Singing for the Sea

Singing for the Sea is part of The Artangel Collection. Since its initial presentation in 1993 it has been exhibited at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 2013.

  • Artist: Bethan Huws
  • Title: Singing for the Sea
  • Date: 1993
  • Medium: 16 mm film, shown as single-channel video, projection and sound (stereo)
  • Dimensions: Overall display dimensions variable
  • Duration: 12 minutes
  • In the Artangel at Tate Collection


The simplicity of the setting – no lights, no amplification, no scenery beyond what nature supplied – had its magical effect. None of the local people I spoke to afterwards found it anything less than delightful. — Robert Hewison, The Sunday Times, 1 August 1993

In 1993, Bethan Huws orchestrated a memorable performance called The Bistritsa Babi: A Work for the North Sea. The work was made in collaboration with a group of Bulgarian grandmothers, The Bistritsa Babi, who, for an hour each evening for three days that summer, stood at high tide and sang to the sea. Huws first researched the music that she had heard in the National Sound Archive in London. It appeared to be a particular form of antiphonal choral singing which was still practised in Bulgaria, based on groups of women singing in the open air – calling out to each other. With the help of a choral expert she found the Bistritsa Babi, who she invited to perform in Cranster on the unspoilt Northumbrian coastline. This 16mm film called Singing for the Sea documents the performance, their haunting melodies combine with the rumbling of the sea to create a unique polyphony of sound and voice.

Image: Installation view of Bethan Huws, Singing for the Sea, 1993 at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Abbot Hall Art Gallery.


at Abbot Hall Art Gallery

Kendal, 6 July - 8 September 2013

The Lakeland Arts Trust is delighted to have the opportunity to show Bethan Huws’s extraordinary film installation at Abbot Hall, a venue strongly associated with the British landscape tradition stretching from Constable, Turner and Ruskin to Sutherland, Piper and Lowry. The film presents an inspiring variation on this theme that will hold viewers spellbound. — Nick Rogers, Curator, Lakeland Arts Trust 

On the twentieth anniversary of the making of Singing for the Sea, the film was presented by Abbot Hall Art Gallery in Kendal. The film which celebrates the mystery and power of nature was shown in the Georgian art gallery, which has a long history of exhibiting works in the British landscape tradition.

Image: Installation view of Bethan Huws, Singing for the Sea, 1993 at Abbot Hall Art Gallery in 2013. Photograph: Courtesy Abbot Hall Art Gallery.

Previous Presentations

Since the launch of The Artangel Collection, Singing for the Sea has been exhibited at: