Passages was a song cycle commissioned by WPT in 1996 and performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, in 1997. It featured 20 new works by four composers, including Ilona Sekacz and Errollyn Wallen, and poets, including Jackie Kaye, Deborah Levy and Jo Shapcott, performed by all female cast and the Endymion Ensemble conducted by Wasfi Kani, choreographed by Kristina Page, in a set designed by Anya Gallaccio.
For Jules Wright, it was a particularly significant piece of work:
Passages was an especially memorable event, partly because it brought together a very happy team of people accustomed to working together – me as director, Anya Gallaccio as designer, Kristina page as choreographer and Alison Ritchie as production manager. The piece I commissioned was a response to immigration; ‘being a stranger’, a refugee on the way to somewhere. Poets Deboah Levy, Jackie Kaye and Jo Shapcott (now esteemed writers at the heart of the contemporary British canon) wrote texts, and these were shared between four composers to make a song cycle: IIona Sekacz and Errollyn Wallen and two very young newcomers whose work I had heard. The Endymion Ensemble played under the baton of Wasfi Kani. Caroline Grimshaw designed the two foot high programme and we shot the main image in Dungeness on a broken railway: a lone woman walking away from us, a battered suitcase in her hand. The shot was taken by Sasha Gusov and carried within it the whole intention of the Song Cycle – a lone journey to an unknown place, a cliché but also an image with great power.
It seems that we anticipated the horror and the despair of people trafficking, particularly women. It was a powerful night in a packed Queen Elizabeth Hall, and Anya and I hugged each other at the end when the collective power of these songs, this music and these voices brought first an uncanny silence and then roars and stamping and yelling from the audience. The politics struck home and the means had been art. Somewhere in here were the lessons learned from Bertolt Brecht and the composers with whom he collaborated.