Postcard from the Artistic Director: Musicians Mobilizing
September 22, 2017
Hello SFGC family from Los Angeles, where I am deep in editing and mixing our new CD!
But before I left NYC I had a chance to team up with 60 of my colleagues from the New York early music scene to raise over $10,000 for the ACLU, Black Lives Matter and Planned Parenthood, in a special performance of Bach’s B-Minor Mass organized from one of our most beloved SFGC collaborators, Jolle Greenleaf of TENET, entitled “Impromptu Bach” (see the announcement HERE). Our concert in 2015 with TENET went “Behind Concert Walls” to explore music written by and for women and their young novices in convent culture. (Here is a review of the concert and also the Postcard that Jolle and our guests wrote to this very community when they were here.)
It was incredible to perform this epic, iconic choral-orchestral work with so many familiar colleagues, but knowing that this time we were stimulating awareness of the social concerns that run deep in this community. Usually when we are onstage, our sole aim is to fulfill the highest artistic standards in our realization of these works, written hundreds of years before the unfolding of the current plight of American immigrants or African-American men in our urban communities. How do works of great beauty transcend their time? Does it impact the way you hear this music, knowing that all of us singing and playing have dedicated our performances to these issues? You can watch and listen to the entire concert through the Facebook page that was created (we streamed it live), and although the sound quality is not great, you can get the idea of what the evening was like. I had a quintet in the Confiteor in the Credo, which you can find at around 24:15 in the SECOND HALF.
If you take a peek at 11:55 in the same video, you will see and hear bass-baritone Joe Chappel singing in the Cruxificus.
Joe is another of our beloved SFGC collaborators from way back in 2014, when he joined us as Noye in Britten’s Noye’s Fludde.
Joe was one of the organizers of a project two years ago called the Freedom Concert, in response to the non-indictments of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Modeled on the concerts organized by Coretta Scott King (who was a trained singer herself!), this series of programs in NYC raised funds for NYCLU, among others, but also seized the vocal recital platform as a way to focus a new kind of media attention on African-American men, at a time when so much air time was/is being spent on their involvement in violence or on their persecution, rather than their artistry and contributions to cultural life. You can see Joe and his colleagues talk about it all here with MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry! Incidentally, another of our collaborators sang in these concerts – baritone Jonathan Woody, who joined us this past June with his Trinity Wall Street colleagues and Trinity Youth Chorus. You can hear both Jonathan (at 02:48) and Joe (at 44:26) in this terrific video of the Freedom Concert at Trinity in 2015:
In his interview, Joe says, “A movement isn’t a movement until it has a soundtrack.” When we listen to or make music, do we make connections between the music and what we care most about? Do those connections exist in the music or do we put them there? Are they completely separate from the music? What does this comment of Joe’s say about how music is connected to our strongly-held beliefs? If notes and rhythms are abstract, how can we – as musicians – make statements about the issues we care about, through our work?
It is tremendously fulfilling to perform great music with these great colleagues, and deeply fulfilling in a unique way to do so knowing that we are all united in a cause.
Looking forward to being among you this week!