Provisions for the Heart and Soul are timely offerings for our Conspirare family. You’re invited to join for music and conversations offered in response to these times. Click a date below to be automatically redirected to that article, or scroll through all articles beneath the directory.
- July 16, 2021 – Reflections on a Year of Making Music Together Apart
- May 28, 2021 – Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
- February 24, 2021 – The Power of Friendship: a Winter Storm Benefit
- February 14, 2021 – Happy Valentine’s Day from All of Us at Conspirare!
- January 11, 2021 – Connecting with Students Around the Country
- January 4, 2021 – The Song That I Came to Sing
- December 11, 2020 – Conspirare Heard Around the World
- November 16, 2020 – Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
- October 22, 2020 – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
- October 8, 2020 – A Song of Gratitude for Conspirare Ambassadors
- September 30, 2020 – Intern Reflections
- September 17, 2020 – Reflections on The Singing Guitar
- August 27, 2020 – The Salt of the Earth: A Heartfelt Tribute
- July 21, 2020 – Craig Hella Johnson on Creativity Within Limitations
- July 13, 2020 – Music Renewal: A Conversation with Craig Hella Johnson
- June 19, 2020 – Soloists Spotlight: Conspirare Celebrates Black Music
- June 10, 2020 – Virtual Victoria Bach Festival
- May 13, 2020 – Connecting with Choir Students across the Country
- May 10, 2020 – Daily Dose of Hope
- May 6, 2020 – We Were Made for This
- May 5, 2020 – Craig Hella Johnson’s interview with Maxfield Rivers
- April 20, 2020 – Our hearts are full
- April 13, 2020 – Conspirare Presents: Songs of Connection with Craig Hella Johnson
- April 8, 2020 – Two new Spotify playlists
- March 22, 2020 – Craig’s Sunday Song
- March 20, 2020 – Craig’s Message for You
- March 17, 2020 – Interconnectedness & Requiem
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.
July 16, 2021: Reflections on a Year of Making Music Together Apart
Austin Chamber Music Center, Austin Classical Guitar, and Conspirare, with the support and encouragement of the Still Water Foundation, collaborated in the 20-21 season to support one another and share ideas during the COVID pandemic as we transitioned to in-home, streaming performances.
Collectively we are incredibly grateful to have been able to continue to serve, employ our artists and staff, and create music that inspired and connected our communities during this time of great challenge. This year of pivoting and innovating will inform our work as we return to in-person concerts. We’d like to share some of our lessons learned, some of the art itself, and reflect on what we think we might take forward into the future.
Throughout the season, the Executive/Managing Directors of each organization spoke every Friday to share ideas and lessons learned, frequently engaging other team-members and community members in certain discussions.
We are very grateful especially to all those friends near and far who believed in us, took steps with us into online streaming events, supported us, through this most unusual year. Here is a brief report on some of what we learned, and we welcome feedback, comments, and questions.
May 28, 2021: Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Extraordinary musical experiences depend on the diverse talents of world-class artists. This May we celebrate Asian Pacific Heritage Month, recognizing and showcasing members of our Grammy award-winning choir including soprano Gitanjali Mathur and basses Rick Gabrillo and Enrico Lagasca. Gitanjali, Rick, and Enrico performed in this season’s Unity: Songs of Connection and Conspirare Christmas.
Gitanjali Mathur is a long-time Conspirare soprano, and can be heard singing “passing in and out of life” near the end of “We Clasp the Hands” at the end of Conspirare Christmas each season and is in the soprano trio heard in “Hold On” from Sing Freedom About her musical influences, she shared:
“My formative influences have stayed rooted within me and I look upon them with great love and admiration. During my early childhood in Rajasthan, India, my grandparents’ immense love for music transferred to me and I felt passionate about all types of Indian music at an early age. They sang lullabies to me that are ingrained and still a part of my life, and my grandmother was often heard practicing, or singing at University Functions, or community functions. My gentle guru ji, N.G. Kelkar, was a musical guru for many other members in my family as well. North Indian Classical Music, Indian religious music, North Indian folk music, and Bollywood were big influences on me. But also, I distinctly remember when my uncle brought home an LP of the band “The Police”…that was so very different from everything else I had been exposed to, and I loved it instantly!”
Rick Gabrillo, bass, has been singing with Conspirare since 1994 and appears on multiple albums as a singer and performed percussion parts including on Freedom Song on Sing Freedom. He has guest conducted the Symphonic Choir in multiple performances including Annelies and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He also held staff roles as director of the Conspirare Youth Choirs and production manager for many years. You can hear him as part of a quartet in this Conspirare Christmas performance:
Bass Enrico Lagasca first in appeared with Conspirare at Bach Plus in 2018. His musical influences include Filipino artists Regine Velasquez and Ryan Cayabyab, classical singer Jonathan Zaens and his first mentor, teacher, conductor of the Philippine Madrigal Singers, Mark Anthony Carpio.
Enrico shared the following musical examples of his influences and the related comments:
Sa Kanyang Paglalayag – “This is a Filipino piece by Ily Matthew Maniano recorded by the Philippine Madrigal Singers – the text depicts hope, new beginnings, new tomorrows, we all are paddling through this current together – “paglalayag” is the way of travel by boat in the ocean or body of water – like to paddle.”
Kay Ganda ng Ating Musika – “A HUGE influence for every Filipino musician is Ryan Cayabyab – and this classic one man recording NOT recorded in 2009 as Spotify has it but recorded late in the 80’s. This song says that our (Filipino) music is beautiful and it’s ours and we should be proud of it.”
Sometime, Somewhere – “Performed live by Regine Velasquez and this song written by Ryan Cayabyab – she’s the ultimate pop artist I grew up listening to.”
In Spring 2020, Enrico collaborated with Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson on a duet dedicated to essential workers:
This Spring, Conspirare premiered Indian American composer Reena Esmail’s Quarantine Madrigals (and they include a performance by Enrico!)
Esmail was recently featured in the Washington Post’s 21 for ’21: Composers and Performers Who Sound Like Tomorrow and composed the opening track “When the Guitar” on The Singing Guitar and “TaReKiTa” on Go Light Your World .
Conspirare repertoire includes the contributions of Asian Pacific American composers, poets, and instrumentalists.
Please enjoy and share our Conspirare American Pacific American Playlist.
This month’s playlist includes selections from the performers mentioned above. You can also learn more about each of the artists and their work with Conspirare through the hyperlinks above.
February 24, 2021: The Power of Friendship: a Winter Storm Benefit
We are so grateful to be coming out of the other side of last week’s severe winter storm. While the snow has melted, the recovery continues and in times like these we are reminded of the deep connections we share with so many friends in Texas and beyond that were created through the power of music. Music can help sustain and uplift us all and in that spirit, we are excited to be collaborating with our friends at Austin Classical Guitar, Austin Chamber Music, and KMFA for a special benefit concert this Friday, February 26 at 8 pm Central. Craig will appear live as a host and the concert includes selections from Conspirare and our colleagues, including a live set by Oliver Rajamani. All proceeds will be given directly to the Black Leaders Collective Fund, the Central Texas Food Bank, and Impact Now Dove Springs. Please RSVP and get all the details at The Power of Friendship: a Winter Storm Benefit Concert.
We look forward to seeing you there and hope you will say hello in the chat!
February 14, 2021 – Happy Valentine’s Day from All of Us at Conspirare!
On this day where love takes center stage, we asked some of our Conspirare family to share their favorite Conspirare Love Songs. Stop by the Conspirare Facebook Page throughout the day to see the enjoy reflections from singers Stefanie Moore and Lauren McAllister, composers Cary Ratcliff and Jake Runestad, collaborators Rod Caspers, Cynthia Gonzales and Paula D’Arcy, and several of our Conspirare Ambassadors as we explore the many types of love Conspirare sings about.
The Love Song selections are among those included on our Spotify collaborative OITL playlist. We invite you to join us and add your favorite Conspirare Love Song to the OITL Playlist!
*Only in the Love is from the “All of Us” movement in Considering Matthew Shepard
January 11, 2021 – Connecting with Students Around the Country
As choir directors continue in online classrooms, Conspirare is collaborating with teachers from around the United States to develop offerings for student singers. The first of these occurred in conjunction with Conspirare Christmas.
Victoria East High School’s Varsity Choir (Texas) and Sycamore High School Chamber Choir & Concert Choirs (Illinois) met with Conspirare singers Shari Alise Wilson and Zach Finkelstein for a pre-concert talk. As part of the session, Shari asked students, “How does music make you feel?” Students wrote their responses and held them up in their zoom tiles – their responses are compiled in this wordle and included the phrases “Makes me feel free” and “Like I’m worth something.” Sycamore H. S. Choir Director and Conspirare bass Drayton Eggleson said:
“It just means the world to have a group like Conspirare interact with our students. Shari and Zach were fun, kind, and insightful; they shared their knowledge with grace and made the session super engaging for our students. I have participated in other like events virtually, and this by far was one of the more engaging experiences we have had in the Sycamore School District.”
On December 5, students from across the country gathered with each other and Craig Hella Jonson, soprano Estelí Gomez, and bass Simon Barrad for a virtual pre-concert talk. The Zoom conversation included discussion about influences on this year’s Conspirare Christmas music selections and explored what it means to be a singer right now. Students asked how the artists were handling the stress of this time, about inspiration, and shared their favorite choral pieces.
Pictured below: Mr. John Bonner, Victoria East H. S. Choir Director and Shari Alise Wilson, soprano
January 4, 2021 – The Song That I Came to Sing
The Singing Guitar was recognized on two end-of-year lists: Best of 2020: WRTI’s Favorite Classical and Jazz Albums of the Year and the Chicago Tribune’s The best classical recordings of 2020.
The album’s final track, “The Song That I Came to Sing”, features Conspirare’s sopranos and altos and cellist Douglas Harvey, and is a setting of Rabindranath Tagore. Apple Music Classical included this track on the Meditation Moments playlist and it has been one of the most listened to tracks on The Singing Guitar. Conspirare’s Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson composed this song with a very specific intention; he shares the story in his recent “Inside Craig’s Studio” segment.
You can hear the final result on Spotify, Apple Music or your favorite streaming service.
The Song That I Came to Sing
The song that I came to sing remains
unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in
unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words
have not been rightly set; only there is
the agony of wishing in my heart. The
blossom has not opened; only the wind is
I have not seen his face, nor have I listened
to his voice; only I have heard his gentle
footsteps from the road before my house.
I live in the hope of meeting; but this
meeting is not yet.
— Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
December 11, 2020 – Conspirare Heard Around the World
In this season of distanced singing, we are grateful to come together with our fellow creatives in our home base of Austin and around the country. We invite you to listen to Conspirare and get to know the incredible musicians we get to share the screen and airwaves within these upcoming programs and join us in the joy of singing at the Holiday Big Sing at Home on December 22.
- Sunday, December 13 at 2 pm: Fast Forward Austin: Digital Assemblage Fast Forward Austin hosts a fall marathon of truly forward-looking music from a diverse array of artists, including local, regional, and national talent. Conspirare is excited to be joining the lineup with “Do You Remember”, recorded November 2019’s The Singing Guitar performance. The lineup also includes the premiere performance of VAMP, a vocal quintet of formidable female artists touting a motley songbook and a bold red lip that includes Conspirare singers Shari Alise Wilson and Laura Mercado-Wright. Join us at FFA’s YouTube Channel for the premiere and to view through January 1. (And check out The Singing Guitar album, now half-off with code GIFTOFSONG as part of our Gift of Music event).
- Wednesday, December 16 at 10 am Central: Join KHFM host (and Conspirare soprano) Kathlene Ritch for this month’s Choral Hour, where she will highlight holiday concert traditions in different ensembles. Including True Concord, Santa Fe Desert Chorale, the Houston Chamber Choir, and Conspirare-with their unique Christmas collage program. Listen here (streaming available in upper left hand corner)
November 16, 2020 – Celebrating Native American Heritage Month
Extraordinary musical experiences depend on the diverse talents of world-class artists. In November we celebrate Native American Heritage Month, recognizing and showcasing members of our Grammy award-winning choir including alto Keely J Rhodes and tenor David Kurtenbach Rivera. Listen for Keely and David performing in Conspirare Christmas.
Keely made her Conspirare debut in 2001 as a soloist in the Duruflé Requiem. Keely’s solo artistry can be heard in Robert Kyr’s “Freedom Song” from Sing Freedom! and “Sweet Little Jesus Boy” by Mark Hall / Bernhard Herms from The Singing Heart.
Most recently, David sang the tenor solo in the February 2020 world premiere of Andrea Clearfield’s “Prayer to the Shechinah”. Classical Voice described David as having a voice “lined with silver.”
Writing of Native American authors infuses Conspirare’s musical programs. Sections of Sarah Winnemucca Hopkin’s autobiography, Life Among the Piutes: Their Wrongs and Claims, were set by Kile Smith in The Dawn’s Early Light, recently released on The Singing Guitar. Unity: Songs of Invitation features two poems of U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo: “Once the World was Perfect” and “Remember”.
Please enjoy and share this month’s Spotify Playlist for a collection of recordings featuring our Native American artists and writers. It’s a collaborative playlist – we invite you to add your favorite music from Native American artists. We invite you to explore the hyperlinks above where you can learn more about these artists and their work with Conspirare.
October 22, 2020 – Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Extraordinary musical experiences depend on the diverse talents of world-class singers, composers, and songwriters. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, Conspirare recognizes and showcases members of our Grammy award-winning choir and previously featured soloists.
Soprano Estelí Gomez is a singer who is a frequent member of this choir and is the featured soloist on Conspirare’s latest release, The Singing Guitar. You can hear her solo artistry on “When the Guitar” and “How Little You Are”. She has been “praised for her clear, bright voice” (New York Times). She has also been honored as a Grammy award winner for her performance with vocal group Roomful of Teeth. Estelí grew up singing Mexican folk songs with her family, and is so grateful that that love of music in community still nourishes her today.
You may recognize alto Laura Mercado-Wright from many of our Conspirare Christmas albums, The Singing Guitar, and a featured soloist on Cary Ratcliff’s Ode to Common Things on Pablo Neruda: The Poet Sings. The New York Times has called her work “superb”, “dramatically astute”, and “stunningly agile”. She also performed as a soloist during Vanguard II on the song The Soul Selects her Own Society by Mari Esebel Valverde.
Guest artist Carrie Rodriguez, known at Conspirare for her performances on the Sing Joy album, was featured in the singles “Wildflowers” and “Caricias”. She is a multi-talented performer, who has shared both her gifts of violin and voice with Conspirare. Her bio states that she has “electrifying vocals and a fresh interpretation of new and classic songs with an ‘Ameri-Chicana’ attitude”, which she certainly delivers.
Please enjoy and share our Conspirare Hispanic Heritage Month Spotify Playlist where you can listen to all of these artist’s incredible performances. You can also learn more about each of the artists and their work with Conspirare through the hyperlinks above.
October 8, 2020 – A Song of Gratitude for Conspirare Ambassadors
How do you adequately thank the 103 volunteers who served 790+ hours as Conspirare’s “front line” at concerts, packed up 30 boxes of recording equipment to ship to singers across the country, and completed several other jobs that keep Conspirare singing? House manager Kathy Leighton and her husband Henry Leighton led a group of Conspirare staff including Jaime Leighton, Scott Dinger, Kendall Walshak, Ali Lewis, and Natalie Seeboth to host a drive-through Ambassador Appreciation celebration on September 29th. Twenty-four Ambassadors stopped at 4 stations to pick up gifts in appreciation for their service to Conspirare in the 2019-2020 season. Special thanks to local restaurant Sala & Betty for providing gift cards for each ambassador.
After such a long time apart, it was a joy to see each ambassador’s face from behind their mask! Kathy and the team shared generous expressions of thanks to the Ambassadors for their donation of time and talent. Ambassadors left behind their comments on “What I love about being an Ambassador” and shared their memorable Conspirare moment on a special wall. You can watch a video capturing a few moments from the appreciation. Later that evening the Ambassadors came together for a special ZOOM appreciation.
Five Ambassadors received an award for “above and beyond” participation. Ambassador Bill Hulsey received the inaugural “Alice Day Bubbles Award” for his bubbly engagement with our audience. Stephanie Foster, a regular box office volunteer, was recognized with the “Wonderful World” award for making the most patron phone calls. Office regular Linda Cameron was honored with the “Mint Award” for commit”mint”/invest”mint” & involve”mint” for most hours donated as an office assistant. The “First Responder” award went to Jimmie Johnson for the most hours donated. Henry Leighton earned the “Much and Many” award for having served at every performance in the 2019-2020 season. In reflecting upon Kathy and her leadership of the ambassadors, Craig Hella Johnson said “I am grateful for the essential work our ambassadors undertake each season and am touched by the ways they have stepped up in this time of virtual offerings. The ambassadors are at the heart and soul of our Conspirare family and embody so many of our shared values through their spirit and service.”
September 30, 2020 – Intern Reflections
Today, Allyson Moreno wraps up the second of two internships at Conspirare. Allyson began with us in January as a finance intern and concludes as a press intern. She infused both of her internships with her love of choir and singing, meticulous attention to detail, and excel prowess. She worked with the production team and business manager to update Conspirare’s production budget templates to improve efficiency and consistency. She overhauled the press list and served as a member of our press team as we promoted two events with national profiles: the “All of Us” virtual choir and The Singing Guitar. Her work will serve our mission for a long time. Right now, Allyson is listening to The Last Five Years soundtrack and Joji’s recent album release, Nectar. Thank you, Allyson!
Future interns can learn more at the Internship Program page.
Interning for Conspirare
Hello all! My name is Allyson Moreno, and I am a 2020 graduate from The University of Texas at Austin—Bachelor of Arts in Music with minors in business and arts management.
For the past several months I have had the incredible opportunity to intern for Conspirare. I learned so much, and I would love to share my experience.
I started my internship in January as a finance intern. Typically my work involved budget spreadsheets for performances. I implemented different Excel shortcuts to make the budgeting process more efficient. Throughout my work, I gained an understanding of all the moving parts that need to be in balance in preparation for a performance. I also organized a few other documents pertaining to things like royalties and ticket sales, but a major shift occurred when I moved back to San Antonio and started working from home in March.
Since live performances with live audiences aren’t possible for the time being, my internship tasks transitioned to public relations. Recently, Conspirare had two major events– the All of Us Virtual Choir project and The Singing Guitar album release. I helped out by creating two press lists that included relevant radio and newspaper contacts. Ultimately, I sent out press releases to about 200 contacts from all around the country. I also compiled another press list that will be used similarly for the upcoming Unity concerts. I am so proud of the articles that have come out because of my part, and I am excited to see what else will soon be written.
As my internship comes to an end, I am reflecting on what makes a small organization like Conspirare flourish. Although it sounds cheesy, it really is all about teamwork. Much like singing in a choir, there is no part that does not matter. Everyone is essential. I have enjoyed sitting in on the staff meetings and hearing about the different tasks that keep the organization moving forward. The biggest thing that motivated me throughout my experience was having a great leader like Ann McNair who inspires through positivity and words of encouragement. I will miss the whole team when I leave, but I am eager to see what else is in store for me!
September 17, 2020 – Reflections on The Singing Guitar
It’s been a joy to anticipate the release of The Singing Guitar. Longtime Conspirare listener Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, composed a reflection that captures the wonder of this latest release:
As When the Guitar begins, we hear single notes—medium to low to high and back again—measured, clear, a pattern. Our sensory imagination feels the pressure and release of fingers plucking strings. A cloud of sound moves in, as if on a warm breeze, and we intuit a chorus of voices, barely words, wafting above the guitar. Saying “guitar.” The word, the instrument, its sound, its player, the singers who say the word: Layers. Sculptural dimension. Colors interweave. A poem. It builds, until soloists step forward with their lilting cries, female, then male, notes bending, sliding, fluttering in some kind of air. A braid of guitar, song, cry. Song magnifies, a blanket of aspiration, soft, soaring, a multitude, with reverent strings. Cries return, soulful, nimble. All parts respected, supported, resolved: Voices woven by strings. Read Annette’s full essay.
August 27, 2020 – The Salt of the Earth: A Heartfelt Tribute
Craig Hella Johnson, and many Texas artists including previous Conspirare Christmas guest artists Ruthie Foster and Carrie Rodriguez, recently contributed their voices to a powerful song produced by Austin singer-songwriter Sara Hickman. The Hard Working People Project was produced by Sara Hickman to bring awareness to the fact so many of us are working tirelessly and courageously during this time of COVID-19. From mail carriers, nurses, doctors, grocery store employees, mom & pop shop owners, garbage collectors, non-profits, protesters, teachers, neighbors…you. Sara & The Hard Working People Project wanted to say we see you, we hear you, we love you, we are you. We are all in this scary time together and music can bring us hope, healing and love. Sara reflected that, “As a producer, collaborating with Craig and the 30 other singers and musicians to remotely create ‘Salt of the Earth’ was a thrill! This heartfelt tribute is dedicated to all the tireless, courageous and hope filled hard working people in this scary time of COVID-19.”
Listen to “Salt of the Earth” and stay tuned for the forthcoming video (where we hear we’ll be seeing Craig and the other artists!).
July 21, 2020 – Craig Hella Johnson on Creativity Within Limitations
So many of you wrote to express how excited you were to gather with Craig and each other for last week’s KI Concerts webinar, Music Renewal. Attendees tuned in from across the country. One attendee reflected, “[I] was so thankful for the subject matter he covered with grace and empathy. The topic of self-care for artists of any sort is so important now.”
Thank you to KI Concerts for creating the opportunity to gather.
We invite you to view webinar by clicking here.
July 13, 2020 – Music Renewal: A Conversation with Craig Hella Johnson
KI Concerts and Conspirare Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson are longtime collaborators, bringing together choirs from around the world for meaningful musical journeys. Join Craig and Oliver for Music Renewal: A Conversation with Craig Hella Johnson on Tuesday, July 14 at 4 pm Central. The conversation will explore how to maintain, redefine, and renew our inspiration and focus as we seek to determine how and when our ensembles will be able to meet in a safe and purposeful way.
In the words of KI President Oliver Scofield, “This conversation with Craig Hella Johnson’ at this time of uncertainty, disruption and even fear will speak to the heart as only he can. Just as Craig is able to find unique bridges between pieces of music, so too is the connectivity he sees in this COVID related journey we are all on now freshly seen and articulated. How we care for ourselves and respond creatively at a time of imperfection – along with the love and generosity we need provide through service as our music continues to define and nourish the human soul – will form a part of the discussion.
Craig has led festivals for KI Concerts around the world touching every singer and audience member swept up in the experience. His passion becomes the text, able to amplify and touch others through performance empowering collective understanding and change. When Craig impacts an individual he impacts the world and the Webinar on Tuesday, July 14, will help nourish and sustain us as we prepare for the 2nd half of a year that in many ways still defies comprehension.”
Click here to register for Music Renewal: A Conversation with Craig Hella Johnson.
June 19, 2020 – Soloists Spotlight: Conspirare Celebrates Black Music
Extraordinary musical experiences depend on the diverse talents of world-class singers, composers and songwriters. As we celebrate Juneteenth and Black Music Month, Conspirare spotlights soloists and members of our Grammy award-winning choir.
Soprano Melissa Givens is a long time Conspirare singer and her beloved performance of the soprano solo in “The Road Home is included on our first Grammy-nominated recording, Requiem. Melissa is also featured in “Motherless Child” on Sing Freedom! and “The Fence (After)” from Considering Matthew Shepard.
Soprano and guest artist Nicole Joseph and The African Children’s Choir were most recently heard at Conspirare Christmas 2019. Nicole captivated audiences as part of the soprano trio in “The Beatitudes” on the Grammy-winning Sacred Spirit of Russia and is the soloist in “Hard Trials” on Sing Freedom!.
Audiences will know Charles Wesley Evans from Great Big Choruses concert and can hear him as a featured artist on several Conspirare albums: One Voice, Sing Freedom!’s “My God is a Rock” and “Ha-Lo Chochma tikra” from our most recent Christmas release, Go Light Your World.
Ruthie Foster has headlined three Conspirare Christmases, infusing her Grammy-nominated blues music and leaving audiences wanting more. In his review of her 2013 appearance, critic Mike Greenberg said, ‘Foster delivered her solos – among them, “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” “I Wonder as I Wander,” “I’ll Fly Away,” and “Feeling Good” – with a mighty river of a voice and effortless, fluid phrasing. The chorus joined her in convincing gospel style for Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How it Would Feel to be Free.’
Conspirare’s repertoire includes music written by Black composers. Sing Freedom! highlights the African-American spiritual, including arrangements by Moses Hogan and renowned composer William Levi Dawson. Conspirare Christmas, known for its collage of musical genres and influences, has included selections from Black singer-songwriters including Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, and Ruthie Foster.
Please enjoy and share our Conspirare Black Music Month playlist on Spotify where you can enjoy all of these artists’ inspiring performances. Be sure to explore the hyperlinks above where you can learn more about these artists and their work with Conspirare.
June 10, 2020 – Virtual Victoria Bach Festival
Conspirare and the Victoria Bach Festival have been long-time collaborators and this week VBF is offering a wonderful online festival that features live conversation and archival footage that includes many shared artists and treasured Conspirare performances of years past. Click here for a complete schedule.
We invite you to enjoy the programs that include Conspirare choirs and our Victoria Bach Festival friends. The programs remain available even after the date has passed. Please note: the program begins a few minutes into the video. Feel free to skip the intro music!
- A Look Back: Memorable VBF Performances
- A LOOK BACK: Listening Session with Alejandro and Craig
- BACHFEST Brunch with performances by Shari Wilson
- Emerging Artists Reunion with Faith DeBow featuring clips with Dann Coakwell, Brian Giebler, and Douglas Harvey
- My Process: Artists Prepare with Richard Gabrillo Rick talks about preparing a St. Matthew Passion chorale and Gitanjali Mathur shares her process
- Faith DeBow in Recital
- VBF Vocalists VBF singers perform from their homes including Cameron Beauchamp, Laura Mercado-Wright, Isaac Bustos, Thann Scoggin and Grace Cho.
- Thursday, June 11 at 8 pm at Stephen Redfield Plays Bach
May 13, 2020 – Connecting with Choir Students Across the Country
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.
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 Foster, Matt 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.
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
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