Fogo Island Dialogues: Singing the Skillful Community

Saturday, April 21

Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John’s
Everyone welcome


Fogo Island Arts presents Singing the Skillful Community, an event in the Fogo Island Dialogues series that will address singing as a way to explore issues of community and cultural traditions as well as sovereignty and political agency– all understood as learned processes which require the building of skills. The communal activity of singing establishes connections among different people, uniting independent voices under a common purpose and creating a sense of belonging. Singing can be a political act, a choice to overcome diversity in pursuit of a greater, harmonious whole. The more we use singing to bring us together—literally and figuratively—the more potential there is for increased empathy, social connection, and cooperation.

Participants: Candice Hopkins, Instant Choir (with Cheri Carroll and Leslee Hayes), Susan D. Knight, David Lang, Monika Szewczyk, Mike Penton

Fogo Island Dialogues is a series of interdisciplinary conferences, lectures and conversations. Hosted in collaboration with Canadian and international institutions, the Dialogues bring together leading thinkers, arts professionals, and researchers from a variety of disciplines to address issues of vital contemporary importance. Each edition of the Dialogues focuses on how art can influence social change, exploring the role that art and artists can play in such initiatives. Previous events have taken place in Vienna, Toronto, Vancouver, and on Fogo Island.


2:00-3:30 pm
Nicolaus Schafhausen, FIA Strategic Director and Director, Kunsthalle Wien, and FIA Director of Programs and Exhibitions Alexandra McIntosh, will introduce the program, which includes a presentation by choral conductor and music educator Susan D. Knight followed by a panel discussion with curator Candice Hopkins and composer David Lang moderated by curator Monika Szewczyk.

3:45-5:00 pm
Fogo Island musician Mike Penton will perform original and celebrated songs, followed by a collective singing activity with St John’s Instant Choir, led by musicians Cheri Carroll and Leslee Heys.

Members of FIA’s Advisory Board will also be present including Eleanor Dawson, Paul Dean, Fabrizio Gallanti and Elisa Nuyten, in addition to Nicolaus Schafhausen and Monika Szewczyk.


Candice Hopkins is a curator and writer originally from Whitehorse, Yukon. She is co-curator of the forthcoming SITE Santa Fe biennial, opening in August 2018 and was a part of the curatorial team for documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel. She was co-curator of the major exhibitions Sakahàn: International Indigenous Art; Close Encounters; The Next 500 Years; and the 2014 SITElines biennial, Unsettled Landscapes in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her writing is published widely and her recent essays and presentations include “Outlawed Social Life” for South as a State of Mind and Sounding the Margins: A Choir of Minor Voices at Small Projects, Tromsø, Norway. She has lectured internationally including at the Witte de With, Rotterdam; Tate Modern and Tate Britain, London; Dak’Art Biennale, Dakar, Senegal; Artists Space, New York; and the University of British Columbia, Vancouver. She is the recipient of numerous awards including the Hnatyshyn Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence in Contemporary Art and the 2016 the Prix pour un essai critique sur l’art contemporain by the Foundation Prince Pierre de Monaco. She is a citizen of Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

Instant Choir is a project of St John’s Growing the Voices: Festival 500. It is a regular event in which a trained song-leader teaches one well-known song. Participants learn the song, sing some harmonies, have a little fun and then perform the song live. It is a vehicle for people to experience the joy of community and the joy of making music together with no commitment, no strings attached.

As a socio-cultural entrepreneur, Susan Dyer Knight is a champion of the human value of people singing together. A choral conductor and music educator of international repute, her principal current focus is advocating the power of singing as an engine for individual human health and enrichment and collectively for the creation of empathic community. Knight is Chancellor of Memorial University and Visiting Researcher, International Music Education Research Centre, UCL Institute of Education, University of London. She presents at national and international conferences, is published in professional journals, conference proceedings and musical editions. She is Founder/Chair of Growing the Voices: Festival 500 (2014) – a movement developing access to and diverse opportunities for singing across the lifespan. She also founded SHALLAWAY (1992) and Festival 500 (1997), and has an extensive discography and filmography. A consultant, author, producer, speaker and arts advocate, she is active in governance nationally and internationally. Knight has produced a canon of choral work chiefly exploring place, empathic community, ecology and change, commissioning composers locally and globally. As a researcher, her principal focus is on adult singing recovery and discovery.

David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed and performed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world in most of the great concert halls. Lang’s simple song #3, written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s acclaimed film Youth, received many honours in 2016, including Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice nominations, among others. His work the little match girl passion won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music. Lang’s tenure as Carnegie Hall’s 2013–2014 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair saw his critically acclaimed festival collected stories showcase different modes of storytelling in music. Recent premieres include his opera the loser, which opened the 2016 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the public domain for 1000 singers at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival, his chamber opera anatomy theater at Los Angeles Opera and at the Prototype Festival in New York, and the concerto man made for the ensemble So Percussion and a consortium of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. In addition to his work as a composer, Lang is Artist in Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and is a Professor of Composition at the Yale School of Music. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can.

Mike Penton is a singer and musician who grew up on Fogo Island in the community of Joe Batt’s Arm. Penton’s love of music started early – his mother and two sisters are musicians and there was always a guitar in the house. At 19 years old, Penton has played several concerts locally and internationally. Penton participated in a residency with Fogo Island Arts that consisted of professional musical training and performance opportunities in Europe in spring-summer 2017. He is currently based in St John’s.

Monika Szewczyk organizes exhibitions, writes, edits and teaches – most often in partnership with institutions of art and higher learning. Currently working independently, she has been a curator for documenta 14 (2015-2017), which brought her to Athens where she continues to live; Visual Arts Program Curator at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago (2012-2014); Head of Publications at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam (2008–2011) and Assistant Curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery (2004–2007). Throughout, she has taught at the Emily Carr University in Vancouver, Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, Bergen Academy of Art and Design, and the University of Chicago. Szewczyk has (co-) authored texts for numerous catalogues and journals such as Afterall, A Prior, F.R. David, Mousse, e-flux journal online and The Exhibitionist and edited volumes ranging from artist’s books, through monographs to readers. Beginning with her art history masters thesis on Vito Acconci’s “home made epic,” The Red Tapes; through published texts such as “art of conversation” for e-flux journal; to close collaboration with artists and institutions her work continues to draw great inspiration from aural/oral technologies/traditions. Szewczyk is a member of Fogo Island Arts’ Advisory Board.

Saturday, April 21
2:00-5:00 pm
School of Music, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Suncor Energy Hall
Burtons Pond Rd, St. John’s
Everyone welcome

Image: David Lang, the public domain (2016). Live performance, Lincoln Center Plaza. Photo: Inaki Vinaixa, courtesy Lincoln Center.