Unity: Songs of Invitation
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(Stream includes post-concert discussion with Craig Hella Johnson, Kathlene Ritch, Sonja DuToit Tengblad, Simon Barrad and Andrew Timm)
(Stream includes post-concert discussion with Craig Hella Johnson, Melissa Givens, Sarah Brauer, and Andrew Timm)
In this first Conspirare virtual concert exploration, Conspirare’s nationwide roster of artists captured hundreds of audio and video recordings, serving both as performers and directors of photography, to capture the raw material to create a dynamic, hourlong virtual concert.
Unity invites viewers into a reverie that breaks new ground and elevates the virtual concert experience from the familiar grid of squares. Artistic Director Craig Hella Johnson grounds the concert in two selections of Bach, connecting with Conspirare’s musical roots and including Conspirare favorites “Requiem,” “1000 Beautiful Things,” and Samuel Barber’s iconic “Agnus Dei.” The timely poetry of Joy Harjo, Erika Fine, N. Scott Momaday, and Herman Hesse complete the program.
South African Director Andrew Timm and his team are masterfully combining the elements of the artists’ audio and video recordings and will stage them in a virtual 3D amphitheater with motion graphic backdrops. In creating the amphitheater design, Timm and his team were influenced by Kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold to repair cracks in a piece of broken pottery.
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.
A post-concert talk will immediately follow each performance.
Age recommendation: 11 and up for brief spoken reference to adult themes.
After a brief introduction, Craig takes you behind the scenes of Unity: Songs of Invitation from his studio in this video captured back in September.
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
- Melissa Givens – Claremont, CA
- Chelsea Helm – New York, NY
- Gitanjali Mathur – Austin, TX
- Stefanie Moore – Los Angeles, CA
- Kathlene Ritch – Santa Fe, NM
- Sonja DuToit Tengblad – East Boston, MA
- Shari Alise Wilson – Austin, TX
- Ana Baida – Atlanta, GA
- Sarah Brauer – Portland, OR
- Lauren McAllister – Cincinnati, OH
- Laura Mercado-Wright – Austin, TX
- Keely J Rhodes – Aiken, SC
- Dann Coakwell – Ithaca, NY
- Ernest H. Harrison – Los Angeles, CA
- Michael Jones – Peoria, IL
- David Kurtenbach Rivera – San Francisco, CA
- Wilson Nichols – New York, NY
- Simon Barrad – San Francisco, CA
- Dashon Burton – New York, NY
- Charles Wesley Evans – Wallingford, CT
- Gregory Fletcher – Long Beach, CA
- Rick Gabrillo – Round Rock, TX
- Robert Harlan – Austin, TX
- Enrico Lagasca – New York, NY
- John Proft – Austin, TX
- Evan Blaché – Austin, TX (Insight Fellow)
- Thomas Burritt, percussion – Austin, TX
- Ian Davidson, oboe – Austin, TX
- Austin Haller, organ – Austin, TX
- Douglas Harvey, cello – Austin, TX
- Carla McElhaney, piano – Round Rock, TX
- Caleb Hans Polashek, violin – Austin, TX
- Melanie Punter, double bass – Tallahassee, FL
- Stephen Redfield, violin – Hattiesburg, MS
- Brian Shaw, trumpet – Baton Rouge, LA
- Mitch Watkins, guitar – Austin, TX
- Bruce Williams, viola – Austin, TX
- Jordan Walsh, hand drums – Austin, TX
- Ivy Wang, hand drums – Austin, TX
Meet our Featured Ambassador
In loving memory
“Being an Ambassador allows me the privilege of playing a small part in supporting the essential work of bringing outstanding musical performances to our community.”
Craig Hella Johnson likes to remind us that Conspirare means to breathe together. I believe that is the secret to this amazing vocal group’s success. Every vocalist in the group possesses incredible skills, but when they perform, they breathe together. The focus is on the whole, rather than its parts. no prima donnas in this group!
I am a Conspirare Ambassador because I am an unabashed groupie. I try never to miss a Conspirare concert. I love the variety of music they perform and the brilliant, creative way Craig Hella Johnson combines musical styles even in a single piece. Craig’s first concert-length work, Considering Matthew Shepard, is a favorite of mine. It was made even more meaningful to me because I was privileged to hear him speak about the creative process that produced this beautiful piece, which is filled with both exquisite sadness and uplifting hope. Somehow it is able to transcend tragedy. It will be a classic.
Being an Ambassador allows me the privilege of playing a small part in supporting the essential work of bringing outstanding musical performances to our community. I enjoy the staff and the other Ambassadors, whether we are ushering at a concert or helping out in the office. The bond we share is created by our talented leader, Kathy Leighton, who makes our work fun and fostered by the general goodness of the people involved. Join us!
To learn more about our Ambassador program, click here!
“Ever since I came out of the womb, I’ve connected with music,” says Andrea Pobanz. As a member of the Hella Circle, Andrea is “playing” forward her lifelong love of music. Hella Circle is a community of Conspirare supporters who commit to giving monthly because they believe in the transformative power of music. Monthly giving is a sustaining source of revenue, keeping Conspirare’s song strong.
Growing up in rural New Mexico, Andrea recalls on Sunday mornings her parents put on their old records and turned it up! The Rolling Stones, the Bee Gees, and the Mamas and the Papas—favorites of her parents’ generation.
Andrea’s mother played piano and at a young age, Andrea begged to learn. “I’d pick out songs from the radio, like Hank Williams—what my dad listened to.” Her mother taught her to read music and in school, she joined the choir.
Andrea thought she’d become an English teacher, enjoying music on the side. “But my high school choir director inspired me to take another path,” Andrea recalls. She studied piano and organ performance in college and continued on to earn master’s and doctorate degrees in choral conducting.
Not long after Andrea moved to Austin in 2008 she auditioned for Conspirare’s Symphonic Choir. “Conspirare is like a family to me,” Andrea says.
Andrea is proud to be a member of the Hella Circle, Conspirare’s monthly giving group. “I know that music doesn’t just ‘happen.’ I want to give back what I receive as a performer and audience member,” Andrea says. “I know any amount I give will be used to benefit Conspirare audiences, technical staff that makes us look and sound great, and everyone else who keeps Conspirare’s song going.”
Andrea works as music director at St. Austin Catholic Church. During COVID-19 restrictions, she feels the sense of loss of not having a choir experience—both as a conductor and as a performer.
“The last time my choir of 30 volunteers sang together was March 17th,” Andrea recalls wistfully. Yet, she makes sure the group gets together regularly via Zoom to check-in, enjoy warm friendships and even play ‘name that tune.’” She hopes to start directing a quartet soon through Google Classroom.
It’s been five months since she’s been together with her Conspirare choir too. “Yet, I don’t feel disconnected from Conspirare,” she says. Through Zoom meetings and Facebook, she keeps in touch with friends. “It’s different, of course,” she says, “but it’s still close.” When Facebook provides “memories” of past performances like the Bernstein MASS or Carmina Burana, Andrea and her friends shout out: “Miss my alto sisters!” and “Can’t wait to sing together again!”
Andrea remains hopeful. On Sundays, she plays the organ at the church—with parishioners joining virtually or in-person with limited distanced seating. She often practices the piano at home—but only as long as her dog Dolly can stand it. When Dolly, a Shih Tzu, gets out her squeaky toy, practice is over.
True to her roots, Andrea enjoys a wide variety of music that inspires and sustains her. One of the Spotify playlists she returns to again and again is the one Conspirare choir members created of songs that are nourishing them now.
Andrea’s Favorite Spotify Playlists:
- Tunes for Trying Times (songs contributed by Conspirare members)
- Morning Wake Up: Coffee for Your Head