The Open Choir - a Culture in the Making by Thomas Gasser
Picture: Copyright by Bradley Jay High
Three years ago, I joined the work of the Open Program, which is one of the three teams of the theater company the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards. I am not sure that I can say it was a decision to do so. After my third encounter with them in Vienna, something has stayed with me - some songs I had heard them singing, a way of being together in space and time, a certain quality that I was missing in my life; something pulled so strongly in a direction that I could not do otherwise but to try to work with them. What is inspiring for me is the search for this quality, the questioning of what it means to be together, with friends or with strangers, and the potentialities of an encounter.
For years, the research of the Open Program centers around the Open Choir -consequently, this research has become my own as well.
Open Choirs are simple encounters where people without any artistic formation sing with us. Open Choirs are an invitation to take part in a feast, out-of-the-ordinary, that can be supported simply with your presence, and during which you can join in the singing or through listening or dancing. It is a safe space to experiment with taking individual care of shared action. The songs are born around and among the participants, and the rhythms and melodies, together with the vibratory qualities, encourage the emergence of different attention.
We see after years of practice that if we work in a way where each one of us is responsible for the quality of the encounter and keeps to his or her tasks responsibly, as a responsible citizen, we arrive, at times, to a place where our likes and dislikes are suspended for a moment, and we breathe differently.
Sometimes silence manifests itself like a gentle wind. Sometimes people that were separated by prejudice, class, or race carry the suspense of the ordinary during a conversation, and the „other” is recognized as a fellow, a neighbor.
Freedom from like and dislike is not an end in itself, but it is a big step towards where we need to go if we wish to do something differently. It brings us a level closer to a place where we can truly ask, what is needed?
For me, this is pure magic, and it gives me hope. I hope that we actually can change something. That ordinary people, like you and me, can do something if we work together; if we are in a space where we can gently remind each other to simply be here.
About the Author
Thomas Gasser is a Subud member from Austria, currently living in Italy. He works for the international theater company Open Program of the Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards and realizes projects with them around the globe.
If you want to get in touch with Thomas personally, you can reach him here: