The N.E.O. (New Explorative Oratorio) Voice Festival was so much more fulfilling and creative life-giving for me than I ever could have imagined. To be honest, I expected I wouldn’t be exploring a lot of new concepts, as the directors of the festival are my dear friends and collaborators already, and I thought I knew most of the tricks up their sleeves. I thought wrong. David Harris, Laurel Irene, and Fahad Siadat brought so many insightful ideas and exercises for us to play with as festival participants. Every morning, we’d start with an exploration into our minds, and then into the vocal sounds we could make together. I had one of my most memorable musical experiences I’ve ever had on the first day that we did that. It was like everyone in the room was as open to receiving each other’s sounds as they possibly could be, and in turn able to offer their own sounds freely and sensitively. We created something beautiful in that moment. Of course, we went about 15 minutes longer than was intended, so the rest of the day had to be slightly pushed back. It was worth it, though. The days were long and full of a lot of education and intense focus, but I felt fully engaged throughout. I couldn’t believe how much singing I was doing - and this festival overlapped with the end of hell prepared! Somehow, on the Wednesday of the festival, I was able to pull off singing in all three of the ensembles that performed in the concert that night - C3LA, HEX and the FCCLA octet Laude.
I was a composer fellow at this festival, which is still amazing to me. It was only a few years ago that I started feeling comfortable calling myself a composer. I also performed a lot at the festival, of course, as all the composers did, but I’m really proud of the piece I wrote that became part of the large work we created at the festival called “The Origins of Creativity”. My piece was called “You Told”, and it featured my friend David Saldaña as the soloist - I worked one on one with him during the week developing gesture work that he could do as part of the performance. Luckily, he has a lot of dance experience, and was able to juggle the challenging vocal solo with the movement! This was my first time writing for men’s chorus and organ, and it was a very fun challenge. You’ll notice that I’m singing with the men as well - all the composers were meant to sing on their own pieces so they could be there to workshop it with the singers during rehearsals. Here is a video of the piece - it’s the first time I’m sharing it! Hope you enjoy.
The thing that really affected me more than anything in this week-long festival was not the insane amount of vocal exploration, the amazing performances I got to witness, or the composing prowess of my fellow, uh, fellows - it was the human connections I made with people from around the country and world. I made new friendships that I learned so much from in such a short amount of time! It’s amazing what improvising and singing and creating can do to form a deep bond between people. I’m so thankful for this experience, and I can’t wait for the next opportunity I have to work with (or just hang out with) these wonderful people!
Lastly, here’s the video Laurel made that sums up the entire festival experience.. You’ll hear my voice quite a bit throughout! You’ll also notice that I become quite a bit taller during a specific sequence of the video… :)