For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 58: Chelsea Hollow
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In this week’s episode, we talk to Chelsea Hollow about what brings her joy, the inspiration for "Voice of the Voiceless," and living through the pandemic as a mother and artist. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Chelsea Hollow and her new album, "Cycles of Resistance," check them out here: www.chelseahollow.com. Parts of this episode originally premiered on July 2020, found on Youtube, click here.
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
Interns: Roziht Edwards and Merve Tokar
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists sponsored by grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble For These Times. In this week's episode, we're joined by Chelsea Hollow, who we spoke to in July 2020 [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. What brings you joy as an artist?Chelsea Hollow:
Oh, that's really hard. I really love what I do. I love being a nerdy researcher and a linguist. And I love the dramatic exploration that operatic performances bring. I have to say, I think lately, my connection to my craft has changed quite a bit. In these times, where just seems like every day there's a new stress to our society. I have found so much satisfaction in the ability of art to really help us process tough emotions and to really start to find the humanity.Nanette McGuinness:
What are you passionate about other than music?Chelsea Hollow:
Lots of things. My family is of course, a big huge part of my life. And my daughter is four. She and I spend a lot of time together these days. And it's been amazing. So many of my, my passions right now have been things we can do together. She and I both love yoga and gardening. And so much cooking, we have a ton of fun cooking everything from sourdough to pasta to now we're starting to get into a lot of fermentation. We have a kombucha started and some apple cider vinegar. So we'll see how those turned out. But it's been a lot of fun. I think during these times where, you know, music cannot be my life all the time because I have a toddler at home and zero childcare. It's important to have other other passions and I think we've we've been having a lot of fun.Nanette McGuinness:
How are you finding artistic fulfillment during the quarantine?Chelsea Hollow:
This is hard. I, I feel like my energy and my artistic expression has really been cyclical. And I feel like it's been oscillating between times of real fiery inspiration and using projects as a distraction from the stress of our time. And then it also comes in waves of real, you know, trauma and sadness. There's a deep sadness. I miss I miss my family, I miss my friends. And I miss rehearsals. This this season was supposed to be a time for me to fly around the country and perform recitals and I had five operas I was in. So I was so excited for all of these, you know, new endeavors, and I definitely felt a stall in my artistic expression. Luckily, I had a couple of projects that I had been wanting to do that I was not I didn't have time to do while during my previous spring schedule. So they were kind of on the backburner and I have ramped them up and they are now a primary focus of my time. One of those is a call for proposals for my concert voice for the voiceless. And it's been really fun. I've been getting submissions from all over the world, with composers who are really excited for the mission of the project, which is basically to showcase the text and the actions of activists.Nanette McGuinness:
What inspired "Voice for the Voiceless?"Chelsea Hollow:
This is one of my favorite stories. When my daughter was about she was about a year old, maybe a little older. She had this habit of picking up really heavy things and yelling, big Robin. She would I had these vivid memories of her pulling her wagon in the park going big ROM and Mama. Like what is she saying? But as she got more articulate, I realized she was saying strong Woman, I get goosebumps every time, I think it's so it's so inspiring. And after the 2016 election, I was really lost. And I was trying to figure out how being an opera singer made sense in a world that I wanted to support in a world that I felt. So Mike, I felt like my craft was disconnected from society, and I wanted to be a more active member. And I started to really develop this idea of activism in music. And, of course, it's been around forever, but it hadn't occurred to me, I think, much of my thought, my roles that I perform are either whimsical, you know, spirits, or comic characters, or dolls and cats. And I hadn't had a big opportunity to process a lot of deep emotion on stage. But, as I really started to think about it, I realized that so much of my favorite music comes out of times, when artists were commenting on what was happening around them. And so I started to put together a program called voice for the voiceless. And the original idea was that we were going to showcase different vulnerable parts of our society. But I really, I was feeling the feminism. And I, I started to develop this format that I realized could really work as a format for lots of other activist movements. And so we start with giving. We start with the sets of music by composers who are allies, so not women, but men who are really giving diverse, interesting characters to women and just acting as an ally and giving us some variety. Then I moved to the voice of the youth, and I have poetry by kids that set by a young composer. And then of course, we move to world music and pop culture. And finally, the last set is called VOICE OF THE activist. And it is a song cycle, based on a speech by Valerie Carr. So this whole program is based around feminism and strong women, big ramen. And I find that I found that as I started to really put it together, all of these other ideas came to me on different vulnerable groups of our society that I could really start to gather information about and, and build up a bigger repertoire of activism in music.Nanette McGuinness:
How has being a mother added to your artistic life?Chelsea Hollow:
How has it not? I, I feel like certainly, not everyone needs to be a mother to learn the things that I have learned. But for me, I just cannot imagine the growth and the depth of life that I have learned to accept. I had a lot of guards up. I was I had a lot of boundaries. And I didn't realize them until I really surrendered to the vulnerability of being a parent. I think on so many levels, that just happened for me as a mother. But I really wasn't expecting the amount of deep connection to an authentic performance that I really feel like I'm able to have now. Yeah, being a mother has given me tons of that. Not to mention just being able to get stuff done. Moms are very busy. And I was I think, I don't know how I used to spend my time but I find that now I'm able to get done in 15 minutes what used to take me a day to a week to do it's it's mind boggling how I can To practice and learn and aria in 20 minutes while attending to my daughter, who's playing Legos on the floor right next to me and playing the keyboard as I learned, you know, new melodies. But it just happens and I don't know how I would have learned that otherwise.Nanette McGuinness:
Quarantine activity recommendation?Chelsea Hollow:
Activities, make a garden plant a garden man, my daughter and I spent two weeks out there really making our garden what we wanted it to be in a SEEDS came up. So did hope I really felt like I learned a lot about just settling down my brain and nurturing my home in our garden. It's been really lovely to talk about all of these things. Thank you for having me. Stay home, stay safe, and make music when your heart feels like it and listen to all of the fabulous music we have at our fingertips now.Nanette McGuinness:
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure, and a special thank you to our guest, Chelsea Hollow for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT, our concert season online and in the Bay Area, or to make a tax deductible donation, please visit us at www.E4TT.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. "For Good Measure" is produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times, and designed by Brennan Stokes. With special thanks to audio engineer extraordinaire Stephanie Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure." [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]