She’s been involved with choirs almost her whole life—directing her first church choir as a teenager—and Christy Conduff’s passion for music is now taking her to Vienna, Austria, a city known as the “music capitol of the world.”
Conduff spent three decades as a music teacher in the Moriarty-Edgewood and Estancia school districts, and retired a few years ago.
During those years of elementary-school concerts, she didn’t know she’d one day bring a choir to one of the most famous musical cities in the world.
“It’s literally a dream come true,” Conduff said last week, before describing a “technicolor dream” in which she saw herself directing a choir, in Europe, singing a tune called “Earthsong” under a beautiful stained glass window. She had been batting around the idea of whether she wanted to start up a choir after her retirement, and what form it might take. “Now we’re going to Europe, singing with the World Peace Choir—we’ll be with hundreds of people, including the Vienna Boys Choir!” Conduff exclaimed. “Then we’re going on tour, doing three concerts in Vienna and Prague—and I think we’ll find that window.”
The New Mexico Peace Choir will be the only peace choir joining that event from the United States, Conduff said. Some 50 people will represent the choir, which now numbers about 80 singers.
The mission of the World Peace Choral Festival, which will be held in late July and early August, is “to promote world peace and help establish music as the universal language of peace,” according to the group’s website.
Before the July trip to Vienna, the choir will hold two concerts, one in Albuquerque and the other one at a Hamilton Los Angeles musical theatre. The choir has held only two “official” concerts so far, but also sang to open the regular session of the state Legislature this year and will open the upcoming Balloon Fiesta, too.
The idea behind the choir is using the power of music to touch people. “We feel good when we sing and we’re changing the world,” Conduff said. “We know we’re making a difference, and it’s relevant. In this particular political climate we’re all living in, it seems that no matter which side you’re standing on, everyone knows we have a huge division.”
Music “just touches the heart,” Conduff said. She told the story of a singer in the choir who got on a city bus and found herself face-to-face with a homeless person who was clearly making passengers feel uncomfortable.
“Our signature song is called ‘We Can Be Kind,’” Conduff said. “She decided instead of leaving, to sit across from this man and give him a smile. … She gave him some of that humanity, because of that song.”
Another woman—after a concert in which some members of the choir “wrapped around” the audience and Conduff herself faced the audience to finish directing a song—wrapped her in a hug. “She got something she needed and held on for dear life,” Conduff said. “If we can make a change like that, we will make a change in the collective consciousness. … What if it sticks, just a little bit? What if everybody who leaves thinks, maybe I could be nicer to this person. It’s that pay it forward thing, they really could make a difference.”
The performance in Vienna came through a connection with the Albuquerque Boys Choir, which has long been directed by Mark Scholz, who until his retirement was also a music teacher in the Moriarty-Edgewood schools, where he taught guitar. And the Peace Choir is accompanied by Denise Baccadutre, known to her students as “Mrs. B,” who directed choirs in the school district and taught music at the Estancia Valley Classical Academy for some 25 years before her retirement.
The New Mexico Peace Choir will perform July 8 in Santa Fe at the James A. Little Theater, and July 15 in Albuquerque at Congregation Albert.