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"Bethan Huws & The Bistritsa Babi: Singing for the Sea, 1993" on view at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
Bethan Huws & The Bistritsa Babi: Singing for the Sea, 1993© Bethan Huws.

KENDAL.- In 1993, artist Bethan Huws orchestrated a memorable performance called A Work for the North Sea on the north-eastern coast of England. The work was made in collaboration with a group of Bulgarian women, The Bistritsa Babi, who, for an hour each evening for three days that summer, stood at high tide and sang to the sea. A film of this performance, Singing for the Sea, was commissioned by Europe's Cultural Capital, Antwerp, and has been screened at numerous venues internationally, including the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and Tate Modern, London. Now, exactly 20 years after the work was first performed, Huws's remarkable film – a paean to the mystery and power of nature – will be presented at Abbot Hall, a gallery with close associations with the British landscape tradition.

The Bistritsa Babi perform a particular form of antiphonal choral singing still practised in Bulgaria, based on groups of women singing in the open air. The singers carry their homes, their traditions and the lives of their villages in their voices, and their songs are the living embodiment of a tradition which stretches back unbroken over a thousand years – a pure folkloric expression. For this work the Bistritsa Babi were invited to Britain to sing at the edge of the North Sea near Craster, on the unspoilt Northumbrian coastline. Pitched into the howling wind and powerful sea, the haunting melodies of traditional songs such as Vai Dudole (A Prayer for Rain) and Sultz Saide (For the Sunset) combine with the rumbling of the ocean to create a unique polyphony of sound and voice. Starting at the turning of the tide each evening, as the repertoire of songs builds, the tide begins to recede.

The project was commissioned and produced by Artangel and is on loan to the Lakeland Arts Trust from The Artangel Collection at Tate.

‘The Lakeland Arts Trust is delighted to have the opportunity to show Bethan Huws’s extraordinary film installation at Abbot Hall, a venue strongly associated with the British landscape tradition stretching from Constable, Turner and Ruskin to Sutherland, Piper and Lowry. The film presents an inspiring variation on this theme that will hold viewers spellbound.’ Nick Rogers, Curator, Lakeland Arts Trust

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"Bethan Huws & The Bistritsa Babi: Singing for the Sea, 1993" on view at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal

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