By Carman Moore
One hopes that those who want to be present at what is truly fresh and special in New York City in the coming weekend will not overlook the gathering of talent, heart, verve and wisdom that will be presented in these upcoming 3 days of June 9th, 10th, and 11th at the The Center at the venerable West Park Presbyterian Church, W. 86th @ Amsterdam Ave. Billed as the Transformation Festival, this event is a celebration of overcoming trauma and its frequent sibling the sense of victimhood. What its founders—Carman Moore and Lotte Arnsbjerg feel needs celebrating are those many instances, experienced by so many in so many different ways, when a person and even a whole culture faces something so fearsome and daunting that there appears to be no way to survive it—but the person or the country walks through those flames and comes out transformed and stronger than ever. Think Second World War, or even someone you may know in your own family.
At the upcoming “festival,” Catherine Omanyo Kenyan, creator of an African children’s shelter called International School of Champions will tell her story—of how she and her mother were thrown into the streets after her father died suddenly because the mother refused to become the property of the father’s brother. From there, homeless and unable to pay for school, she tells of sneaking into classes to learn, years later becoming a Phd healer determined to help orphaned kids get educated. And there is the world-class bass player James Ilgenfritz who has undergone and survived more than one brain surgery and whose healed and transformed self will not only testify but also perform classics, as well as his own compositions. With talk of transgender before us these days as an inscrutable question, the lovely transgender woman Malene Andreasen will both explain and show her transformation with aid of film. A short film of the work of RTA (Rehabilitation Through Arts) shows how a drama program in several prisons has transformed the sense of self and true power has been afforded to prisoners by working on and then performing plays they’ve created. And another mind-bending film Frida and Lasse Barkfors’ “Pervert Park” shows life among ex-child and wife abusers, who have been relegated to a motor park in a desolate part of Florida.
Chief among the must-attend sessions of the Festival will be the #Metoo discussion, which will be led by Dr. Lenore Walker, whose creation of the term “battered woman syndrome” opened the public’s eyes to this whole topic many years ago. Her seminal book, “The Battered Woman” is now in its 4th edition. The Festival also showcases the work of scientists such as EMDR therapist Ric Cherwin, who also sings, as well as a one-hour self-healing workshop by the Swedish couple of Andre and Anne Kirsebom followed by “The Tapping Solution” workshop led by the eminent Danish woman visionary Ditte Madsen. Meejah, a Korean singer, is dedicating her concert to Swedish journalist Kim Wall who was brutally abused, murdered and cut to pieces last year.
The Transformation Festival idea and movement was created 4 years ago by American symphonic composer Carman Moore and Danish actress/singer Lotte Arnsbjerg as a by product of a dramatic cycle, “Girl of Diamond Mountain” they created–depicting how a little girl abused sexually by her uncle (under the noses of her parents) found her way into some adult self-appreciation after years of shame and self abuse. The story was the real-life story of Lotte, which became an important part of her therapy as she and Carman crafted GODM, as they now affectionately refer to the show. After their premiere performance of the work presented at The Center at West Park, the two were astounded not just by the standing ovation given it, but even more so by how many audience members came up afterwards relating passionately that it was their story, lived by them. After several subsequent performances, each with strong audience applause and then follow up stories from audience members, it became clear to Mr. Moore and Ms. Arnsbjerg that they must create a vehicle for relating through artistic means, where possible, other walks through other fires resulting in the demonstrable transformation of people. The testimonies and songs and paintings and dances about finding the authentic self and childlike self-love need to be celebrated. And that is the goal and calling offered by the Transformation Festival. Ms. Arnsbjerg, backed on keyboard by Mr. Moore and dance by Kiori Kawai will present “Girl of Diamond Mountain” in lecture form buttressed by 7 of its songs on Sunday, June 10th.
Other inspirational music offerings will be made by saxophone wonder Premik Russell Tubbs and ex-pastor of West Park Presbyterian Robert Brashear, now a respected singer/song writer with a new album just out. Rounding out the presentation of songs will be piano wizard Marianna Rosett’s “Ghost Brothers,” 9 songs chronicling her poetic conjectures about 3 brothers she never met who were murdered in the Holocaust before she was born. Lyrics are by Brooke Johnson and the vocal sung by Elisa de la Roche.
Korean Won Buddhist master Rev. Chung-ok Lee will open each of the 3 evenings with a special meditation. Possessed of deep spirituality as well as natural good humor, she has also worked long and well in the halls of the United Nations, and is now hard at work creating a transformation celebration honoring the hoped-for peace and coming together of North and South Koreas. She plans to present Carman Moore’s large composition “Mass for the 21st Century,” commissioned and premiered in 1994 by Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Korea as the artistic center of celebrations on both sides of the DMZ. The public can receive Rev. Lee’s blessings and attend her meditations–1 p.m. on Saturday, 5 p.m. on Sunday, and 1 p.m. on Monday and support her grand plans.
Transformation Festival NYC–not to be missed.