Do the Rite Thing

Melanie Bayles, my friend and a new board member of the Musical Research Society, has taken on the task (among many, many other projects) of helping to organize a Messiah sing-along at the Mormon chapel this December.

First of all, what a great idea is a sing-along! To me, the perfect cultural event has elements of bridging and wonder. I made those terms up just now off the cuff, but this is what I mean by them:

“Bridging” is about uniting a group in a shared experience. Sitting in a darkened movie theater typically offers low levels of bridging. Sitting in a darkened movie theater at the midnight premier of a movie, surrounded by 500 vocal fans all dressed in costume, offers a much greater bridging.

 “Wonder” is the quality of an experience that seems to take you out of the mundane world for a time. Riding the elevator to the fifth floor usually only lifts you up in the physical sense. But stepping onto an elevator and discovering that a play is being performed inside is something remarkable that makes you stop and take notice.

 A Messiah sing-along has elements of both of those things: The people most excited to go are likely those who have heard the Messiah year after year, and have a shared enthusiasm for the piece. Being allowed to join in the performance of such a transcendent work of art is an experience of wonder.


And so, this is how my mind works:

I think, Huh. A Messiah sing-along. That’s pretty cool. What’s another, unexpected application for that kind of experience?

Ah. I’ve got it: Stravinsky.

I think perhaps the time has come for a Rite of Spring dance-along.

2014.7.18 Rite of Spring

Drawing of Marie Piltz in the “Sacrificial Dance” from The Rite of Spring, Paris, 29 May 1913


Just like in a Messiah sing-along, the dance-along would have soloists to carry some of the more technical sections, and the volunteer amateurs would be broken up into small groups, each with a trained leader or two for them to follow.

But while a Messiah sing-along generally taken seriously, with the goal of reaching as near transcendence as possible with an untrained ensemble, the Stravisnky dance-along would primarily be about having fun. If you look at Nijinsky’s original choreography, it was designed to be “primitive” anyway, so a group of willing participants might get a great laugh as they stomp, and clap and run in circles, followed by refreshments.

Considering the fact that fistfights broke out at Rite of Spring’s premier, it seems proper to turn it into an experience that would be a real riot.

What other cultural [blank]-along do you think needs to be invented?

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