I felt like the dancers were cutting through the light as if it had actual mass. Each time the dancers performed for a new audience, the light cycle was at a different stage, so it was great to see the choreography in a different light (pun intended), each time,” said Dance Corps director Ms. Marcia Brooks, who choreographed the piece.

“Everything changed when the lights came on because suddenly I felt like part of the art as opposed to just a technical dancer,” said Amy Cass, a dancer from Group X.

On the main stairs of the Upper School, the Madrigals, conducted by Mrs. Beth Raaen and accompanied by Mrs. Dianne Ellis on the piano, Mr. Paul Raaen on the congas, and Isa Dumoulin, Group XII, on the flute, sang “Dirait-On” by Morten Lauridsen and “Adiemus” by Karl Jenkins.

As one of the Madrigals, I had the rare opportunity not only to witness our school and its overwhelming beauty at night, but also to actually merge with the art. The lights shifted and shimmered as we sang; our voices, unifying to form one, filled the space and seemed to travel through the translucent glass to the night sky.

Unlike the Dance Core performance, which pulsed with movement but was devoid of sound, the Madrigals were still and serene in their traditional long black dresses, insisting that listeners focus on their music.

The two songs Mrs. Raaen chose were intentionally melancholy. The first, “Dirait-On,” is French; it has a gentle melody and soothing harmonies, which differed from “Adiemus,” a vocalise-style sound with Latin syllables and tribal hints. Both melded well with the soft tone of the night.

Reagan Cowin, a Madrigal in Group X, called the songs “eerie” and noted that, “we worked really hard on our songs, and it was amazing to see the whole thing come together.”

Before the performances, Upper School Art History teacher Ms. Kirsten Erickson spoke in Massey, delivering an informative presentation on Turrell’s life and work and the history of the display.

Overall the night was an enormous success. It united varying art forms, of both the visual and performance variety, giving viewers a sense of the harmony of art and the larger world.

Now, as I tread up and down the same stairs I sang on that night, I carry with me the same sense of peace I felt then. I am aware of the special nature of the entire building and of the power of Turrell’s art to unite and spread joy as well as light, metaphorically brightening the day just as it physically illuminates the night.


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Turrell: A Night of Lights