J.J. Wright wanted to reconceive a project he'd started with the Notre Dame Children's Choir when the annual President's Forum asked the campus to reflect on the clergy sexual abuse crisis.
The project was an original composition of the Passion, the Gospel stories leading up to and including Jesus's crucifixion and burial. Wright immediately saw parallels between the religious story and the sexual abuse crisis, ranging from betrayal and cover-up to an unwillingness to stand up for those who are most vulnerable.
He believed the parallels offered an opportunity for the students he now directs in the Notre Dame Folk Choir—because artistic creation could be a way to work through complex feelings and questions. And it came at an intense moment, in that perplexing period when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a halt and sent college students to isolation at home.
“You can make a melody say something,” Wright said. “These are the conversations that you have when you're learning how to be an artist. How do you translate emotion into something material?”
Three years later, those emotions are material in the form of an album released on February 22. Recorded last year during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to experience the story's setting, the 95-minute original composition was featured on a Folk Choir tour of performing arts centers on the East Coast during Notre Dame's spring break this March.
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