Having sat in on the rehearsal (or rather, having frantically traversed an entire theatre as covertly as possible in search of the best shots) with my camera, I decided to opt out of photographing the live show later that evening. I'll elaborate:
It was apparent from the atmosphere created by the material rehearsed that silence was going to be as integral to Ólafur Arnalds' set as the brass and string instruments, and the musicians who accompanied him.
And so, apprehensively and photographically abstinent, I joined the audience, grabbed some pick'n'mix (best.idea.ever), and listened in.
The night was essentially a journey through Arnald's most current, and arguably most renowned work, interspersed with the compositions that helped to propel him to this position. Consequently, elements of his score for ITV's Broadchurch, and excerpts from his latest LP For Now I Am Winter, featured heavily. Arnór Dan joined the stage for several pieces, offering up not just his ethereal falsetto, but at one point his crowd-warming skills too - becoming an inter-song mouthpiece for an ailing and vocally impaired Arnalds.
Prior to handing over the mic, subdued by a runny nose and a diminishing ability to speak, Ólafur confessed to the audience how his grim flu had nearly caused him to cancel the show - an admission which filled the already mesmerised auditorium with a far more palpable sense of appreciation for his presence.
The honesty and vulnerability displayed in acknowledging that perceived weakness are attributes that permeate his music - imbuing it with the very fragility that so many seek to exclude from their art. There is strength in weakness, and this is particularly true of his earliest work among the compositions of Eulogy for Evolution and Found Songs - where sparsely positioned and delicately delivered piano notes hang above abysses of darkness and silence
In what appeared as an homage to his compositional roots, Arnalds ended the set with a stripped-back version of a composition from Living Room Songs. Following an inevitably rapturous call for encore, the ensemble performed once more together before string and brass sections exited the stage and left Ólafur seated alone by his upright piano. He introduced the composition, 'Lag Fyrir Ömmu', as a tribute to a dear friend who had shaped his musical life - his late grandmother. She would 'force' him away from 'death metal' to listen to Chopin, and had subsequently caused him to delve further into the world of classical music he has in turn opened up to so many.
And so he played, and then - at the point in which strings enter the score on the album version of the song - he stopped. And paused. As he slowly resumed his piano playing, a faint echo of strings could be heard emanating from the corridors beside the stage. Initially, they appeared so faint that most of us seated there probably wondered if we had imagined it. And then they slowly built, as did the piano.
That was probably one of the most poetic moments I've ever experienced in a live music setting - the absent violins completing and elevating the solo melody, in doing so, mirroring his grandmother's absent, yet present influence in his life. It was beautiful.
It would have been an amazing scene to photograph, but it would have ruined it for everyone there, myself included. I've got some rehearsal shots, those will have to do...
On behalf of everyone in Norwich who was in that space - takk fyrir Ólafur and friends.