Harmony and Innovation at 50th Mostly Mozart Festival

By Benjamin Chasteen, Epoch Times
August 14, 2016 Updated: August 15, 2016

NEW YORK—”If only the whole world could feel the power of harmony,” a line the classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is often quoted for, has become the inspirational saying with which we sum up our love and awe for music.

The centerpiece of this year’s Mostly Mozart Festival paid tribute to the notion with a song written for 1,000 voices, in the spirit of teaching the world to sing.

At 4:59 p.m., crowds of people circled around the fountain in Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza, grouped into neat wedges, silently in wait. This was the audience.

Minutes later, streams of people filled in the remaining space of the plaza, whispering words. As the crowd grew, so did the voices. They sang of our collective reasoning, of our time, our choices, our passion, our legacy and love for music.

David Lang conducts 1000 people from around the community as they sing a piece he wrote called "the public domain," on Lincoln Center's plaza in New York on Aug. 13, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
Simon Halsey conducting a crowd of 1,000 people in performing “the public domain” at Lincoln Center on Aug. 13, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“We have to sing our want for peace and beauty, and its vibration in the world,” said Eileen Ains, one of the singers, who connected to and felt particularly inspired by the idea of the piece. The synergy of sound has so much to do with a sense of collectiveness, of creating peace and well-being, she explained, and this is captured by the spirit of the song.

Over the summer, Ains was one of many who had heard about the project through word of mouth and joined hundreds of other New Yorkers in group rehearsals, practicing the composition in pieces.

It was not until noon on Aug. 13 that the group came together in full for the first time for the world premiere of David Lang’s “the public domain,” conducted by Simon Halsey and choreographed by Annie-B Parson.

The world premiere of "the public domain" in New York on Aug. 13, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)
The world premiere of “the public domain” in New York on Aug. 13, 2016. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“It was crazy!” said Atsumi Shimazaki, who learned about “the public domain” through her choir group. “The director, Simon [Halsey], has been so great and strong and supportive.”

For 50 years, Lincoln Center has celebrated summers in New York with a tribute to Mozart’s work and his inventiveness, bringing in renowned musicians, staging beloved operas, showing world premieres of new works, and, of course, highlighting the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra under Music Director Louis Langrée.

In 1966, the casual, four-week festival (then titled Midsummer Serenades: A Mozart Festival) was novel and innovative. It has since evolved to highlight composers related to Mozart, and then contemporary composers, new music, and artistic growth in the same maverick spirit.

Upcoming Festival Performances

Così fan tutte
Aug. 15 at 7:30 p.m., pre-concert lecture by Scott Burnham at 6:15 p.m.
Alice Tully Hall

Joshua Bell Plays Mozart
Aug. 16 & 17 at 7:30 p.m.
David Geffen Hall

A New York Public Library/Mostly Mozart Trivia Concert
Aug. 17 at 9 p.m.
David Rubenstein Atrium

Aug. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Alice Tully Hall

C-minor Mass and Requiem
Aug. 19 & 20 at 7:30 p.m.
David Geffen Hall

Seven Responses
Aug. 21, Part 1 at 3 p.m., Part 2 at 7 p.m.
Merkin Concert Hall

International Contemporary Ensemble: Improvisations
With master improvisers Cory Smythe and Craig Taborn
Aug. 22 at 10 p.m.
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse

International Contemporary Ensemble: Five Premiere Concertos
Aug. 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Merkin Concert Hall

Mark Morris Dance Group: Mozart Dances 
Aug. 24–27 at 7:30 p.m.
David H. Koch Theater

International Contemporary Ensemble: Josephine Baker: A Personal Portrait
Aug. 24 at 10 p.m.
Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse