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Moments of Weightlessness

“See this monumental piano in surprising motion, hear the beautiful melodies and textures of Sarah’s piano-songs mixed with stories of creativity, and contemplate the moments of life where everything seems to stand still.”

Moments Credit: William Fallows

I developed my unique ‘Inside-Out Piano’ to explore the belly of the instrument and to coax out some of its hidden sounds. In Moments of Weightlessness, I tell the story of the birth of my first child, Stan, whilst unveiling why I built my piano and how I’ve got to grips with this surprising instrument.  I was amazed when the piano was built as an instrument that could swing like a clock, by the nature of the frame that holds it 2.5m high, and I saw a metaphorical parallel with the surprises that having children brings. In the show, I explore the extraordinary and unexpected characteristics of the instrument, moving it around the stage to gradually reveal my parallel journey into motherhood.

This show was supported by Arts Council England, and was originally commissioned by Brighton Dome as part of earsthetic 2014.  The creative team were: Lou Cope – Dramaturg, Janine Fletcher – Movement Director, Chris Umney – Lighting Designer, Becca Ellson – Script Editor, Simon Hendry – Sound Designer

Complete performance

20-minute edit

(one crucial line missing just before I swing the piano: “Stan woke up the next day having pulled out his tubes and started breathing on his own…”)

Review

Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, Church Street, Wednesday December 10 (First published Thursday 11 December 2014 in The Critic). Kirsty Levett, The Argus)
Sarah Nicolls_Moments_Argus_credit Tony Wood

Combining a narrative of motherhood with groundbreaking experiments in piano playing, Sarah Nicolls has created a masterpiece of performance art.

Light-hearted and delicate though never glib, Moments of Weightlessness had much to convey with regards to a person’s complete immersion into their experiences.  The inside-out piano was an Erard straight-strung grand, upturned to meet the keys at a 90-degree angle.  With its extraordinary, complicated anatomy confronting the audience, Nicolls played a soundtrack of her own composition that was contemporary and innovative without sacrificing the generous, arching drama of classical style.

With the aid of a crank, the instrument was swiftly rotated. Imagine Chopin – there are no instantly recognisable female precedents – lying on the floor, playing Ballade In G Minor sideways with his leg in the air to reach the pedal, occasionally springing up to meet a child’s constant needs.  The depiction of the absurdity to be found in combining the roles of pianist and mother could not have been delivered with more acuity than it was in Nicolls’ physical work.

The personal narrative was one striking feature. The transformation of piano from percussion to string instrument, from imposing musical apparatus to child’s plaything created something special indeed.

Audience feedback here

Audience development: collecting other people’s stories

Trailer

First draft at working with a swinging piano

2015-16 tour dates

Sat 28 Nov: Oxford Contemporary Music; Thurs 3 Dec: Gulbenkian, Canterbury; Fri 4 Dec South Street, Reading; Fri 19 Feb: Barber Institute of Fine Arts, Birmingham University; Sat 20 Feb: Colchester Arts Centre; Sat 27 Feb: University of York; Tue 24 May: Brighton Festival; Sun 10 July: Cheltenham Festival