Storytelling Through Song

Storytelling Through Song

Led by Grammy® Award winner and Director of the Notre Dame Folk Choir Dr. J.J. Wright, this series will introduce The Passion, a new artistic production combining Scripture with original poetry and set to original music. Through Christ’s Passion, we learn to encounter suffering and incarnate love, to behold one another in our “not-enoughness.” As we enter the upcoming Lenten and Easter seasons, we invite you to journey with the Folk Choir and some of our closest collaborators through the development, rehearsal, and performance process of The Passion. Along the way, we will explore the Passion and Resurrection in light of the most pressing issues on the minds of our students, including the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the role of women in the Church, and climate change. The Passion offers a framework for encountering ugliness, teaching us how to respond with compassion, empathy, kindness, forgiveness, and humility. However, encountering ugliness takes work. Music allows us to unite our pursuit of the Passion, not as a distraction from the ugliness, but as an unexpectedly deeper way in. As artists and musicians, we practice over and over and form our bodies and voices to be able to perform freely. In The Passion, the joy and sorrow of performance is completely commingled with God’s story of salvation. The Passion enables us to contemplate the difficult questions that we’re longing to ask and talk about. It enables us to “sing through them or into them” and share the load in community. Through our continued conversations in this course and through The Passion, we hope that you’ll continue sharing the load with us as we explore storytelling through song. In May, the choir will make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, where they’ll walk in Jesus’s steps through the Passion and record this new work at the Jerusalem Music Center.

Meet the Student Speaker: Meg Beuter

Meg Beuter is a from Nashville, TN studying English and American Studies with a minor in Education, Schooling, & Society. Her home on campus is Howard Hall, and her favorite Folk Choir songs are Mukasa’s “Mimina Neema” and Waddell’s “Rosa Mystica.” As Social Media Coordinator for the Notre Dame Folk Choir, Meg is looking forward to spreading the joy of the Folk Choir’s work as far as possible and involving the whole choir while doing so. She hopes to use social media and communications to welcome everyone into the loving presence of Folk Choir, whether they are a friend or a stranger. She is also excited to continue working on the choir’s Passion Project leading up to the Holy Land tour in May 2022! 

Meet the Speaker: Ike Sturm

Bassist and composer Ike Sturm was raised in a musical home in Wisconsin, learning from his father, renowned composer and arranger, Fred Sturm. Ike has performed with Gene Bertoncini, Theo Bleckmann, Ingrid Jensen, Donny McCaslin, Bobby McFerrin, Ben Monder, Maria Schneider and Kenny Wheeler. He has played on four Downbeat award-winning recordings, as well as several Steve Reich releases on Canteloupe and Nonesuch Records. He has performed with Alarm Will Sound and the International Contemporary Ensemble, along with numerous creative ensembles in New York.

Ike studied jazz and classical bass and composition while earning undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Eastman School of Music. In addition, he drew inspiration from studies with legendary bassist Dave Holland.

Saint Peter’s Church in Manhattan, where Sturm served as Music Director for the Jazz Ministry from 2004-2021, commissioned him to compose Jazz Mass, a work for voices, strings and soloists that merges diverse musical languages into a powerfully unified aesthetic. The piece was released to critical international acclaim, named one of Downbeat’s “Best Albums of the Year” and has been performed across the U.S., Scandinavia and Europe.

ENDLESS FIELD, Ike’s ambient acoustic duo with guitarist Jesse Lewis has been featured live on WBGO New York’s “The Checkout” and on NPR. Their eponymous 2017 album was released on Biophilia Records and includes GRAMMY-winning soloist Donny McCaslin. The project aims to engage others in environmental awareness and activism through music and volunteer activities. In 2019 Ike and Jesse trekked to Utah to record a live wilderness album using a solar-powered battery, collaborating with National Geographic videographers and L.A. sound engineers. Alive in the Wilderness was released to critical acclaim in 2020. Endless Field has been featured live on NYC’s “The Checkout” on WBGO and National Public Radio (NPR). Ike is currently touring, finishing a new album for Ike Sturm + HEART and composing several new 2022 large-scale commissions for choir and string orchestra to be premiered and recorded in New York and Israel.

A Peek Behind the Curtain: The Creation of the Garden Scene

Thank you for joining The Way of the Cross: A Passion Pilgrimage Through Song! We invite you to explore the Folk Choir’s creation of the Garden Scene. This annotated guide will point you towards various assets that mark significant phases in this process.

  1. Garden Scene (Original) – 1/3/20

This is an excerpt from The Passion for the Innocents Libretto by Tristan Cooley

  1. Staud’s Garden Free Write – Summer 2020

These scans from student Anna Staud’s notebook, which were later transcribed digitally, were the product of lectio divina and collaborative timed-writing exercises.

  1. Original Garden Arrest Lyrics – Summer 2020

Many of these lyrics still remain in the Garden scene. 

  1. Original Agony Lyrics – Summer 2020 

This document chronicles the development of this song, with included revision history and commentary. These lyrics ended up being used for the final Palm Sunday and Garden scenes.

  1. Garden Song Demo (Original) – Summer 2020

JJ recorded the kernel of this song himself, which is still the basis of the melody today.

  1. Garden Scene Current – 2/23/22

After the May 2021 workshop and January 2022’s technical rehearsal week performance, we continued revising based on audience and performer feedback.

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Featured Speakers: 

  • J.J. Wright, Director, Notre Dame Folk Choir, University of Notre Dame

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