Get to Know Conspirare for the Holidays—Austin's Grammy-Winning Community Builders
Posted on December 6, 2019 by LONG CENTER STAFF
Conspirare Christmas is an Austin tradition, but you may not know the community-building work Conspirare does year-round. Conspirare Christmas, the group’s holiday spectacular, is coming up December 9th—take a special look at this ensemble by delving into Craig Hella Johnson’s “collage” of sound, and get to know this year’s special guests.
Conspirare is Austin’s Grammy-winning and nine-time Grammy® nominated vocal ensemble (or, if you prefer, choir!). Conspirare Christmas was the name given to their annual holiday program that features the world-class singers, guest artists, and Craig Hella Johnson’s “collage” programming—his signature style which melds diverse musical genres together—with a performance at the Long Center December 9th.
While Conspirare Christmas includes songs associated with the holiday season, the vast majority of the program weaves together non-holiday songs that reflect the spirit of the season. Critic Michael Barnes captured the essence of this collage in a 2017 Austin-American Statesman article, observing “Without verbal introductions to each piece, ‘Conspirare Christmas’ moves seamlessly from genre to genre, often starting with a Christian chant, bleeding into a familiar or altered carol or hymn such as ‘Veni, Veni, Emmanuel,’ then tripping through traditional music from Africa and Latin America, pop songs, gospel, folk, jazz, blues, hip hop and onward.” The program also includes a sing-a-long section that gets all 2000+ attendees singing for a powerful moment of song and connection.
Audiences return year after year for the way Consiprare Christmas speaks to the true spirit of the holiday season. One listener said, “Conspirare Christmas is one of those touchstone events of the Christmas season. The interweaving of songs, genres, styles, and cultures sparks something inside of me that I don’t feel often enough: connection with our world. I am fortunate to be able to attend this concert in a lovely setting, but to know that the choir also performs in places off the beaten track (the women’s correctional facility) makes Craig’s message of inclusion even more powerful. Thank you for all you do, Conspirare.”
In a recent interview with KMFA Classical Austin host Dianne Donovan, Craig gave us a glimpse into how Conspirare Christmas evolved, sharing “I asked myself early on how could we shape concerts that felt like they could be inspired by collaborators, by new ideas coming into the mix so we didn’t fall into old patterns and keep the spirit of the season alive. We talk about a loving heart, generosity and celebration of the gift of life. We continue to try to do this every year. There are a variety of musical styles meant to support a thread, not a narrative, that we can all follow and take a journey together.”
This year’s guests artists are the African Children’s Choir, 17 young singers from Uganda, and star soprano Nicole Joseph who join Conspirare. Austinites fell in love with African Children’s Choir after their jubilant Bernstein Mass performance on the Long Center stage in 2018. The African Children’s Choir® program promotes the beauty, dignity and unlimited ability of African children around the world, being a voice for the millions of suffering children who cannot speak for themselves. The program provides for the children’s well being and quality education, utilizing the transformative power of music. They will be performing original songs and also join with the Conspirare in collaborative piece. See the magic of this dynamic children’s choir in this concert video.
Nicole Joseph is a superb vocal artist, a profoundly gifted communicator. She can be heard on Conspirare recordings as a soloist including “Hard Trials” & “Hold On” from Sing Freedom and “The Beatitudes” from the Grammy® Award-winning Scared Spirit of Russia.
Previous collaborators have included Eliza Gilkyson, Ruthie Foster, Matt Alber, and Carrie Rodriguez. Matt Alber is back as a member of the choir this year, and said “Singing with Conspirare simply is my Christmas. It’s when all my angels gather and listen for a sign that the world is going to be alright.”
2017 Guest Artist Carrie Rodriguez said of Craig, “he has also blown me away with his musical and artistic vision for this soulful program.”
Get your fill of holiday spirit with Conspirare Christmas, Monday evening, December 9th in Dell Hall.