Like many people, I love a good bridge. I’d like to give some poetic reason, such as they’re symbolic of links between points in our life journey, but the simple truth is I just find them structurally appealing. Strong architectural lines with the added bonus of generally being near another personal favourite, water.
I’m lucky enough to live very close to the Humber Bridge, once the longest single-span suspension bridge in the world. Its arrival in the early 1980s put it firmly on the map as an iconic local landmark, for many, a comforting signal of home as it looms on the horizon after a long trip.
Seeing as I’m also a big fan of classical music, it was a given that I wanted to get tickets when the City of Culture team announced an event in conjunction with Opera North to walk the bridge to a unique, specially composed soundtrack: The Height of the Reeds.
Unfortunately, as tickets were free, they went swiftly and I lost out. Then, hurrah! They announced it had been so popular they were extending the run and this time I was in, albeit alone as we could only get hold of one ticket.
So yesterday, amidst the extraordinary heat we’re experiencing at the moment in the UK, I set off for a 5K trundle.
We’ll skip over the part where I missed the turning for the car park, ended up at the one-way entrance to the bridge toll, held up so much traffic as I pleaded to the man in the hut to allow me to reverse down the slip road (he was sensible, I wasn’t) and then had to call the emergency bridge number to be allowed out of a locked car park as I was on the wrong side of the river and would have had to drive over into another county to get back home… (they were all fortunately in a good mood as they all had ice-cream!)
Upon arrival, the group was given headphones and a receiver, a little like those translator devices you get at visitor attractions. After a brief chat about where to go and what to expect, we were allowed to walk at our own pace, being told it generally takes around 1.5 hours.
Along the bridge were little receiver points, which triggered the next section of music. It began with a local school child welcoming us and asking us to stay safe near the traffic before launching into rather sinister, industrial sounds which worked nicely with the darker route through the underpass and the often disregarded components of the structure.
As I came up the steps to the main walkway, I was greeted with a sweeping, majestic composition that really made you appreciate stepping out into the light and witnessing the first of the towers stretching up into the ether.
Interspersed with the music were extracts of poetry, some read by Maureen Lipman, an actress and comedian who hails from Hull, that I didn’t realise had been put on display along the route until the walk back.
As I reached the centre of the bridge, the music again switched, this time to a smooth, languid arrangement involving a saxophone, that perfectly complemented the weather and looking out at the few yachts on the Humber. Think lazy Sunday afternoon sailing!
The far end gave way to a slightly spiritual, heavenly composition, involving operatic voices that ebbed and flowed in time with the reeds and lapping waters. However, at this point I also got static and broken voices coming through on the headphones. I thought it was to give some post-apocalyptic vibe (at least that was my interpretation!) and it did work to remind you of the technical aspect of the bridge. But when I asked back at the tourist centre they didn’t know what I was talking about and that I had maybe picked up someone’s radio signal!
The route back went the over the ground already covered but instead of a traditional, instrumental composition, this time we were delighted by the sounds of the bridge itself. Recordings taken over months were magically woven together to create an ethereal mix of metal and nature as the structure spoke.
I actually think I liked this the most, just for the unusual creativity of it. From the wind echoing hauntingly through the wire supports to metal connections clanging against the sides, with periodic calls from seagulls overhead and the rushing pass of vehicles – it was all quite beautiful.
Overall, the event brought an interesting dimension to an already fabulous piece of architecture – something that I think would benefit other attractions the world over.
Next time though, I’ll try to get tickets for when it’s a little cooler. Sunstroke is no fun…
Have you ever listened to a similar musical installation? Which landmarks do you think would benefit from such an event? Let me know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading!!
IMAGE CREDITS: All my own, so please be sweet and ask before sharing! 🙂