BVS Women’s Choir premieres Where We Find Ourselves
by Heather Gaw for Vocal Area Network
Posted June 14, 2021

BVS: Where We Find Ourselves--images by Hugh MangumOn June 30, 2021, BVS Women’s Choir will premiere a multimedia production entitled Where We Find Ourselves by composer Michael Bussewitz-Quarm and lyricist Shantel Sellers. Commissioned as part of a multi-national consortium, this piece is based upon the book of the same title by Margaret Sartor and Alex Harris, which showcases a collection of studio portraits by Hugh Mangum, a white, self-taught, itinerant photographer who set up makeshift portrait studios in the railroad towns of North Carolina and Virginia between 1897 and 1922. The hugely diverse clientele captured in Mangum's portraits are evidence of both his attraction to the full spectrum of human experience and his studio's accessibility to those from all walks of life. Several boxes of glass plate negatives were salvaged from the Mangum family farm in the 1970s. From these, prints were created and eventually published by Sartor and Harris, allowing us to peer back in time through Mangum's lens.

Where We Find Ourselves explores the identities of the people in the photographs, highlighting visible signifiers of class, race, career and lifestyle while also acknowledging the mystery and complexity of each individual who sat in front of Mangum's camera. Many of Mangum’s subjects were first or second generation Americans in the post-slavery South, but others had lived through slavery. Can these images and the histories help us understand "Where We Find Ourselves" in 2021? The multimedia performance, recorded live at Lightbox NYC, will artfully display Mangum's photographs in juxtaposition to the choir and the musical work. The production will premiere on June 30 via BVS’s YouTube channel as a celebration of the choir’s 20th anniversary season.

BVS Women’s Choir is a multigenerational treble choir dedicated to excellence in choral singing, under the direction of Liz Geisewite. Based in Brooklyn, NY, BVS seeks to enrich its members and audiences by performing a varied and vibrant repertoire with an emphasis on contemporary composers, especially women and other underrepresented groups in the choral community. BVS’s music reflects a broad range of human experience, and they are dedicated to building a shared vision of inclusion, community and justice. They aim to open minds and hearts through their music, and through their presence as a group and as individuals, in order to make a positive impact on communities. To purchase tickets, visit www.givebutter.com/wherewefindourselves. For information about BVS Women’s Choir, visit www.bvswomenschoir.org. You can also find the choir on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Heather Gaw is the vice-chair of BVS Women's Choir.