Hymns for the Witching Hour

Kuya James (James Mangohig) is an ARIA nominated musician and music producer. From 2016-19 James, and co writer/performer Joelistics (Joel Ma) nationally toured their performance work In Between Two, a live storytelling work sharing their two families’ Asian Australian roots, which wove elements of spoken word, music, and videography. In 2021, James is embarking on creating a new performance work, Hymns For The Witching Hour, which he’ll develop with collaborators as part of Brown’s Mart’s BUILD UP program.

Kuya James, Photo by Jett Street

One of the biggest inspirations for the project was me coming to terms with parts of my very Christian upbringing and the prayers I said before I went to bed. I would envision these huge angels outside my bedroom protecting our house from evil spirits and it often felt eerie but still safe during the witching hour. I am collaborating with a crew of amazing locals including Jocelyn Tribe, Johanna Bell, Tomm Lydiard and Serina Pech. Also an international dancer (currently stuck in Japan) named Kino McHugh who I’ve been working with on and off for almost ten years now. The final work will be an immersive show with music, lights, and dance elements.

“I am experimenting with how an audience can leave with a real sense of having experienced something unique and hopeful”

Coming from the music world it feels like such a privilege to have time to experiment and develop work. I am so excited to be in a room with fellow creatives and push ourselves to create something together. 2020 was a hard year and I know that fellow musicians really felt the sting. Changes over the past 10 – 20 years have also led artists to think about releasing music in different ways, even questioning as to why it’s important to release music still.

In the studio, Photo by Jett Street

This kind of performance work is new for me. I’ve been part of a theatre show in the past but never one that has such a focus on the immersive element. I’m experimenting with how a narrative can be told in more subtle ways and how an audience can leave with a real sense of having experienced something unique and hopeful. I’m excited to explore how an audience and performers can interact during a show. I was inspired after running a listening party at the 2019 Darwin Fringe Festival in which audiences really enjoyed being transported somewhere without their phones and other distractions. 

Through BUILD UP, working on Hymns for the Witching Hour is an opportunity to give a different life to the tunes I’ve written.

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