EVENTS: Gary Fagin & The Struggle to Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America (4.25.18)
Music can entertain, educate and empower. There's no better example of this than The Schimmel Center with the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra presenting the world premiere of The Struggle to Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America Friday, May 4, 2018 at 7:30 p.m.
Led by Music Director and Conductor (and South Street Seaport resident!) Gary S. Fagin, the new cantata gives voice to those whose lives have been impacted by gun violence in the U.S., including victims and their families. The timely program also includes Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, and a new orchestral version of Prayer for Mary, written by Fagin in remembrance of the life of a KCO member whose life was lost due to gun violence in 2014.
We spoke with Gary Fagin, composer, conductor and founder of the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra (KCO), to learn about the upcoming show and the power of music to tell some of the most intimate, and important, stories of our time.
Please tell us about the show:
Tackling the impact of gun violence in the United States, “The Struggle To Forgive: Confronting Gun Violence in America” is my new cantata that gives voice to the victims of gun violence. The libretto is based on audio, video and written accounts of those living with the aftermath of gun violence or the loss of a loved one. I wrote the music and libretto, and this performance at the Schimmel Center on May 4 will be the world premiere, featuring soloists Mikaela Bennett, Sarah Heltzel and Jorell Williams. The evening also includes “The Unanswered Question” by Charles Ives and my “Prayer for Mary.” And then we’ve put together a post-show discussion following the performance with me, Jorell Williams, and Pace University student Sasha Winslow.
Please tell us about the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra:
I founded the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra in 2008 to reintroduce people to their musical heritage by performing great music in distinctive downtown venues. It’s wonderful and a little stunning that we’re in the middle of our tenth anniversary season!
Since our first concert in 2009, the KCO has performed in Lower Manhattan’s most inspiring performing spaces -- the soaring atrium of Winter Garden at Brookfield Place, Pace University's state-of-the-art Schimmel Center, the Museum of Jewish Heritage -- and at smaller venues around Lower Manhattan, including many schools.
The KCO is the only professional chamber orchestra based in Lower Manhattan. Until the KCO was founded, there were few programs in Lower Manhattan devoted to the great classical music repertoire.
The KCO’s Youth Outreach program is a key part of the KCO’s mission. When I was growing up, classical music was considered “high art,” compared to other types of music. Nowadays, classical music is perceived to be on the same plane as other types of music, which is a good thing, but which means that we classical musicians must be more active in promoting our music in this crowded musical landscape, especially to young people, who are less exposed to the beauty and magnificence of classical music.
What should locals know about this show? It's an incredibly powerful topic....
This is personal, for me and the Knickerbocker Chamber Orchestra. In 2014 the KCO, and the entire New York musical community lost a beloved violinist to senseless gun violence. On the May 4 program, we will also perform a work in her memory, “Prayer for Mary.”
Even so, there wasn’t one particular gun-related tragedy that inspired me to begin work on “Struggle To Forgive”; it was more an accumulation of gun-related events, always in the back of my mind, that finally reached a point where it was an issue that I felt I had to address artistically.
What do you want guests to get out of this experience?
I believe messages conveyed via music go to a different place in our brains, into our subconscious, where we are affected more profoundly, in a deeply meaningful way. I hope that this piece will bring solace to those affected by gun violence, and will help expand the national conversation about guns.
What are your favorite downtown spots?
Cowgirl Seahorse, Made Fresh Daily, Barbalu, Acqua and Dorlan’s, all in the Seaport.