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"The Cave" ~ A Catalyst for Interfaith Dialogue

March 9, 2017

In advance of this weekend's performances of the multi-media opera The Cave, Mont Levy ’69, parent of alumnae, spoke to students about the opera itself, about Alarm Will Sound's production, and about the opportunity the piece presents as a “catalyst for dialogue around difficult issues.” After Levy’s remarks (which follow), Alarm Will Sound conductor, Alan Pierson, and managing director, Gavin Chuck, shared a few recordings from the production and talked about  the composer, Steve Reich. A brief video excerpt from assembly appears below.

Mont Levy
Thanks to JBS for hosting and partnering with Arts & Faith St. Louis in the presentation of The Cave. As an alum, I am more than proud to have JBS as an integral part of The Cave Project ….

The Cave is a piece that takes us on a journey to our faith-based roots. It is art that reminds us of the shared patriarch of our Abrahamic faiths and by extension should likewise remind us of our shared values, beliefs and teachings of social justice that are at the core of all three faiths.

The Cave focuses us on familial bonds and a shared story that we might think of as today’s “modern family.” Indeed our Judeo/Christian roots are part of a complicated blended family that includes our Muslim brothers and sisters.

Arts & Faith St. Louis, the sponsor of The Cave and Cave Project, is a 5+-year-old organization. We embrace the unique power of art to create shared experiences among diverse audiences that in turn become catalysts for dialogue around difficult issues. These experiences serve as a means to build bridges that can create a more harmonious St. Louis.

We hope many of you will be present at one of this weekend's performances and participate in some of the ancillary programs that make up The Cave Project (

I saw The Cave in a museum installation more than 20 years ago and was inspired to bring this piece to St. Louis as a perfect vehicle for interfaith dialogue. It’s taken quite some time to bring that idea to fruition. But there has never been a time when this vehicle is more relevant and the presentation of lessons about bonds that can unite us has been more important. We are living in difficult times.

The atmosphere of fear, hate and xenophobia is palpable and threatens fundamental ideals of our country.

Islamophobia, anti-semitism, racism and anti-immigration are all on the rise with incidents of hate crimes and intimidation at levels I have never seen in my lifetime.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is one thing for our country to be serious about addressing issues of border security and terror threats, but there is no basis for doing so in a spirit that incites incivility, intolerance and hate. This is not America at its best, and it is not an America that any of us want for you or your children.

We all have a role in protecting our cherished liberties and the pluralistic ideals that have made this country a haven for all people’s for over two centuries. You, the students of JBS, have a critical role to play. You are the leaders among your peers and the future leaders of our community and our country. Through your voices of advocacy, your sensitivity to and understanding of diversity issues and your actions to demand social justice, you can make a difference today and in years to come.

The Cave Project is one effort to speak out against hate and intolerance and to create a place for greater understanding and enhanced connections in our community. I hope each of you has or will find your own effort to do the same. There is too much at stake to sit on the sidelines!

But let me return to the centerpiece of The Cave Project. Arts & Faith St. Louis is thrilled to be producing the St Louis premier of The Cave. It is truly an outstanding and gripping artistic work.  We are so fortunate that the internationally acclaimed new music ensemble, Alarm Will Sound (AWS), has established a regular presence in St. Louis and has been a critical partner in making this production possible. The composer, Steve Reich, a patriarch, if you will, of new music, was the inspiration for the creation of AWS.

This morning I am privileged to introduce AWS’s conductor and artistic director, Alan Pierson, and managing director, Gavin Chuck, to speak about this extraordinary multi-media opera. 

Thanks for your attention this morning, and I hope to see you this weekend.

Alan Pierson & Gavin Chuck
Pierson and Chuck shared several recorded excerpts from the Steve Reich opera, with video screens in full action. They highlighted some of what makes the composer’s work particularly distinctive. (The concerts will include video images as well as live instrumentalists and vocalists.)

They explained that The Cave is a three-act video opera built around the life of Abraham, the patriarch of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Reich and videographer Beryl Korot conducted individual interviews – asking the same questions: Who is Abraham? Who is Sarah? Who is Ishmael? etc. – of Jews, Palestinian Muslims and Americans.
Pierson and Chuck shared the opening piece, “Typing Music,” in which simple, repeating patterns are “played” on laptops in sync with text from the Bible, appearing on three screens in three different languages.

In the second piece, “Who is Abraham,” Reich composed music inspired by the words and vocal inflection of those interviewed.

The third composition was played from Act 3, putting all of the pieces together – in which different answers to the same questions co-exist side-by-side.

Seconding Levy’s call for individual commitment to social change, Chuck said that art plays an important role in this work, providing a shared experience in which people can engage in serious discussion.

"The Cave" Assembly