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Pandemic Proof Choral Projects: "Where We Find Ourselves"

21 members needed
SATB with Piano; (additional arrangements: SAB; SSAA; 2-part)
A new work to be composed by Michael Bussewitz-Quarm
Difficulty: 3 · Medium
Length: 20:00 song cycle (5 songs, 4 mts each): Choose one - or all!
Releases on Jan. 11th 2021
Must be funded by Sep. 15th 2020
$150 / ensemble

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This project will include…

PDF score
9-month premiere window
Score guarantee


“The distance between then and now, them and us, is a lot closer than we might expect.” 5 songs in a cycle, based on portrait photos from Hugh Mangum’s collection. Choose to perform one, or all five. This is a Blended Project - created for ONLINE and/or LIVE experience. Season ONE: 10 Journeys (These will not have to be in this specific order) Journey One, "Meet with Michael and Chantal": 30 minute Live Zoom Session with the composer and lyricist with Q&A Journey Two, "Hugh Mangum & His Photo Collection”: Michael and Chantal discuss the photo collection and book with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves”. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September] Journey Three, “Hats": Michael and Chantal discuss accessories in the photo collection with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves”, and share their own! [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September] Journey Four, “Jim Crow Laws, Race & Portraits”: Michael and Chantal discuss the power of Hugh Mangum’s art and how it subverted societal norms with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves”. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September] Journey Five, “Journey with Margaret and Alex”: LIVE meet the author-photographers who brought Hugh’s portrait collection to the world through the photo exhibition and book, “Where We Find Ourselves” Journey Six, “Unison Melody”: Sing the initial melody as a unison piece for the upcoming commissioned piece, “Where We Find Ourselves”. [pre-recorded. Video and .pdf of unison melody to be released during the fall season] Journey Seven, “Hair”: Michael and Chantal discuss hairstyles and fashion in the photo collection and book with possible special guest and share their own feelings about their hair. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September] Journey Eight, “Scars”: Michael and Chantal discuss scars and damage to the glass negatives in the photo collection with one of the authors and how all these scars shape our understanding of the past and present. [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September] Journey Nine, “Acknowledgement Tree”: Michael and Chantal discuss the tree that brought Hugh and his photo collection to their doorsteps with one of the authors of “Where We Find Ourselves” [pre-recorded discussion to be released in September] Journey Ten, “Memento Viveri”: Michael, Chantal, Margaret, and Alex discuss identifying with their own work and with Hugh Mangum’s work. Bonus Journey, “The Selfie”: Plans are being developed to include a BONUS photography project of self-portraits. Input welcome. Season Two: Rehearse and Perform “Where We Find Ourselves” music by Michael Bussewitz-Quarm, lyrics by Chantal Sellers (released 1/11/21) I. Would You Know Me by My Hat? II. Would You Know Me by My Hair? III. Would You Know Me by My Scars? IV. Would You Know Me by My Work? V. Memento Vivere Synced rehearsal tracks will be provided. For video performance (either with live choir or virtual choir), Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris will be providing additional photographs to present as a montage as the choir sings. Some composer travel available if restrictions are lifted. (travel, lodging, appearance fees to be negotiated, if interested) please read Margaret Sartor’s interview excerpt below for attributions to the above quotes. "Hugh Mangum’s striking and insightful portraits offer a unique sightline into the lives of a wide range of people at the turn of the twentieth century, a turbulent time in the history of the American South. Even in the best of times, trust and empathy are rare between strangers; in an era of racial terror, the evidence of these feelings in Mangum’s portraits of people from all walks of life throughout North Carolina and Virginia, is remarkable. And the lives behind these portraits, like the scattered facts we know about the artist, are, in many ways, the more compelling for their incompleteness. The gaps in our understanding lead us to consider more carefully what we know or, more importantly, what we think we know. Hugh Mangum’s attentiveness to the details of his sitters’ dress, demeanor, and expression created portraits that allow us, by scrutinizing those details, to see into the deeper, invisible layers of human complexity. Or, as the poet Marianne Moore put it, the outside looked at hard enough is the inside." "Part of the mystery and loveliness of these images is precisely that boundary between what we know and what we can only imagine or hope. Published here for the first time, Mangum’s portraits and his multiple image glass plate negatives confirm how collections of historical photographs have the power to subvert traditional historical narratives. His portrait of the people of the American South during the rise of Jim Crow confounds the idea of the “color line” and the accepted narrative of separate black and white worlds." "Mangum’s clientele were racially diverse and from a wide range of economic backgrounds, and his multiple image glass plate negatives indicate that an unbiased and open-door policy existed in his studio. In an era of violent Jim Crow segregation, this racial diversity is surprising; that Mangum’s portraits are also as insightful, as democratically seen—as existentially revealing as they are—is extraordinary. The people in these portraits stare back at us across a hundred years of time’s passing, through the indelible marks of damage and disregard and yet, in their familiarity and personal presence, these individuals seem as though they stepped off the sidewalk into Mangum’s studio only yesterday. We may think the difference of a century considerable, but these portraits suggest that the distance between then and now, them and us, is a lot closer than we might expect. Hugh Mangum’s photographs point to the possibility of a better world than the one we thought he lived in, a world that may only have existed in the eyes of Mangum or people like him. His vision offers us a welcome perspective, a new way to imagine the way it was—and how we might see our way to the future.” Margaret Sartor, The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University To see some of the photos, and more about the exhibit at Nasher, please go to:


To be written by Chantal Sellers, with input from Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris of The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Chantal Sellers, a native of Michigan, is a historian and writer with an eye for the stone left unturned. Her work is rich in spirituality and imagery, often encompassing the plight of the oppressed, the miraculous beauty of the natural world, and the uncommon courage of the common person. As a Native American (Anishinaabe-kwe), Chantal’s greatest endeavor is to give voice to those whose history might otherwise be forgotten. Her work has appeared in numerous publications. She recently completed her first novel.

About Michael Bussewitz-Quarm

Michael Bussewitz-Quarm has become one of America’s most recent emerging composers, specializing in choral works commissioned by consortiums around social and environmental issues. Newly published by Peermusic Classical and recently awarded a performance in the International Society of Contemporary Music’s New Music Days 2017 in Vancouver, BC, Michael received the finalist-honorable mention distinction for The American Prize in the category of choral music composition, recognizing "My Name is Lamiya: Don’t Call Me ’Refugee’”. Michael’s most recent works include the commissioned work “So it was I”, commissioned by The Esoterics, “Nigra Sum", and The Unarmed Child, presented by Long Island Voices and Sound Symphony under her direction in 2017. She is currently under commission by the Women’s Voices Chorus of Chapel Hill, NC. for “Only Time to Love: Gaaggee Zaag’aa" and The First United Methodist Church of Pittsburgh with Calvary United Methodist Church for the former’s 125th anniversary celebration, for “Awake!”. Michael has recently completed three additional consortiums, one for Women’s and Treble Choirs at the Collegiate and High School levels called "Radium Girl" Commissioning Consortium which will be written to bring attention to women’s and worker’s rights, the commissioning choirs of The Unarmed Child, to be premiered during the 2019-2020 choral season, and the commissioning choirs of Rainbow Choir Consortium, which, along with the major commissioner, the Knoxville Gay Men’s Chorus, has commissioned “How Did You Feel?” in support of transgender youth. The cornerstone work of her catalog, Requiem Dies Magna, was composed with the intention of healing and to honor the first responders and survivors of the 9/11 attacks. It has grown to speak to those who have survived the loss of a loved one. and the complex stages of grief and path to finding peace. Michael’s choral compositions include settings to poems as diverse as those by Eugene Field (“The Duel” of gingham dog and calico cat fame), Robert Frost (“The Pasture” and “The Road Not Taken”) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“Daybreak” and “The Rainy Day”). The song “If They Could Speak” for soprano solo and piano marks Michael’s collaboration with contemporary designer and poet Roseanne Pellicane and honors the firefighters who lost their lives at the World Trade Center. Deeply rooted in community, Michael composed “The Silver Swan” in memory of Pfc Joseph Dwyer, a medic from Long Island who lost his battle with PTSD. Originally from Long Island, New York, Michael grew up as a baritone saxophonist and as accompanist and a tenor in the school’s chorus. She attended Ithaca College (BM ’94), for piano performance and music education, and Queen’s College (MM ’99) for music education. Michael is also active in advocating for the transgender community. “It is my fervent wish to spread knowledge and understanding of the transgender community through guest speaking and by simply being present in the lives of the talented musicians and artists surrounding me.”