Jeremy Birchall’s score for Hungry Ghosts, choregraphed by Stina Quagebeur as part of Joffrey Ballet’s triple-bill Studies in Blue, has been acclaimed following its world premiere on 15 February 2024 at Chicago’s Lyric Opera. Birchall is represented by Manners McDade. 

Hungry Ghosts is a response the epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States; it tells the story of a couple struggling to sustain their relationship as one falls every more painfully into addiction and dependence – watch Quagebeur discuss the piece here. Birchall’s 40-minute score is a blend of live orchestral performance and recorded tracks.

Hungry Ghosts is Birchall’s third collaboration with the choreographer; their previous projects were Nostalgia for Northern Ballet, performed at the Royal Opera House in 2022, and Catching Colour, a collaboration between English National Ballet and The Line, which debuted in 2022.

Music by Jeremy Birchall — a blend of live orchestra and recorded tracks — is the perfect container for Quagebeur’s choreography. She does a fine job in the quieter moments, …but it’s a swirling cacophony that sweeps up Bueno and Kiyosawa in a blurry, unhinged corps de ballet that really captures the tragedy, trauma and abdication of will associated with addiction.

 Chicago Tribune 16 February 2024 ****

Light, shadow, and facial expressions are used to significant effect here, as are sound and Jeremy Birchall’s score. A repeated sound like a sharp match being lit, the use of a black background, and dancers in shadow (creating a uniform look and making indistinguishable the features of individual dancers) nod to the way that drug dependence can render people incapable of anything but servitude to themselves and their addiction.

Chicago Reader 20 February 2024

Quagbebeur's choreography has a perfect edge of menace and darkness blending with the haunting music of Jeremy Birchall.

Third Coast Review 16 February 2024 ****

 Set to the beautifully haunting composition of Jeremy Birchall, the piece focuses on a couple, portrayed beautifully by company dancers Anais Bueno and Hyuma Kiyosawa, grappling with the challenges of maintaining their connection as one succumbs to the overwhelming allure of drugs.

See Chicago Dance, 20 February 2024

Stina Quagebeur’s “Hungry Ghosts,” a work set to an ideal score by Jeremy Birchall that captures the obsession and emotional isolation of those addicted to opioids (such drugs as heroin, fentanyl and others)…The response of the enormous opening night audience could not have been more intense or fully deserved.

WTTW 19 February 2024

Jeremy Birchall’s music was absolute perfection: alternately discordant and mellifluous; simultaneously strident and harmonic. I trust I’m not trespassing when I say that clearly neither Quagebeur nor Birchall learned about addiction by reading about it in a book – their intimate sophistication can only be gained the hard way. 

Buzz Centre Stage17 February 2024  

This hard-edged piece, with its operatic drama and cinematic stage effects mirroring the murky chaos of the woman’s drug-addicted life, is backed by Jeremy Birchall’s electronic-tinged music, which has a dissonant touch that suits the ballet’s dark-blue nature.

New City Stage 21 February 2024