Conspirare Christmas 2020
Begin the holidays with songs that go deep with love, courage, and hope. Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson curates this beloved concert bridging everyday songs with seasonal favorites that speak to our hearts. This year’s Conspirare Christmas will feature surprise cameos and is a unique virtual choir offering created in the spirit of this beloved annual concert. Guest artists include Joyce DiDonato, Patty Griffin, Frederica von Stade, Carrie Rodriguez, members of the Dallas Street Choir, African Children’s Choir & Conspirare Symphonic Choir.
Joyce DiDonato appears courtesy of Erato/Warner Classics.
This performance is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Russell Hill Rogers Fund for the Arts.
This project is supported in part by the Cultural Arts Division of the City of Austin Economic Development Department, Texas Commission on the Arts, and National Endowment for the Arts. We are grateful for the support of our In-Home Concert Sponsors listed below.
The concert is approximately one hour 45 minutes.
In this season Conspirare continues to partner with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office Inmate Programs to provide Conspirare Christmas to the women at Travis County Correctional Center for viewing along with a special greeting for this group. As part of this offering, Conspirare is helping to organize a gift drive for families with a parent at the facility. To be contacted by a member of the TCCC staff about how you can donate this holiday season, please fill out the Google Form.
To download a PDF of the program, please click here.
We invite you to revisit the music of Conspirare Christmas from years past:
Tips for the best viewing experience
Please click the link below that applies to you to get tips for the best viewing experience. Our Ambassador team will be available in the chat during the concert to answer questions or help as needed.
Meet the Artists
Meet our Featured Ambassador
Mary Shannon Cook
I feel so lucky to be a Conspirare Ambassador! My first volunteer experience was at the Christmas Concert of 2018. The beauty and depth of the music and the performances were astounding, visually rich, and heart-filling. Of course, I was aware of Conspirare before becoming an Ambassador I had heard and read wonderful things, including an interview with Craig Hella Johnson on the Bridge Radio Program. I was inspired and touched by Craig’s interview in part due to his description of a piece of his own life journey and by his emotional and spiritual groundedness. Afterward, I realized how drawn I felt to becoming a part of Conspirare, if only as an audience member.
Fast forward a few years to being an empty nester after raising two wonderful children who were now in college or launching their own adult lives. I was looking for a volunteer opportunity in the cultural realm. As I was leaving Betty and Sala restaurant one evening after a delicious dinner with a friend, I noticed an outdoor event on the patio. My curiosity led me to the greeting table where Kathy and Jamie Leighton sat. They described the event as the annual Conspirare Ambassador Appreciation reception, and of course, I was gleefully and very quickly recruited!
I’ve worked at the University of Texas at Austin Steve Hicks School of Social Work for over 20 years focusing on recovery from substance use and mental health disorders and issues related to cultural/racial health equity. As a social worker, I love to hear people’s stories and especially about the events and experiences that have shaped their lives, both the positive and the challenging. Though I have not had formal musical training since I was very young, the music and singing of Conspirare touches me in a way that I find hard to describe. I am a dancer and took ballet lessons for many years. Dancing still engages my full body, senses and emotions, and that is what I experience while listening and watching a Conspirare performance. Connecting with Conspirare has been such a true and real gift! I feel so much gratitude for this opportunity and I look forward to the return of in-person concerts and to volunteering for the indefinite future.
To learn more about our Ambassador program, click here!
A Lifetime with Music: Eva and Marvin Womack
Music was at the center of Eva and Marvin Womack’s lives. While sheltering at home during the pandemic, classical music was always in the background on the radio or from a favorite CD. That is still true for Eva who is mourning the loss of her husband Marvin who passed away in September 2020.
Back when the couple was raising their children, now adults with children of their own, music was literally at the center of the family’s life. The Womacks lived in Cincinnati in a traditional 1920s-era home with a wide central hallway where a large antique cabinet resounded with music from the turntable and record collection housed inside.
A family favorite was Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” commemorating Russia’s victory over Napoleon’s army. The children would sit and listen to the dramatic 15-minute orchestral work with its rousing theme culminating in cannon fire, bells, and a brass fanfare.
“Music is the language of the world,” Eva Womack says. Her earliest memories of music are memorizing classical works for fourth-grade music class and attending concerts with her parents at the art deco music hall at Fair Park in Dallas where she grew up. Eva sang with the choir throughout school and as an adult. “I got to sing with Craig in the mid-1990s,” she recalls with fondness.
Marvin was also a life-long music lover, playing the clarinet with orchestras and bands throughout school and college. He enjoyed hearing pieces come on the radio that he once played.
As their two children grew, Eva became involved with their public school and saw first-hand how music could help children succeed academically against great odds. “Where’s there’s music and the discipline that goes along with that, there is success,” she says.
Since they made Austin home many years ago, the Womacks felt lucky to be able to invest in Conspirare and other music and arts education programs.
“Craig is a genius,” Eva says, noting his artistic caliber as a conductor, arranger, and composer. “I love the Russian sacred music,” she adds. “It’s so haunting and comforting. We heard some Russian chanting in Moscow and it reminds me of that experience.”
“Austin is very blessed,” observes Eva. “Not many cities have so many major arts groups of such stellar quality.”
Eva Womack and her late husband Marvin shared the belief that a strong arts community—including working musicians, composers, and others—is key to a strong city. Most notably, they gave to Conspirare to underwrite a creative collaboration with the world-famous Miro Quartet. This unique production of Beethoven choral works will be the first artistic collaboration from these two local world-class music groups.
“I suspect more people are listening to classical music during these stressful times,” Eva observes. “It’s up to all of us to do all we can to invest in our vibrant arts community.”
Favorite piece to sing: Requiem, Op. 54 by Camille Saint-Saëns
Favorite Conspirare CD: The Sacred Spirit of Russia (2015 Grammy Award Winner)
Musical legacy: Marvin’s clarinet is now being played by his grandson!