SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER World Premiere to be Presented at Park Avenue Armory

See the performance for one night only, May 21, 2024. 

By: Feb. 29, 2024
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SHALL WE GATHER AT THE RIVER World Premiere to be Presented at Park Avenue Armory This May, Shall We Gather at the River—a musical call to climate action delivered through powerful performances of J.S. Bach’s cantatas and Black American spirituals—will make its world premiere at Park Avenue Armory. The production centers on the power and transcendental dimensions of water, interweaving emotive songs of resistance and renewal such as “Wade in the Water” and “Deep River” with three Bach cantatas that evoke images of water in drought and full flood. Staged by celebrated director Peter Sellars, Shall We Gather at the River features performances by the Baroque ensemble Oxford Bach Soloists under the direction of Tom Hammond-Davies, the Grammy-nominated Choir of Trinity Wall Street, countertenor Reginald Mobley, tenor Nick Pritchard, bass Jonathan Woody, soprano Molly Quinn, and sheng player Wu Tong, with original choreography by Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray. Shall We Gather at the River is co-commissioned with the Asia Society as part of the exhibition and programming initiative COAL + ICE: Inspiring Climate Action Through Art and Ideas, and presented in the Armory’s monumental Wade Thompson Drill Hall for one night only, May 21, 2024. 
“Shall We Gather at the River is an inventive and deeply moving synthesis of musical genres that dares to confront one of the world’s most existential issues with hope and unity,” said Pierre Audi, the Anita K. Hersh Artistic Director of Park Avenue Armory. “We’re delighted to welcome longtime Armory collaborators Peter Sellars and Reggie Gray back to the Drill Hall to bring to life this performance that reaffirms the power of music as a universal language that can connect us with each other and our planet.” 
“Reflecting the kind of boundary-pushing performance that audiences come to the Armory to experience, Shall We Gather at the River embodies our commitment to bringing together unique artistic collaborations that spark dialogue on the social and moral issues that define our time,” added Rebecca Robertson, the Adam R. Flatto Founding President and Executive Producer of Park Avenue Armory. “We are grateful to embark on this collaboration with our neighbor, the Asia Society, to offer New York audiences a transformative evening of healing and reflection at the hands of artists and performers at their creative pinnacle.” 
“What does the music of J.S. Bach and Black American spirituals have in common? They are both heartfelt musical expressions of the frailty of life and the abuses we humans have too often heaped on our planet and our fellow inhabitants,” says Orville Schell, Asia Society Vice President and Arthur Ross Director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations. “In gathering ‘at the river that flows by the throne of God’ we aim to inspire audiences and bring our voices together to respond to our shared global predicament through song.” 
For more than 400 years, the Black American spiritual tradition has moved over, across, and through the waters, depicting the element as a source of life, passage, cleansing, resistance, and renewal. The strength and spirituality of water also resonates in the poetic, sacred texts of Bach’s cantatas. Shall We Gather at the River intermingles these two musical sources specifically selected by the artists as part of the offering to celebrate this vital life force and conjure an act of awakening, mobilization, and restorative beauty in the face of climate change.  
This musical gathering conceived by Sellars—who returns to the Armory following his direction of the celebrated productions of St. Matthew Passion in 2014, FLEXN in 2015, FLEXN Evolution in 2017, and Monochromatic Life (Afterlife) in 2022—the powerhouse group of performers convened for this production process into and move freely about the Drill Hall as they perform a selection of cantatas and spirituals that flow seamlessly into one another. Layering movement onto music, dancers perform new choreography from Flex pioneer Reggie (Regg Roc) Gray, who co-directed the FLEXN performances with Sellars. These multidimensional elements coalesce into a deeply emotive production that unites and inspires. 
Shall We Gather at the River is part of the COAL + ICE exhibition and series of programs, designed to provoke thought and action on climate change.  
Now on view at Asia Society Museum at 725 Park Avenue, through August 11, 2024, the COAL + ICE immersive photography and video exhibition brings together the work of over 30 photographers and artists from around the world to visualize the causes and consequences of the climate crisis and foreground creative solutions. The exhibition traces a photographic arc from deep within coal mines to the melting glaciers of the greater Himalaya, and across the globe where rising sea levels and extreme weather events are wreaking havoc. Through intimate portraits and vast altered landscapes, the exhibition documents the consequences triggered by our continued reliance on fossil fuels, and brings to life the environmental and human costs of climate change while highlighting innovative solutions that provide hope for a more sustainable future.  
TICKETS: Tickets are currently sold out but may be released to the in-person standby line starting one hour prior to the event.  


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