By Shawn Mishak November 24, 2021, Cleveland Scene – “Christa Ebert, aka Uno Lady, last week released a seven-track album of her performing live impromptu hymns in four cathedrals around France and Switzerland uninvited nor permitted.
The album is a meditative prayer to humanity. Uno Lady’s Judy Garland-esque vibrato is as peaceful as a mother’s lullaby and as seductive as a siren’s song. The breaths taken in-between the swaths of human utterance allow the distant echoes to resonate through the cathedral and to come forth offering a serendipitous call and response leaving the listener’s hair standing on end.
“The spaces shaped the sound,” said Ebert. “The specific echo and excitement of each experience made the melody. I had never heard or sang these songs before. If I had scheduled a show, or gotten permission this would have been a completely different performance. These pieces would have never existed. This trip was the first time I focused all my attention on art. It was an exploratory experience. It was a quest to honor and follow my intuition. It was life-changing and shaped my decision to pursue my creative calling.”
Aside from this Chateau Orquvaux artist-in-residency, Ebert has been granted a Creative Workforce Fellow, is an Akron Soul Train fellow, and a Panza Foundation awardee. Along with several singles and cover songs, Ebert has recorded and produced six releases, including her mindfulness album and film series “GROUNDED.”
The “one-woman choir” harnesses her four-octave singing range voice, nature sounds, and electronic tools constructing “sonic worlds with dream-like vocal layers and looping ethereal tones.” full article here
This album is called Illicit Hymns because the recordings were unplanned and unrehearsed. The locations were not scouted nor researched, rather stumbled upon.
It started at an artist residency at Chateau Orquevaux in rural France (Read the backstory in this post).
After the residency, I drove around France and Switzerland for a few weeks playing shows and singing in churches.
I’d turn the corner and find a beautiful cathedral nearly empty. The door would open, I’d walk around wide-eyed making a few coos and hoos, until I found a good spot. I’d lean my camera and audio recorder on whatever surface was nearby and start singing sounds.
Doing was first, documenting came second. I winged it. I was in each church for under 10 minutes. The visuals are shaky because of the haphazardness. However, I embrace these imperfections. If I did this any other way, the project would not be the same.
These recordings are from Gruyères, Switzerland in the Church of St. Theodule (Eglise Saint Theodule). Gruyères is a gorgeous medieval town that happened to be hosting an art fair when I arrived. I drove there to visit the HR Giger Museum. Instead, I ate grilled cheese in the Giger Cafe and headed to this church to sing. I had the place to myself with the exception of a few fellow tourists who popped in and out.
The spaces shaped the sound. The specific echo and excitement of each experience made the melody. I had never heard or sang these songs before. If I had scheduled a show, or gotten permission this would have been a completely different performance. These pieces would have never existed.
This trip was the first time I focused all my attention on art. It was an exploratory experience. It was a quest to honor and follow my intuition. It was life-changing and shaped my decision to pursue my creative calling.
There are 3 more cathedral performances to share. Stay tuned. Listen to the recordings on Bandcamp and wherever you prefer to stream.
“Illicit Hymns” releases November 19, 2021. The BANDCAMP pre-order starts today. The album and video series are 7 improv performances in 4 cathedrals around France and Switzerland.
This album is called Illicit Hymns because I sang in cathedrals without permission. This trip was about following my intuition. The recordings were unplanned and unrehearsed. The locations were not scouted nor researched, rather stumbled upon.
Maybe you’re wondering why I was singing in these places. It started at an artist residency at Chateau Orquevaux in rural France. For two weeks I lived in a mansion with twelve other artists. During our stay, we visited Eglise Saint André, a church in Orquevaux. Only opened occasionally, I was allowed a last-minute opportunity to sing inside. I winged it. Consumed in the moment the melodies flowed freely. The other artists drew as I sang.
The church was built before electric amplification was invented. The construction of these spaces was meant to carry voices. The sound was phenomenal and the reverb resonated through my body. (View on Youtube. This recording is not a part of Illicit Hymns release because I had permission to sing).
Next we visited Cathédrale Saint-Mammès de Langres in Langres, France. Construction of Langres Cathedral began in the 11th century. The architecture was stunning and the acoustics were amazing.
Another artist from the residency encouraged me to sing. I was hesitant. Her words were along the lines of, what are the consequences? What are they going to do, ask you to stop?
I shook my shyness, took up space, and made some noise.
These are the first two pieces on the album.
After the residency I traveled solo through France and Switzerland, sharing a few performances and scoping out a few cathedrals. On my own, I visited 3 more churches. I’ll be sharing those soon.
The artist residency at Foundation House was life-changing. Foundation House offers an inspiring space and time to create for artists and activists working on projects related to their mission. I was there for 10 days and lived with 6 other artists.
My time was productive. I wrapped up 7 songs completing a long-term project and wrote 4 new pieces. I’m excited to present “Illicit Hymns”, improv cathedral performances I recorded in France and Switzerland. I’ll share a preview on November 11, with the full release on November 19, 2021 on BANDCAMP.
Two of the new songs were composed in collaboration with The Well’s Mindful Music Moments program. The song samples the sounds of Lake Erie and surrounding wildlife. I’ll be sharing those pieces in early December.
The other 2 new songs I adore. They will be on an upcoming record and are secret for now. I look forward to focusing on this album at another residency with the Ellis-Beauregard Foundation in Rockland, Maine, in December 2021.
I have lots of new songs and videos coming your way! Thanks for your support.
I want to finish this post by sharing some photos and introducing the other artists from the residency. The property was magnificent, the places I recorded sounded incredible, the food was amazing, and I am most grateful for spending time with other inspiring, empathetic, passionate artists. I genuinely love these people.
Hannah Ayers is an amazing painter and mixed media artist. Small world, she lives in Cleveland too! She was working on a powerful fiber installation piece that I’m really looking forward to experiencing when it is ready to be seen.
Rosi Greenberg is an artist and author/ illustrator. She’s working on a book, “Everyone Has a Sam” about inner critics and how to move beyond the narrative. The draft legit made me cry happy tears. I recommend you read it when it comes out.
Sarah Beth Kaye is an accessible art advocate and super smart and funny. She’s the author of Climate Change Anxiety: The Zine. At the residency, she worked on Climate Change Anxiety The Musical, which she’ll co-create with community members using the devised theatre method.
Stephanie Jenkins is a producer, archivist, and lovely musician. She plays the banjo and just had a CD release in Japan. She’s a shining star and I’m so happy to be her new friend. Steph spent the time brainstorming and planning future projects and film ideas. I’m ecstatic to see what she makes.
Victoria van der Laan is a textile artist and quilt maker. Her designs are incredible, modern, and meticulous. At the residency, she tried a new method and stretched the quilts over canvas. I’m kicking myself for forgetting to buy one. They look amazing.
Christina Peabody is an artist who makes lovely handmade jewelry. She made everything happen. She is the residency developer, manager, and organizer. Her ability to pick a great mix of artists has won her the title of “vibe curator.” She spoiled us with her delicious cooking and great sense of humor. It was so nice sharing meals and space with these wonderful women.