Consider ringing in the New Year surrounded by sound: drums, flute, didgeridoo, symphonic gong, crystal singing bowls, guitar and bass. Add the spoken word, some songs and chants and the all-important ingredient: silence. “An Odyssey into the Heart via the Power of the Collective Voice” will be presented on Thursday, January 1, from 4-5:30 at Unison in New Paltz by Amy McTear and the One True Voice Community.
McTear leads an entourage of musicians that includes Joseph Jastrab, Renee Finkelstein, Ami Fixler, Molly Tweedy, Dona Ho Lightsey, Adam Bradley, Avinash Jeffrey Barnes and Michael Ponte, along with members of the One True Voice Choir. At the New Year’s Day event, McTear hopes that audience members can use “the uplifting power of the human voice to release the past, align with the present and empower the future with personal and collective transformation.”
Dressed all in white, McTear and friends will guide people through a journey in sound that helps them to let go of past considerations and anchor themselves to the present moment. “We set the tone for the path ahead. All this is done with music and interactive voice; the audience participates fully. We don’t see it as a performance, rather as a service.”
McTear calls herself a spiritual activist. “It’s not about being religious at all,” she says. “It’s like being a political activist. I’m advocating for a spiritual dimension of life. It’s my mission to bring it to the surface more, to live that way.”
As a musician, she writes songs and chants – mantralike phrases or words, or free-toning vowel sounds with an extended exhale: “I get people to feel their emotions.” McTear works to help people relieve stress, get in touch with a sense of confidence and purpose and become aware of who they are in community with others.
“The gong has a way of shaking, disengaging the conscious mind; it gets you into a place of feeling, a space of presence. Crystal bowls are ethereal, pure tones. The songs I write are all around the human spirit journey… Some of my mantras come from the Hindu/yoga tradition, some from the Buddhist.”
The New Year’s Day event is a dressed-up version of what McTear and One True Voice have been offering on the first and third Sundays each month for years. When asked if audience participants need to prepare themselves for the experience, she says, “I will get them there; no preparation is needed. I work with the gong, I work with the bowls, but I also use the voice. It’s so much about tuning-in to and connecting with the audience, providing them some beauty that they can be surrounded by and get pulled into the songs. Sometimes I make jokes… One participant told me, ‘The best thing about this is you don’t take yourself seriously. The jokes are my favorite part.’”
Noting how most cultures have emphasized singing as a communal experience, rather than masses of people listening to the music of a few star performers, McTear aims to reacquaint people with their anthropological roots. “I believe we are coming back to the awareness that each person comes with a gift. The work is to find out what it is you’ve come to offer, and what you’ve come to learn, too.”
“We are all so attached to our ideas and belief systems,” says McTear. “This experience is very pure and simple. It’s about the things that bond us, rather than separate us. It’s about blurring those distinctions.”
Odyssey into the Heart New Year’s Day Musical Ritual Event, Thursday, January 1 (snow date Saturday, January 3), 4-5:30 p.m., $25, Unison Arts Center, 68 Mountain Rest Road, New Paltz; (914) 388-0632, www.amymctear.com.