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Choral Tales - Project Overview
The Choral Tales Project was inspired by an awareness that the most pressing challenges facing humanity in the 21st century - from climate change to peace - are global in scope. To meet such challenges, it is vital for peoples and nations to further develop the ability to work together toward common objectives, in an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation.
Given this setting, it appears that one of the most timely and valuable contributions artists can make is to foster intercultural understanding, an appreciation of cultural diversity, and the essential oneness of humanity. This is the general aim of the Choral Tales project.
In addition, through the folk tales it presents, the Project highlights universal human virtues such as mutual respect, compassion, kindness, generosity, patience and justice – as well as the outcomes when such qualities are lacking. The Project also explores social themes, including the overcoming of prejudices, the equality of women and men, a concept of power based on loving service, and care of the environment.
Choral Tales is an outward-looking, community-oriented project. To give a compelling glimpse of the oneness and diversity of humankind, the project takes an innovative approach: it employs choral music combined with dance to present folk tales from around the world.
Choral Tales offers an exciting model, a new way for communities to involve the arts in their local efforts to take their well-being into hand. The project employs choral singing, while encouraging informal, story-based dancing. Local communities can readily engage with both art forms. Through the stories, participants can re-connect with their cultural roots while also learning about cultures in other parts of the world.
As the project grows, it is envisioned that its cultural range will expand to include tales from many countries around the globe, representative of the world’s major geo-cultural regions.
To begin, four tales from different continental regions have been selected for the project’s initial stage: one each from Mexico (for the Americas), Tanzania (for Africa), China (for Asia), and the United Kingdom (for Europe).
The project has two immediate objectives. One is to produce a set of four initial pieces for choir and dancers, based on the four initial folk tales.
Once produced, the pieces are to be made available for immediate use. They are to be entered in national and international choral festivals and competitions. They will also be offered to community arts groups for local performances, as well as to music and dance departments of colleges in the USA and other countries. Since each song can serve as a stand-alone piece of music, choral directors can insert any of them into the program of a standard concert.
The second objective is to produce the four tales as videos, presenting the on-stage musical performance of the four works by a choir with dancers. These videos will be suitable for broadcast on public television and other media outlets, and will enhance our ability to bring the project to the attention of choral directors, as well as to the attention of UNESCO and other agencies interested in promoting by artistic means a consciousness that honors both cultural diversity and humanity's oneness.
An official Choral Tales web site will be created, where the folk tales, the poems derived from them, and the videos of the choral songs and dances will all be placed for public viewing. The web site will make the songs and videos accessible to a national and international public.
In both the videos and the web site, supporting institutions and individuals will be acknowledged and thanked.
Each folk tale is converted into a poem, which then becomes the text, or “lyrics,” for the choral song.
The tales, which can be seen on this web site, are brief, entertaining, and uplifting. They will be presented artistically, in a playful and joyful format, without moralizing or spelling out a message.
Not only the folk tales, but also the music itself will suggest humanity’s cultural diversity. For the musical style will vary substantially from one choral song to another, in each case reflecting the culture the tale belongs to. The songs will not attempt to exactly reproduce traditional music from the cultures represented. Rather, in each case they will creatively combine an accessible, contemporary sound with characteristics of music from the general cultural region concerned.
For instance, the folk tale from China is to be set to music in a style that is contemporary and yet suggestive of traditional Chinese music; avoiding stereotypes, but using authentic features such as pentatonic scales.
Similarly, the approach for the dancing style is to combine modern dance with characteristics of traditional dance from the cultural region the tale represents.
Some Attractive Features
The combination of story-telling, music and dance has a number of features the public is likely to find attractive.
● Folk tales are an ideal way to illustrate the essential oneness of the human race. Story-telling can convey a unifying perspective of humanity without referring to a specific belief system. By allowing humanity to tell its own stories, it becomes evident that on the most basic level, people around the world have the same kinds of thoughts, feelings, and aspirations.
● The stories deal with issues and concerns that are universal.
● Music that is both of high quality and accessible, both pleasing to the ear and contemporary.
● Choral singing strengthens community bonds; it is an inherently social experience. The worldwide popularity of choral singing is growing vigorously. A 2009 study by Chorus America found that, in the United States alone, there were some 36,000 college and community choirs (non-church) – the type of choir that the Choral Tales are designed for.
● Dance dramatizes the music, and the theatrical element heightens interest. The characters in each folk tale are represented by dancers, dressed in a manner to subtly suggest the culture represented, positioned near the choir, and acting out the events of the story.
For participants, the project is addressed to the thousands of college choirs and community choirs around the country and abroad. For its audience, the project is addressed to adults of all ages. Some children and adolescents may also find the project attractive. The poems, music, and dance are designed for an adult level of understanding.
The project would be likely to appeal to any person interested in human unity, human rights, intercultural understanding, peace, care of the environment, and safeguarding the integrity of indigenous cultures. The segments of the general public likely to have the strongest receptivity to the Choral Tales are people with an interest in travel, in other cultures, in nature, or in music, dance and the arts generally; people raised in multicultural or multiracial families; and those wishing to honor or re-connect with their roots. These segments of the public coincide closely with the viewership of public television programming.
Preliminary Work Completed
Over a period of several months, Choral Tales' artistic director and composer, Ludwig Tuman, has assembled a group of poets, choreographers, dancers, singers, and videographers who have enthusiastically agreed to take part in the project. He has also assembled a Project Advisory Board consisting of distinguished individuals willing to play an active role in helping develop the project. Their specialties are in the fields of history, folklore, ethnomusicology, anthropology, choreography, and choral directing.
In further pre-production work, the artistic director has also collaborated with the poet, Shirin Sabri, who has converted each of the four tales into a poem to be set to choral music. These poems, and the tales from which they were derived, are given on separate pages in this web site.
Ludwig Tuman has donated, and will continue donating, the time and effort needed to organize the project, assemble participating artists and advisers, and produce the works. Similarly, Ms. Sabri, as a creative collaborator, has donated her time to research the selected tales, retell them, and turn them into poems.
Remaining Production Stages
Funding is now sought for the remaining production stages. The artistic director (Ludwig Tuman), in collaboration with participating artists, will carry out the following:
1. compose the four choral pieces (each a few minutes in length)
2. arrange for a choir in southern California to learn them (members of the Chamber Choir of CSU Long Beach have priority)
3. arrange for choreographers to design the corresponding dances
4. arrange for a group of three to five dancers to act them out
5. a videography team to film the combined music and dance performance, and
6. a web site designer to create the project’s web site and upload the video, tales and poems.
The production is to take place in the Greater Los Angeles Area. The artistic director has already consulted with the professionals who are to play these roles, and the project’s budget is based on their estimates.
About the Project’s Sponsors
The project’s fiscal sponsor is Artists Building Capacity as World Citizens (ABC World Citizens), a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of a sense of responsible world citizenship through the arts. It is based in New Hampshire and is also registered with the State of California. ABC World Citizens has a three-year track record in successfully sponsoring arts-based community projects. It will provide accountability and bookkeeping by handling project expenses, and by receiving donations earmarked for the Choral Tales Project.. Information about its mission and Board of Directors is available on its web site: http://abcworldcitizens.org
Additionally, Oxnard College is co-sponsoring the project and is generously donating the use of its state-of-the-art performing arts center for the performance and filming of the video.
(The images in this presentation are meant to give an idea of the cultural diversity
of the Choral Tales Project. The individuals shown are not necessarily taking part.)
© Ludwig Tuman 2014