Soundscapes: Ghost River Theatre to take patrons on sonic journey

Ghost River Theatre wants people from all walks of life to come together to enjoy the harmonics

A photograph of SensoryBox, a tactile interactive theatre production put on by Ghost River Theatre. The theatre will be doing an interactive sound bath called the Great Alberta South Bath Experience from April 4 to 17. Jaime Vedres Photography / Ghost River Theatre

This won’t be your weekday yoga class sound bath.

Ghost River Theatre is planning on taking patrons on a sonic journey that promises to be larger, deeper, and more immersive.

The goal for the Great Alberta Sound Bath Experience is the same. It will allow listeners to experience a connection to others. To heal the body and mind. And to let go of unhealthy emotion.

Musicians and sound designers will be creating complex layers of sound with the intent to immerse the audience. They’ll partner with local musician Kris Demeanor.

“We all kind of understand what it is to sit by a subwoofer … that vibrational quality is something that you can feel,” said Eric Rose, artistic director for Ghost River Theatre.

“It’s tactile, and it can actually influence your well-being,” he said.

Rose used the example of how an individual’s choice of music can cheer them up, or make them sad.

“If you want to get super Emo, you can go down that road like my 10-year-old daughter right now,” laughed Rose.

“I think that the idea with this project is really this philosophy of giving people a space and an experience, where they can be immersed, and where they can intentionally allow themselves let go,” he said

An experience for everyone

The theatre is also scaling back the New Age elements found in sound baths. The goal is to make a show that’s accessible to everyone and anyone of different beliefs.

“I think what we’re actually trying to do is get my mom to come to something, and to get people that are not necessarily eagerly going into a yoga studio,” said Rose.

He said that this show would differ from the traditional group experience. It won’t be a group in a circle using singing bowls and gongs.

And while there are opportunities for audience participation—if they wish—the sound bath will be created by musicians and sound designers. Rose said that the goal was to bridge the gap between melodic and lyrical sound, and high concept sounds.

He likened the experience to something akin to a concept album.

“It’s more than just a playlist of songs, there’s some interconnected tissue there that is allowing you a full experience,” he said.

At various points during the show, they will be asking audience members to put on a blindfold. He said that this would allow patrons to become fully immersed in the sound experience. The lack of distraction, he said, would help people to calm their minds.

Audience members will also have opportunities to vocalize their own sounds during the performance. Rose emphasized that participants should not feel self-conscious about their singing ability if they join in.

“People don’t need to sing well, or sing at all to do this, they just have the opportunity to participate,” said Rose.

Looking to help end conflict

Entering into the next phase of the pandemic has been top of mind for the theatre. The weekly Beltline protests have also been on Rose’s mind while designing this show.

“There’s so much conflict, there’s a lot of this binary thing—us against them—and how do we start to change the way that we think about engaging with each other?” said Rose.

“Part of that is actually allowing people time and space to be present with other people, without that fear of judgment of coming up against somebody that may or may not believe the things that you believe,” he said.

The common ground that all people share said Rose is music. Sharing the experience of music allows people to gather in a non-political non-polarized way.

“It allows people to gather around it and talk about who they are and where they are right now in their life through the art,” he said.

Connecting Calgarians in April and beyond

Reconnecting Calgarians is important for Ghost River Theatre. Rose said that from the pandemic grew a natural curiosity about finding out the way people are. And this meant creating experimental theatre to engage people differently.

“Everybody’s watching Netflix and Disney plus, and blah blah blah. And I’m like ‘yes, and that’s something that has existed for a long time.’ But I think the opportunity for us in the live performance art space is to reconsider the way that we impact our audience. Like why people come in, what are they there for, and not make the same kinds of assumptions as pre-pandemic,” said Rose.

The theatre will be workshopping the south bath on April 4 through April 17 at the West Village Theatre at 2007 – 10 Avenue SW.

Ghost River Theatre is also looking for local musicians and vocalists to participate in the show run. Artists looking to get involved in the Great Alberta Sound Bath Experience can contact Andrew Cooper at producer@ghostrivertheatre.com

The theatre plans on looking for outdoor spaces to hold a similar show in 2023.

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