Posted by: Colin Britt | December 20, 2020

“The Same Word” – short film launch!

The Same Word – First Impressions

In August of 2016, I received an email from an acquaintance of a Yale friend, a German journalist named Dorothee Schwarz, who was reaching out to me to ask if I’d like to be a composer on an international collaborative large-scale musical project, called The Same Word. (The piece transcends convenient titles, but I’ve taken to calling it an interfaith oratorio for short) After a bit of disbelief and convincing myself that this was in fact real and that she really wanted to work with me, we agreed to meet up in New York to discuss the project further, a meeting that finally happened in January 2017 right after the inauguration and subsequent Women’s March. We quickly bonded over our shared convictions about interfaith cooperation and multiculturalism, as well as our world outlook and musical interests.

The project was immediately tantalizing to me – a large-scale choral/orchestral work that would set excerpts from four of the world’s main religions, highlighting their commonalities and similar themes as a way to promote acceptance and understanding. Each of the four composers would represent one of these religions – I would represent the Christian tradition, Suad Bushnaq the Islamic tradition, Na’ama Tamir Kaplan the Jewish tradition, and Steven Tanoto the Buddhist tradition. There would be visual art, a performance tour, a documentary… It seemed too good to be true!

Fast forward to October 2018, when I was flown out to Hamburg to meet with the rest of the artistic team for the first time over a whirlwind 36-hour visit. Three of the four composers joined with Doro (the visionary and librettist), Martin Schneekloth (the musical director), and several of the documentary crew. We had just enough time to get to know one another while planting seeds for the next steps in this collaboration.

Fast forward again to August 2019, when Doro, all four composers, our visual artist, musical director and assistant MD, and documentary crew met together in Israel for a 10-day immersion in Jerusalem and Haifa. We explored the Old City, including a tour under the ramparts of the second temple, a visit to an excavation taking place near the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a stop at the Tower of David, a visit to the Hebrew Music Museum, a morning on the Temple Mount, and a very painful but necessary trip to Yad Vashem to remember the atrocities of the Holocaust. We went to restaurants, cafes, markets, concerts, shops, and concert halls. We also took a day trip to Tel Aviv and Jaffa, and spent two days in Haifa at the foot of Mount Carmel and the Bahai Hanging Gardens. And we had hours and hours of thought-provoking, life-affirming, invigorating conversations about music, language, history, and of course, the piece we were going to write.

Then in January of this year, we reconvened for a third time in New York. While the primary goal of this visit was to nail down a libretto and establish working habits and structure, we still managed to get in a little sight-seeing and research, including trips to the Rubin Museum, the Museum at Eldridge Street, the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, a Buddhist shrine, MoMA, and very scenic – if chilly – walks on the High Line and across the Brooklyn Bridge. It was especially fun to get to play tour guide with these wonderful humans, and to give some guidance on the subway system (no, you CAN’T swipe a second time to get a better take!!!). And, of course, we shared some amazing food and wonderful laughs.

And then we went our separate ways to begin work on the piece.

The plan was to finish one movement, Creation, as a way to prove our ability to collaborate on a work of this magnitude, while also giving our team something to show as a way to build interest in the project. We spent most of the summer working on this movement, while fine-tuning our approach to collaboration, and then in September, the first movement was rehearsed and recorded in Hamburg.

I can’t wait to show you this amazing piece, and I’m so proud of what we all contributed to bring it to life. In the meantime, you’ll be able to watch the “trailer” of the project at the top of this post, and get a little sense of how this team has come together. (You can also hear me whine about synthesizers in classical music)

This is such an exciting project, and I am so honored and grateful to be part of this team.


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