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October 08, 2017

North Park Choir Members Join 1,000 Voices to Perform “Crowd Out”

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October 1, 2017, in Chicago’s Millennium Park, 1,000+ volunteers gathered, representing all 50 wards of the city, to perform the American premiere of crowd out, by David Lang. Among the volunteers were members of North Park’s University Choir, Women’s Chorale, and Chamber Singers.

Created by Pulitzer-prize winner, David Lang, crowd out combines “the human voice (spoken, sung, and shouted) with the dynamic movement of people in a public space,” (crowdoutchicago.org). The Chicago performance was one of the first events constituting this fall’s Chicago Humanities Festival.

For weeks leading up to the performance, small groups of volunteers met all over the city to rehearse their portion of the performance, but also to gather in conversation regarding art as a component of community and to advocate for local arts resources. Such an event took place at North Park’s own Anderson Chapel, on September 18, where the volunteers from ward 39 gathered.

On the day of the final performance, the volunteers from all 50 wards assembled on the green of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion for brief instructions before what would be their first time performing as a group and with the city of Chicago as their audience.

The gathered crowd could have been that of any beautiful Sunday afternoon at the Cloud Gate, a mixture of locals chatting and eating lunch, tourists taking selfies in the reflection of “The Bean,” and children and pigeons darting and weaving throughout.

The familiar commotion of the crowd was both reflected and heightened by crowd out. As the performance began, a hush fell over the park, yet the ever-present hum of traffic, occasional sirens or pierce of laughter also joined the voices of those who spoke, sang, and shouted Lang’s composition. Standing amidst the performers and onlookers was an experience akin to standing at the convergence of many streams into one rushing river. At times, you could hear distinctly the murmur of one group, like a shallow brook tripping over a rocky bed, and then the voices would swell, the disparate components converge, and the rush of river rapids would fill your ears.

The words spoken felt intimate and personal, while the performance clearly embraced a shared, public experience. As individuals whispered or raised their voices to speak to an experience of loneliness, anxiety, or self-doubt, others wove through the crowd, filming or snapping pictures on their phones. When asked if this was at all uncomfortable, performer and North Park choir member Jordan Villas reported that it felt natural that people would treat the performance as they would any other public spectacle, that “it felt right, like a part of everyday life,” and not disrespectful as it might in a concert hall or more formal environment. Similarly, North Park choir member Joy Cappel stated that the whole experience, while overwhelming, also felt like being part of a family or a tight-knit community.

While the full experience of this public performance is impossible to capture, the lyrics below speak to much of its theme.

crowd out

For 1000 or more voices
By David Lang (2013)

I draw deep breaths.
I feel more confident and calm. 

I lost it all. 
I do not waste my words. 

I hate for all eyes to be on me. 
I start to panic. 

I feel so alone I could cry. 
I start to sweat. 

I can fully submerge myself. 
I don’t want people to know. 

I push, I shove, I glare, I mutter. 

I. Am. Always. Alone.

I. Am. Alone. 

I. Am. Most. Alone. 

I. Feel. So. Alone. 

I feel. 

I feel like. I feel.

I feel like rushing. 

I feel like rushing into tears. 
I feel like rushing into tears. 

I feel anxiety. 
I feel awful and I wish to be alone. 

I feel energy. 
I feel I want to be alone. 

I feel like rushing into tears.
I feel like rushing into tears. 

I feel more confident and calm. 
I feel no one understands. 

I feel so alone I could cry. 
I feel so disrupted. I feel surreal.

I am nourished by the pure spring. 

I am nowhere to be seen. 

I am obsessed with being at the center of attention. 

I am silent, and I keep to myself. 

I am obsessed with being at the center of attention. 

I am obsessed with being at the center of attention. 

I like people. I lost it all. I feel left out. 
I start to panic. 

I start to sweat. I think of you. 
I lose control.

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