A new hour-long work for hundreds of musicians, fusing new and traditional music, procession, water culture, and pageantry while galvanizing listeners to save Louisiana’s coast.
Project: New Water Music
Location: Seabrook Boat Launch, Lake Pontchartrain, New Orleans
Date: April 8th, 2017
This free, public performance on Lake Pontchartrain debuted composer Yotam Haber’s “New Water Music.” It was performed from the water by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and hundreds of community musicians in a spectacular choreographed visual presentation, conceived and executed by New Orleans Airlift.
As the sun began its descent on April 8, the musicians took their positions on land and on water-bound staging for a grand event against the endless backdrop of Lake Pontchartrain. Conducting with naval semaphore flags and in occasional Morse Code, Haber’s score will flowed across the water, paying tribute to traditional Louisiana music including Cajun accordion and African-American spirituals. In the regatta beyond, a procession of fishing boats and vessels will unfold under the artistic direction of Airlift’s Delaney Martin.
“New Water Music” took inspiration from Handel’s “Water Music,” famously performed on the River Thames for King George I in 1717, but also for the wider city who watched from shore and from boats - public concerts did not enter the musical tradition until the late 18th century.
“New Water Music” paid homage by connecting exceptional music to a diverse public audience, but also used this performance to illuminate Louisiana’s coastal crisis of receding wetlands and changing lifestyles for fisherman and coastal residents, with repercussions for New Orleans residents and beyond. According to Bob Marshall of Scientific American, “Louisiana loses 16 square miles of land a year, the fastest rate of land loss in the world.” This project explored critical issues of water and land use in the Gulf region as well as the growing crisis of coastal erosion. “New Water Music” strived to inspire participation and leadership in residents whose voices are essential to catalyzing change.
Participants included fisherman who performed a shrimp boat ballet, a range of coastal advocacy organizations who brought the facts and the messages to audiences from within an installation of fishing nets created by local architects, neighborhood fish fryers who depend on the coastal catch, and a variety of speakers including
The Houma Nation photographer and activist Monique Verdin, Pointe-au-Chien tribe member Therese Dardar, fisherman and activist George Barisich.
High school students Amia Cole, Aerionne Gilmore, and Shawnae Alexander joined the Flaming Flagettes Miss Reptile and Miss Bernadette Weatherly bore flags in a musician procession. Seabrook boat launch pole fisherman Terence Williams and Engle Washington and the bird feeding family of the Barrow/Myles were also part of the production that featured over 300 participants.
Many thanks to Kari Morehead, who coordinated the fisherman and the advocacy participants, Effie Michot, for her outreach to the New Orleans East community, organizing neighborhood food vendors and staging a live fishing and cooking performance, producer Paulina Trujillo and production coordinator Durado Brooks. Shout out to all our volunteers!
Sponsoring Partners for this project included the Coastal Marine LLC, DC Mooring and Rigging, Gulf States Dive and Rescue, GNO Marine, Non-Flood Protection Asset Management Authority and Waggoner and Ball Architects.
This project is funded with generous support from MAP Fund, the Eugenie and Joseph Jones Foundation, the Phyllis M. Taylor Center for Social Innovation and Design Thinking, Waggoner and Ball Architects, the Edward T. Cone Foundation, and the Adele & John Gray Endowment Fund.