November, 2012 with very special singers and guest artist, Billy Martin
Burning Man has been a big part of my life for 15 years now. I've also been a choral musician my whole life, with my path leading me literally all over the country to study with numerous choral music gurus, including Phil Mattson and Dr. Edith Copley. Upon my fourth year of attending burning man, it seemed obvious that fusing the two passions would be the natural next step. This year, the Playa Choir turned 12 years old, and has grown from about 7 people in a very small (and very HOT) army tent to a choir of over 65 singers, in a beautiful, white dome with real choir risers, a full band and a packed house congregation on Sunday morning.
I feel massively blessed and humbled that the choir is dedicated, passionate, and willing to create this experience with me, for it is a transformational experience for all involved. But what is so special about the Playa Choir is the interactive participation that fuses participants with the art, bringing a community musical experience that uplifts and transforms people.
In the last few years, I have brought customized versions of this experience to other festivals. At Bear Creek Music Festival, I teamed up with drummer Billy Martin to create an improvisatory circle-singing group together. We fused my circle singing experience with Billy's wonderful work on afro-cuban rhythms and stridulations to create a format for musical participation. At the Philadelphia Experiment SummerFest, I have also been leading workshops in circle singing. This upcoming summer, we are planning to assemble a choir, much like the Playa Choir. Other festivals are in the works as I write.
I write and arrange the music to fit the choir, meaning most of the music can be learned by ear in a short three-day rehearsal experience. My goal is to integrate musicians that are performing at the festival to be the band, allowing the choir to have a musical experience with a few of their musical heros. The intention is to meet each day with this group of singers and give a performance on the last day of the festival. I have found music from the gospel and ring shout tradition to be particularly moving, although I do compose some of the music, mostly to spread a message that will reach people in a non-dogmatic way.