Meredith Monk: on Singing at St. Mark’s
December 15, 2015
Singing at St. Mark’s
The first time I sang at St. Mark’s Church was in the spring of 1975. Larry Fagin asked me to do a program as part of the Poetry Project. I decided to present Anthology and Small Scroll. Anthology was a solo consisting of a group of my early compositions for voice and electric organ. Small Scroll was a little theater piece for six performers with those songs as the score.
I had heard that the acoustics in St. Mark’s were difficult; that articulation blurred out making everything sound muddy. I began the first rehearsal with some trepidation and yet as I started to sing, instead of the music getting lost in the space, I felt my voice being lifted and carried. The notes spiraled and soared, bouncing and ringing as the room added resonances and overtones of its own. From that moment on, St. Mark’s has been one of my favorite places to sing.
Since then, I have sung at benefits, memorials, poetry readings, and performances in that radiant space. What I remember most is how the room becomes a partner allowing the voice to resound, vibrate and blend in new ways. No matter how exposed and transparent the music is, the partner is always there. One rarely needs a microphone even in the quietest passages–the space itself magically provides natural amplification.
In January 1999, I was delighted to present A Celebration Service as part of the SILVER SERIES. Originally performed at the Union Theological Seminary for the American Guild of Organists, the piece was my attempt to make a form which fell between the cracks of service and performance exploring what part ritual plays in the world we live in. Performing it in Danspace added another dimension. The service became a celebration of St. Mark’s itself, the place and the enlightened people who over the years have given so much of their energy, sharing freely with the many communities that have benefited from it. After all these years, the room shines with that energy. Singing with my vocal ensemble (12 voices) in Danspace was an ecstatic experience. The music seemed to create another architecture within the building and combining with that, realms of sounds that one could only dream about.
– Meredith Monk
[Excerpted from Danspace Project’s 25th Anniversary Book]