The New York Choral Society presents a beautiful and thoughtful video in a production of ‘Our Voices” as part of its 2020-21 season. This production is a collaboration with artist Joyce McDonald, merging song and visual art ~ stunning sculpture portraits ~ Peace Unto Zion.
The New York Choral Society, New York’s pioneering symphonic chorus, that explores unique collaboration and dynamic repertory, proudly presented the first installation of its virtual season, Our Voices with the premiere of Kevin Siegfried’s Peace unto Zion on November 11. This short art film highlights a distinctive collaboration of acapella music and sculpture, while central themes of social justice are woven together with a narrative of a utopian ideal to create a modern lens for a 19th century work in a profound and special way.
Like many Shaker hymns, Peace unto Zion is a poetic reflection of the utopian ideal, where all are created equal and joining forces to create a more perfect society through humility, faith, work and the beauty of nature. Re-imagined during a time of palpable social unrest and paired with the sculptural works of contemporary artist Joyce McDonald, this project underscores the tension between the Shaker hymn, both in its text and its ideals, and the realities of a modern society that is polarized, unjust, and suffering from the pain of racial inequality. Layered with an intimate collage of just 40 voices, Joyce’s choice of subject matter for the sculptures includes George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Eric Garner, among other Black men, women, and children, who have died at the hands of the police over the last decade.
“There has been so much energy moving through me as I create this work, ” explains Joyce. “I just started George Floyd’s sculpture by pulling up his picture, and the next thing I knew, my hands were doing this thing ~ it felt out of body, and I began to cry,” she continues. “I couldn’t stop. I did Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and Ahmaud Arbery. I did Eric Garner. I did Trayvon Martin. At first, all the eyes were closed, and it clearly looked like they were in coffins. And then God spoke to me ~ Because they have opened everyone’s eyes, leave their eyes open. Their eyes have become the main focus of these works now.”
“This moment in our history is a time for classical music to make room at the table for other, more diverse voices,” expresses NY Choral Society’s Music Director David Hayes “It’s important for us to find works that may have been overlooked but must be heard by a wider audience” he continues. “The collaboration among an arranger of Shaker hymns and a sculptor who captures the range of emotions she’s experienced throughout her spirited life offers a powerful meditation on hope and the equally painful striving for a utopia of peace and grace.”
With the full chorus including more than 150 voices, ages 19-90, Peace unto Zion will include just 40 singers, with other members to be spotlighted in the four upcoming season shorts; December 15, 2020, Carol for All Children; February 23, 2021: God is Seen; March 16, 2021: Mother to Son; and May 4, 2021: Invitation to Love.
All shorts will be released on the company’s YouTube page.
The New York Choral Society, Peace Unto Zion is arranged by Kevin Siegfried for acapella chorus in collaboration with artist Joyce McDonald.
Title: Peace unto Zion, performed by The New York Choral Society | World Premiere Music Credit: Shaker Hymn, Arranger: Kevin Siegfried, 1997
Artist Credit: Joyce McDonald
Music Director: David Hayes
Project Director: Rosanne Zoccoli Director of Photography: Tim Cothren Video Editor: Vito DeCandia
Sound Engineer: Carmen Borgia Producer: Steve Heller
Length: 6 minutes