"Brick by brick...stone by stone."
The chorus of "Foundation," a moving collaboration between Denver youth music group Vocal Coalition and internationally-acclaimed, Colorado hip-hop soul duo The Reminders, seems to have almost serendipitously placed the singers in Civic Center Park's Greek Amphitheatre for their digital performance of the song. And it is one unique, cool performance! ( You'll find it at the bottom of this post, or here.) The amount of talent in the two groups is massive, and together they transform the historic space into a powerful platform for VOCO's mission of "Changing The World Through Music and Love." Talk about inspiring.
We chatted with VOCO Executive Director Travis Branam about connecting the song and his organization's purpose to Denver's only National Historic Landmark.
Why did you choose Civic Center Park and the Greek Ampitheatre for this performance?
I think Julian Mondragon - the video's director - was the one that came up with the initial idea of Civic Center Park. The song speaks about what it takes to build the foundation for a successful life that has a lasting impact, so we wanted a setting that would serve as an appropriate metaphor for that...we knew we wanted a location for the performance that not only felt grounded in the earth, but also felt incredibly strong. We couldn't think of a better structure that speaks to those elements the way a Greek Amphitheatre can. Fortunately for us, we happen to have an incredible Greek Amphitheatre right here in Denver, so we took the idea and ran with it!
Why did you decide to place the students between the pillars?
It's not everyday you get to be as big as a Greek column. ☺ We wanted our singers to be larger than life for this performance. We felt that placing them between the columns sends a message that if we as a society are going to build something beautiful and powerful that lasts, today's youth MUST be a part of that building process. Just as the columns support the overall structure of the theatre and add a beauty and aesthetic value to the masterpiece, today's youth add those things to our world. Their voices aren't simply a nice decoration for the foundation we're building; they're essential. If their voices are not heard, our society will crumble. They are as strong, powerful, and beautiful as those columns, and deserve to be treated as such.
Civic Center has a lot of history as a place for Denverites to protest, mourn, celebrate and enjoy nature in the heart of the city - 101 years of it in fact - talk about the value of expressing the song's message in the context of that history.
It's really humbling and an honor to be a special part of that history now through this performance. We understand how special that space has been for human expression of all kinds for Denverites. That's definitely part of why we wanted the performance to be set there: we know what that space means in our community.
What were the students' reactions to putting this together? It's a such a unique digital experience you've created!
Thank you! It's one of those things that no matter how you try and describe how awesome it will be when it's all finished, they were still blown away by the final product. Their initial reactions to watching the performance were priceless. Everything from gasps to smiles to cheers to tears of joy and amazement. Everyone who was a part of the performance did an amazing job.
Tell us about your relationship with artists Samir and Aja of The Reminders. How did your paths cross?
I met The Reminders seven or eight years ago through social media. My unique youth choir concept of performing local music of all styles and genres in collaboration with the artists who wrote the songs was just starting to come together, and their outstanding music and beautiful messages were a perfect fit. Ever since our first hip-hop youth choir collaboration together, it's been an absolute love-fest. I think The Reminders are a global treasure. Lucky for all of us, they're right here in Colorado. Samir and Aja have truly changed the lives of youth and families in my choir programs over the years with their music and humanity. They've definitely changed my life, too.
What do you most want people to take away from this performance?
Above all...that today's youth want to build a world that's better than the one they've inherited. They have some incredible ideas about how to bring that world into being, and it's our job to listen to them, take them seriously, and empower them to change the world.
The Civic Center Conservancy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that partners with the City and County of Denver to restore, enhance and activate Denver’s historic Civic Center Park - elevating and sustaining this historic urban oasis as a vibrant and iconic cultural and community hub. Learn more at www.civiccenterpark.org/civiccenterconservancy.