Poster Conspirare
Conspirare, led by music director Craig Hella Johnson, collaborates with the Miró Quartet on the recording 'House of Belonging.'
New Classical Tracks®

Conspirare and Miro Quartet collaborate on 'House of Belonging'

New Classical Tracks (extended interview) - Craig Hella Johnson

Conspirare – Miró Quartet/Craig Hella Johnson – House of Belonging (Delos)

New Classical Tracks - Craig Hella Johnson
New Classical Tracks - September 27, 2023

“It's exciting, isn't it? It's hard to believe,” says Craig Hella Johnson, the artistic director of Conspirare. “I don't know how to understand the passage of time like this because it feels like we just got started.”

The vocal ensemble Conspirare was started 30 years ago in Austin, Texas, by Johnson, who was inspired by the power of music to change lives. Their anniversary celebration is underway with the release of their latest recording, House of Belonging, which features a long-awaited collaboration with the Miró Quartet.

“I spoke about collaborations early on and how we can partner with musical friends, both just for the sheer joy of it and also to really learn. It's how we keep a knife-sharp edge in terms of our own creativity.

“The Miró Quartet, they're just stupendous players themselves, and they come together and create this astounding magic.”

Can you explain the title, House of Belonging, and the music that lives within it?

“I thought, ‘What music do we need to hear at this time? What am I sensing in our audiences, the people? What are they going through in their lives? What's meant to be expressed from Conspirare at this time?’ So, I chose these pieces, and it was quite an eclectic bunch initially. And I thought, ‘Oh, well, I don't see the thread yet.’ And then suddenly it just appeared to me. It felt like what I observe culturally, just so many elements that aren't feeling a deep sense of belonging.

“David White has a wonderful poem called The House of Belonging. I decided to borrow that as a working title. And then in the process, which was kind of quick, I got in touch with Alex Berko and asked if he would consider creating an anchor piece, a multimovement work.

“He created a beautiful work called Sacred Place, and that's at the heart of this CD. He used a Jewish service as a model for the piece, as well as texts from a lot of different places. Wendell Berry is in the first movement. Then there’s John Muir in a letter that he wrote to Teddy Roosevelt about preserving Yosemite.”

You've said commissioning new works is important as part of the mission of Conspirare, and the recording opens with one of your pieces, Reaching.

For our Christmas concerts, we always sing in Austin and often in Houston. But in December 2022, we made a decision to reach out to the people in Uvalde, Texas, where that horrible school shooting took place in May 2022, to ask if they thought it would be helpful if we brought the concert on the road to Uvalde.

“The whole team wanted to do this so deeply. The piece you're referencing is called Reaching, and it is the first track on this CD, just because it speaks to the yearning, the first lines of, ‘We are far away from home. We were turning away, oh, my unknown home. I love you. I'll never return.’ It just spoke to that sense of separation in a simple way.“

To hear the rest of my conversation, click on the extended interview above, or download the extended podcast on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts.


Conspirare – Miró Quartet/Craig Hella Johnson – House of Belonging (Amazon)

Conspirare – Miró Quartet/Craig Hella Johnson – House of Belonging (Delos)

Conspirare (official site)

Miró Quartet (official site)

Craig Hella Johnson (official site)

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