Rhys Chatham’s A Crimson Grail – Kayleigh Davies

Image courtesy of Peter Guy @ Mersey Blogs

The scale of the upcoming event was proven as a mass of eager spectators entered the Anglican Cathedral to see the performance of ‘A Crimson Grail’. The imposing Gothic charm of the location with the backdrop of Tracey Emin’s ‘For You’ (2008) as well as the annual ‘Liverpool Anglican Cathedral Photography Competition’ set the tone of the evening for all.

The composition had previously been shown in Paris and New York only, making Liverpool an honoured location. As the performance began the visual, fluid movements of the conductors seemed to hold the audience’s gaze unexpectedly, providing stimulation to match with the triumphant growth of sounds.

The age of the audience ranged from young children to elderly people, all enjoying the emotion of the evening. Once again, the event seemed to reflect the aim of the Biennial by making the event approachable to the entirety of the public.

Those who did make it inside for the performance, however, were lucky as hundreds of people stood in queues outside in the cold, hoping for a place in the Cathedral if people were to leave early. Demand for the event was huge, reflected by patience and expectation from the crowd.

The beauty of the building symphony was undeniable and certainly deserved the huge audience in attendance.  Chatham’s composition created guitars that somehow sounded like an orchestra and caused the audience to feel euphoria. The conclusion of the evening seemed to be more than just a sense of what had been heard; the audience response was reflective of the mood in the Cathedral as it seemed to be that people had felt a form of being lifted by the music during the length of the performance.

As the crowd left with their lifted spirits ready for the Biennial Launch, the city was truly enthralled and never more ready for the beginning of the festival. Whether it be the Cunard Building, the Bluecoat, the John Moore’s Painting Prize or any of the other fantastic exhibitions on display, it is certain that this year’s Biennial is not here to disappoint.



  1. I really enjoyed this piece too and loved the sonic experience the work created.
    I went on my own and was delighted to be sitting next to a brother & sister in their 20s who while waiting for the piece to start chatted away with me about their experience of art in Liverpool. They also thoroughly enjoyed the piece. In one of the breaks they gave me the top tip of listening with my eyes closed and this did indeed enhance the experience.
    It was interesting to note they found the conductors movements distracting while I and other reviewers have seen it as part of the overall experience.


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