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The Swarm


Performance. 8th – 12th Feb, 19:30, £15.

A dynamic new immersive opera and sound project about a migrating honeybee swarm in the city. Performed by an all female choir accompanied by a soundscape representing the urban environment.

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Bees have an unconscious wisdom, which unfolds in their external activity.

What we only experience when love arises in our hearts is to be found, as it were, in the whole bee-hive as substance. The whole hive is in reality permeated with love. The individual bees renounce love in manifold ways, and thus develop love throughout the whole hive’ – Rudolf Steiner

The Swarm narrates the story of the perilous journey of migrating honey bees through a city with their queen after she is deposed by her daughter and forced to leave the hive, taking half the colony with her. In their search for a new home they encounter a deadly extractor fan, a thunder storm and a fierce debate over two potential sites to build a hive. With just one last meal of honey for energy, how will they reach a collective decision on where to relocate?

This innovative 60 minute work will bring audiences closer to nature, stretching the boundaries of choral music, voice and movement. The operatic queen bee and the 9 piece choir representing the bees are combined with a soundscape comprising field recordings and composition evoking the urban landscape. The piece explores the fluctuating magnetism between the individual and the collective, which will be expressed physically, spatially and musically.

Bees provide a fertile subject for musical composition. Not only are sound and vibration central to their communication and cooperation within the hive, but inspiration can be found from the forms and patterns generated by their social organisation. It’s not just about the orderly perfection of honey, but also the spaces and shapes made by the bees during the process of swarming – their expansion and contraction, separation and clustering.

Premiered in the Brunel Museum, Rotherhithe in September 2015.

“Themes of community, even sisterhood, poured through The Swarm, and we begin to get a sense of the relationship among the individuals in the hive. They were curious together, scared together, and when they finally take flight together, there was something reminiscent of Wagner’s Valkyries.” – Schmopera

The Quorum
The Quorum celebrates the inspirational forms of collective behaviour existing between networks of intelligent life – namely bees and plants. Through the exploration of the cooperative dynamics of such groups through music, movement, sound and performance, The Quorum creates a powerful allegory for human interaction.

Their first production, a 10 minute choral piece, ‘Be the Bee’ was inspired by the lifecycle of a bee hive.  The basis for the music was the recordings from within the beehive captured over a year.  The piece was performed at Tête-à-Tête Opera Festival in July 2015 and Cafe Oto in August of the same year.

‘The Swarm’ is their second collaboration and was devised by Heloise, Roswitha and Auclair.

Heloise Tunstall-Behrens
Heloise is a composer and multi-instrumentalist. She is inspired by bees and mathematical ideas. She composes and performs with the group Landshapes (Bella Union) and is one half of the duo Lunch. This is her second piece for voices and is inspired by the reading of ‘Honeybee Democracy’ by Dr Thomas D. Seeley as well as the bees she keeps with Auclair (@bootstrapbees).

Roswitha Gerlitz
Roswitha began her career as a set/costume designer in opera, theatre and dance. Since the millennium she has developed her own ideas and interests as an artist, writer and director and founded her company, Mistress of Time. She has produced, written and directed multi-disciplined opera performances, in both theatrical and academic realms. Having published a book of poems last year, she presently focuses on writing a novella.

Auclair is a composer and vocalist. Her work explores syncopation, vocal harmony and electronica, treating everyday life like new mythologies. Her versatility has led to diverse commissions including: multi-sensory concert ‘The Sensory Score’ with BitterSuite; a musique concrete series made from sounds recorded of London buildings; a new choral work ‘In Waves’ for the Roundhouse Choir; remixes and several live scores for films. Her latest EP, Semaphore is out now on Kit Records.


Dow – Sarah Parkes
Bay – Heloise Tunstall-Behrens
Koh Vah Li Zhay – Rosa Slade
Choo Kee – Luisa Gerstein
Eeb No Yoo Hee – Nouria Bah
Mah Tah Oon Koo Yee – Liv Stones
Yoh Zoh Ovoo – Natalie Pela
Aysh – Sarah Anderson

Artistic Director and Movement – Roswitha Gerlitz
Artistic Director, Composer and Producer – Heloise Tunstall-Behrens
Soundscape – Auclair
Sound Mix – Will Worsley
Production Manager – Nina Ryner
Music Assistant – Loretta Tosson
Movement Assistant – Rachel Hunter
Social Media Assistant – Marcus Gordon
Choreography Assistant – Raef Commissar

The Swarm has been kindly supported by Arts Council England, RVW Trust with support from Tony Mackintosh and Criona Palmer. Special thanks to Orianna Fielding.

The music, photography and social media assistants are volunteers from A New Direction, creating partnerships and placements for young people in the creative arts (www.anewdirection.org.uk).

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Limited 2-for-1 Tickets Available Weds, Thurs & Sun