Spectacular 'Ship's Opera' stuns London crowd
AN EXTRAORDINARY Armada of nine historic vessels (excluding the small Armada-crasher police boat), performed an 'opera' tonight using traditional steam whistles, bells, horns, hooters, sirens and cannon as part of the Thames Festival 2013. The idea was dreamed up by artists Richard Wilson and Zatorski + Zatorski
The magnificent three-part maritime performance started at the mouth of the Thames and travelled right through to the Pool of London, one of the old port centres - sailing under Tower Bridge, in theatrical style. Seb Brennan has created a video of the event on Youtube.
As the boats sailed into the Pool, spectators seemed a little awestruck at the sight of such beautiful ships. It was possible to envisage the days when such vessels were regularly seen along the Thames, not just the party boats and speedboats that inhabit London today.
Particularly impressive was a stately red Lighthouse ship; like many Londoners, I had never seen a 'mobile' lighthouse before. The old sounds seemed wonderful - and so eerie, particularly at night. Massive cannons from HMS Belfast sounded from time to time. (I anticipated chunks of the Tower of London, sited on the opposite bank, would be blown away away in front of us! It was not to be.).
There were times when the 'ship's opera' sounded as beautiful as the songs of whales, but at other times, it was a bit like a 'M25 traffic jam'. Even so, the whole event was magical, particularly as the boats headed back under Tower Bridge in the finale. A Spanish tourist laughed as a little boat, with a few spectators, followed the armada behind.
And, just to add to the effect, the Thames provided its own distinctive flavour to the performance, as it gave off a rather nasty muddy vapour, perhaps reminiscent of The Great Stink.
I don't suppose any tourist or Londoner will ever forget this evening. Equally, I expect that Canaletto, or any other of the great artists to paint London's river, would have loved to have been here tonight, and to have seen the spectacle and heard it all.