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Open Choir

Coordinated by Mario Biagini
With Members of the Open Program

The Open Choir is an exploration of what we consider a forgotten art form, which allows for fluid and active participation by all who attend. It is a free and open event, where everyone is gently invited to take part. This unique, non-sectarian meeting of people through songs of the African diaspora, carefully led by a trained core group of artists, allows people to come in contact with each other and with themselves through songs, dance, and interaction within a participatory context. Participants, coming from different backgrounds, co-create an artwork beyond cultural and social differences, catalyzing a shared space of meaningful recognition and interaction.

This new and old performative art form disrupts the common western notion of a choir and questions our assumptions about community, belonging, identity, diversity, cultural appropriation, performance. During the Open Choir, songs begin around the participants, who are faced with simple choices: to witness, to move into the space of action, to follow remaining to the side, to sing and dance, and to find their own way to be present and support the work of the others. The songs themselves, their rhythms and melodies help to initiate engagement. The effect of the event encircles everyone in attendance, while the core group aids participants by articulating the space and leading the songs, actively building the evening together in present time.

The Open Choir creates a possibility to bring people from different socio-economic backgrounds into a space and a time beyond cultural and/or linguistic borders; to create a safe space to experience care for encounter and action together. Over the past three years Open Choirs were hosted in West Park Presbyterian Church and other locations in NYC, in Brazil, France and other countries, and of course in Italy. Also, during this time, Open Program has begun training a small group of NYC artists, the NYC Seed Group, to help lead Open Choirs in various locations in NYC and New York State.