May 13, 2020 – Connecting with Choir Students Across the Country

For years, choir directors have conducted their students in performances of Craig’s compositions and arrangements and played Conspirare recordings in their classrooms.

Now, as choral directors take their choir classes online directors from across the country are inviting Craig to speak directly with their choirs. On May 7 Craig  visited with about 135 choir students who attend Central York High School students in York, Pennsylvania. This school’s program includes three choirs: two curricular ensembles (one is mostly 9th grade while the other is upperclassmen) and an extracurricular chamber ensemble. Their director, Tim Lambert programs a variety of repertoire – everything  from Vivaldi’s Gloria to Kirby Shaw’s arrangement of “Bridge over Troubled Water.” His students love musical theater and contemporary selections, and shared that Craig’s thoughtful arrangement of popular or folk tunes really resonates with them.

We asked Tim to reflect on the experience. Here is what he had to say in his own words:

“At the end of March, we transitioned to online learning like many schools across the nation. Obviously, my first thoughts were that choir is not something that lends itself to that learning environment. I decided to transition the class to a survey of choral literature/artists with discussions focusing on the music, the art form as a whole, and our world around us. One of our earlier listening pieces was Craig’s “Will There Really Be a Morning,” and the students were absolutely enamored with it and found a lot of comfort in its music and message. We had also sung a few of Craig’s compositions/arrangements over the past few years: “Let the River Run,” “I Love You/What a Wonderful World,” and “Requiem.” So, they were already familiar with his work. I realized that a professor of mine from my undergraduate at Bucknell University was a mutual connection with Craig, and I decided to reach out.

Once Craig agreed, I prepared preparatory materials and listening selections to give the students more background on Craig and Conspirare. They listened to performances of yours, read about your mission and values, and watched some of Craig’s talks on YouTube. After going through the prep materials, they were each asked to submit 3 questions they would like me to ask him. I pulled out the themes from these questions to form talking points for the interview. We focused the discussion on choral music and how it functions in our world. We talked about Craig’s process for composing, his voice as an artist, and other pieces of advice he would have for young musicians. Craig and I conducted the interview on Zoom, and I live-streamed the call to YouTube so that the students could watch and participate through the chat. This interview presented a great opportunity to show my students more of the “real world” side of what we do. While our main focus during a “typical” school year is to build fundamental musicianship through performance of quality repertoire, I also try to incorporate experiences that teach them about being a professional and what is happening in the choral scene beyond our high school. I love to provide them with opportunities to speak with people who are really doing it so that they can learn about the skills and traits that make for a successful artist and person.

The student responses have been phenomenal. They have all been affected by Craig’s passion and the moving work that you all do in Conspirare. They were inspired by his story — especially knowing that someone who is so successful started out like them! His message of following your heart and living your passions has been a common takeaway that I’ve been reading in their responses. They all have commented that they want to take his ideas of self-acceptance and generosity in performance and carry them through into their own artistic endeavors but also their lives as a whole.”

You can view the complete recording of Craig and Tim’s interview here. During the pandemic, Craig has visited with The University of Texas Men’s Chorus (Austin, TX), Oregon State University Chamber Choir (Corvallis, OR), Yale Voxtet (New Haven, CT), St. Norbert College (De Pere, WI), Cantabile Youth Choir (San Jose, CA), St. Olaf Chapel Choir (Northfield, MN), University of Georgia Conducting Seminar (Athens, GA), Bard High School Early College Queens (New York, NY), and All Saints Episcopal Youth Choir (Pasadena, CA).

May 10, 2020 – Daily Dose of Hope

Craig joined leaders from across Austin in creating a “Daily Dose of Hope” for Interfaith Action of Central Texas’ Daily Dose of Hope. Read his entry here. iACT created this daily series with the hope it “will inspire you to the core and bring to your heart the gratitude you hold deep.” Previous entries are available here.

May 6, 2020 – We Were Made for This

Our very own Craig Hella Johnson was invited to write an article for TMEA’s May 2020 issue of Southwestern Musician. Craig shares his own inspirational story expressing and discussing the challenges during this time, especially those of a musician. Texas Music Educators Association is an organization filled with membership 13,000 music educators, a group who successfully monitors all issues affecting the fine arts while supporting Texas schoolchildren. In his article, Craig explores the question, “If I am not a musician, or a teacher, who am I?”.

From Craig and all of us at Conspirare, thank you to our educators for the profoundly important work you are doing.

Click here and turn to page 20 for Craig’s story of finding one’s core self and some words of encouragement to hold close in the coming days.

May 5, 2020

Austin high school student Maxfield Rivers recent podcast features an interview with Conspirare’s Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson. According to Maxfield, Craig’s “Will There Really be a Morning?” inspired him to listen to music more contemplatively. Maxfield’s conversation with Craig explores the  role of artists in this time, how art could change and what we can learn from our current situation. Maxfield plays the cello, sings, and will be majoring in music when he attends college. His podcast series digs into questions surrounding COVID-19’s impact through conversations with experts.

Listen here.

April 20, 2020

Our hearts are so full to have been with so many of you last night for Craig’s “quarantine production.” We were touched to be together with Craig, singers and listeners from Austin to Colorado Springs to Bellaire, MI, and as far away as Argentina, New Zealand, and Australia. Click here to watch again and view a list of song titles and lyrics by clicking here. Here are just a few of the comments you shared:

“What a wonderful birthday gift it was for me!”

“Just what I needed, truly. Thank you for reaching out. You are such a gift to so many. Much love and light….”

“ Thank you, Craig, for this powerful gift from the heart”

April 13, 2020

 

Conspirare Presents: Songs of Connection with Craig Hella Johnson
From Craig’s home to yours! Grammy-winning Conspirare’s Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson will be at the piano to share a handful of songs and poems with you: our friends from around the world. Enjoy the music and connect with Craig and each other in this intimate online watch party with friends. Listeners with YouTube accounts will be able to chat with Craig and fellow listeners during and after the music.

See complete information and RSVP to receive a viewing link by clicking here.

April 8, 2020

Just for you we created two Spotify playlists of songs. One playlist features Craig singing with Conspirare, guest artists Ruthie FosterMatt Alber, and more! These songs speak tenderly to what you have all shared with us about your experiences in this time. The other playlist is curated by our Conspirare artist family, filled with handpicked songs they are turning to in these new days.

If you have a Spotify account you may be prompted for a login. If you don’t have an account, Spotify offers a free version with limited ads.

Click here to listen to “Craig Sings”

Click here to listen to “Tunes for Trying Times”

March 22, 2020

Craig’s Sunday Song – You’ll Never Walk Alone

March 20, 2020

We are thinking about our Conspirare family every day and have a special video from Craig to you.

March 17, 2020

dear friends,
such tender and challenging times. thank you for being a part of the conspirare musical family. we love you and we cherish the connection we have with you. during these times, we want to lean into our interconnectedness with you and to experience and remember the strength, joy and solace that we find in each other. we plan to stay intentionally connected with you through that which brought us together in the first place, music.

eliza gilkyson wrote her song “requiem” after the devastating Asian tsunami of 2004 as an invocation to compassion and as a song of prayer and comfort. this pristine song was first sung and recorded by eliza and her daughter. i was moved to create a simple choral arrangement so that we could sing from its universal themes together. we share here conspirare singing eliza’s song.

sent with love,
craig on behalf of all of the conspirare artists, staff and board

“illuminate the path where we are going”

mother mary, full of grace, awaken
all our homes are gone, our loved ones taken
taken by the sea
mother mary, calm our fears, have mercy
drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy
hear our mournful plea
our world has been shaken
we wander our homelands forsaken
in the dark night of the soul
bring some comfort to us all
oh mother mary come and carry us in your embrace
that our sorrows may be faced
mary, fill the glass to overflowing
illuminate the path where we are going
have mercy on us all
in funeral fires burning
each flame to your mystery returning
in the dark night of the soul
your shattered dreamers, make them whole
oh mother mary find us where we’ve fallen out of grace
lead us to a higher place
in the dark night of the soul
our broken hearts you can make whole
oh mother mary come and carry us in your embrace
let us see your gentle face, mary

lyrics reprinted with permission of Eliza Gilkyson.
learn more about this album here.

March 17, 2020

Dear Conspirare family,
As we join our colleagues in following guidelines to support public health in this unprecedented situation, we share news of the following Conspirare event cancellations:

  • Conspirare Youth Choirs (May 1-2). All ticket holders will be contacted by Sam Henderson with next steps to request a refund or convert your ticket order into a donation.
  • Considering Matthew Shepard presented by the Oregon Bach Festival (May 16). Ticket holders will be contacted by the Hult Center with next steps. You may reach their box office at 541-682-5000, or get more information by clicking HERE.

With gratitude,
All of Us at Conspirare

March 13, 2020

Dear Conspirare Family,
We are sharing this update to you as an invested and cherished members of our Conspirare family. After weighing many variables in close consultation our stakeholders from the community, we are postponing the following events:

  • Hidden Music (April 19)
  • Big Sing: Singing Planet (April 14)
  • Earth Ritual (April 25 & 26)

We are planning to reschedule these events as the environment and artist availability allows. At this time we do not know the exact timing of rescheduling.  Our team will be directly in touch with artists, ambassadors, and ticket buyers with next steps. Earth Ritual tickets will be honored for the rescheduled date. Ticket buyers will receive an e-mail message from Sam Henderson with complete information.

Decisions are still pending for these events:

  • Conspirare Youth Choirs:  Reveal (May 1 and 2)
  • Austin Symphony Orchestra Beethoven @ 250  (May 15 and 16)
  • Oregon Bach Festival: Considering Matthew Shepard (May 16)

Pending word on the above, Symphonic and CYC rehearsal schedules are also under review. We are exploring virtual alternatives and affected singers will receive notice prior to each rehearsal.

Like our fellow colleagues in the performing arts, Conspirare will incur a significant financial impact which will have an immediate effect on our artists in particular. We welcome your ideas on how we can support our family in this time. We ask for your patience as we take next steps including sending out communication regarding specific action items for you individually. We hope notice of this decision will provide clarity and time for you to plan.  We will hold true to our values and work to remain transparent, honest, and open.

In a time where we are being asked to distance ourselves for our collective survival, we are holding tight to the ways we remain connected and our opportunity to foster this connection in this time where we especially need it. We will be creating some online offerings and exploring ways to remain virtually linked while we are physically apart.  Please do not hesitate to contact any of us at any time.

March 12, 2020

Q: Are the Conspirare offices open, and are events still planned to occur as scheduled?
A: Yes – our office is open for regular business hours. We have advised staff to stay home if they are feeling ill and encourage patrons to do the same. All staff have the option to work remotely and we are prepared to continue operations remotely should the situation warrant. Staff will check voicemail and e-mail remotely. Conspirare is monitoring the COVID-19 situation daily, including updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the City of Austin. At this time, all spring events are currently proceeding.

Dear Conspirare Family,
For many years, our Conspirare’s tag line was “We Sing Life. Life Sings Us.” In this current moment, we find ourselves being sung by life as never before.  We are feeling more strongly than ever the connections we have created with you and others around the world through music.

With the emergence of Coronavirus/COVID-19 in the United States, we are actively monitoring public health recommendations from our local, state, and national authorities and their intersection with our operations to determine how our upcoming rehearsals and events may be impacted.  Although we are based in Austin, many of our artists (and listeners!) travel from around the country to make music with us, creating a unique set of circumstances and considerations. As information becomes available, we will make and communicate decisions about our upcoming events directly to you via e-mail and on our website and Facebook pages.

We will continue to stay in touch with you about our upcoming events and any related next steps in the coming days and weeks. We have been incredibly inspired by the generous individuals who have consulted with us about how to proceed in light of our current world situation.  Thank you!

We are happy to answer your immediate questions and hear your ideas. Please contact us at info@conspirare.org or call 512-476-5775 and we will connect you to one of our staff.  As with any time between concerts, we invite you to stream Conspirare on Spotify, Apple Music, and YouTube and hope that our music can provide a respite in these days.

With gratitude,
All of Us at Conspirare

Your support today is more important than ever. As a non-profit arts organization, Conspirare relies on the people we serve to insure our future. Please consider the role Conspirare plays in your life and support your Grammy-winning Conspirare with a gift in any amount today.