NYC Seed Group // Open Choir Movement
The Seed Group was planted in 2014 at West-Park Presbyterian Church -- now The Center at West Park -- as a collaboration initiated by the Open Program of the Italy-based theater group the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. I have served since the start as a core collaborator in the overall project and as what I've called the Coordinating Member of the Seed Group -- essentially the main organizer and weekly session leader.
By now a sort of fluid community comprised of people of various ages, backgrounds, boroughs, and professions, we meet once a week to sing together primarily songs of U.S. -- especially African-American -- folk traditions. Spring 2018 marked our first open, public Seed Group sessions.
Our collaboration with the Workcenter, who have worked with this diverse body of songs and its relatives for more than 30 years, involved engaging with elements of performance and traditional practices, developing competencies and searching for something that can serve to enliven, strengthen, and bind a community -- if only for an evening -- by bringing people into extra-ordinary contact with one another. It also involves working with the Open Program to create free, public events at both West-Park and the Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx, including Open Choir (where anyone can come sing with us), Public Conversations on various related themes, and One Day: A Festival, bringing together professional artists, community art groups, and various communities. In 2017 we worked with the OP to create a conference at West-Park around issues of mass incarceration in the USA. In 2018 we joined in the creation and performance of Will Be Heard II, a work built by people of a range of ages, races, experiences, including several men who had served over 40 years each in prison, and performed at The People's Forum in Midtown Manhattan.