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BBC Proms to launch VR version of Anna Meredith’s ‘Five Telegrams’ project

By | Published on Wednesday 8 August 2018

Anna Meredith

The BBC Proms will later this month present one of those immersive audio-visual experiences to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War. It takes the Anna Meredith-composed piece that launched both this year’s Proms programme of concerts and the Edinburgh International Festival and then throws a load of new-fangled VR technology into the mix.

‘Five Telegrams’ is a collaboration between Meredith and 59 Productions. Marking the fact that it is now nearly 100 years since the end of the First World War, the audio-visual piece aims to put the spotlight on some lesser known stories from that conflict.

For the recent performances of the work at the Proms and EIF, Meredith’s music was accompanied by an assortment of visuals projected respectively onto the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.

A new version of the project will now take place in London on 21 Aug. Music recorded at last month’s Proms performance will be integrated with a VR experience. There will be two versions of the VR iteration of ‘Five Telegrams’, one featuring the whole piece, and another shorter version utilising one element of Meredith’s composition called ‘Field Postcard’.

The piece looks at the limited communication that was allowed between those fighting in the war and their families back home. Organisers explain: “Over 300,000 censored letters were sent each day from the frontlines during the height of World War One. During the war, censorship of mail meant that soldiers had few ways to regularly correspond with their loved ones at home”.

They go on: “Field postcards, for example, offered soldiers the chance to quickly communicate their status, but at the cost of detail. ‘I am quite well’, ‘I have been admitted into hospital’, ‘I have received no letter from you’ – for many, these stock phrases were their only regular link between families at home and soldiers on the frontline”.

People will able to experience the VR iteration of the ‘Five Telegrams’ project in London on 21 Aug, but also elsewhere later this year. Including in the comfort of their own home, because the shorter version will also be made available via your favourite VR platforms.

Commenting on all this, BBC Proms Director David Pickard said: “The BBC Proms broke new ground on the opening night of the Proms this year when we presented our first ever new commission combining both music and visual projections. ‘Five Telegrams’ has already been seen by thousands of people at live events in London and Edinburgh, and hundreds of thousands more on television and online. I am delighted that this latest VR incarnation will reach even wider audiences and add a further ground-breaking development to the project”.