Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Hope College Arts Events

Veritas Prequel November 3 & 4
Presenting Poet and Songwriter Reverend Vito Aiuto of the Welcome Wagon

November 3:

  10:30am Dimnent Chapel

“The Sacred & the Creative Process: Reflections on Ministry and Art Making” the Reverend Vito Aiuto of the Welcome Wagon followed by a panel discussion with Trygve Johnson and Joshua Banner
   3:00pm Hemmenway Auditorium

Poetry and Songs by Vito Aiuto of the Welcome Wagon, Joshua Banner and Susanna Childress of the Ordinary Neighbors and various Hope College students
   7:00pm Hemmenway Auditorium followed by a dessert reception in the Martha Miller Rotunda

November 4:
“Reflections on Worship Music by Vito Aiuto”
9:30am Dimnent #16

The Veritas Forum is a biennial event at Hope College. This year’s topic is “True Community True Selves: Exploring True Community in a Virtual World,” with lectures Thursday January 13, 2011 through Saturday morning, January 15. The forum will conclude with a concert featuring The Welcome Wagon (read below to learn more about this musical group). The Veritas Forum Prequel is a series of events to launch interest in the forum as well as various arts events that will coincide with the January forum which include:

Poetry Contest: $50 Prize*
Winners to be judged by Professor Pablo Peschiera. All submissions should be sent to opus@edu.edu Deadline for Opus Submission is November 14. However, you can still submit poems for the contest as late as January 10.

Visual Art Contest: $50 Prize* Winners to be judged by Professor William Mayer. Artists submitting should contact Professor Mayer. Photos of works can also be submitted to Opus. Again
the deadline for Opus Submission is November 14. However, you can still submit visual art for the contest as late as January 10.

8 Minutes Max*: we are seeking auditions of any original performance art pieces (songs, bands, singer songwriters, classical or jazz compositions, dance choreography, short film, theatrical vignettes. Selected performance pieces will perform January 15 before the Welcome Wagon at the Knickerbocker Theater. Auditions will be held December 9. Please contact Joshua Banner to sign up for an audition time.

*All visual art, poetry and performance pieces must somehow respond to the Veritas Mission statement, the focus of the lectures for January 2011. Contests and performances are only open to Hope College students.

Veritas Mission 2011
Perhaps no other human longing is more powerful than our desire for true friendship and true community. While ever-changing technologies provide instant connection with others, we often suspect that connection and community are not the same thing.  While information abounds online, intimacy eludes us.  We struggle even to maintain a sense of personal identity in the face of an avalanche of insistent marketing, must-have products and impersonal branding.  What is required at this cultural moment in order to cultivate true communities and to interact authentically with others and in our increasingly virtual world?  How can we experience authentic friendship, stable relationships, and an identity that was not manufactured for us?  Simply put, where do we find true selves and true communities?  Please join us as these and related questions are thoughtfully explored in light of the enduring truth of the Christian gospel during the 2011 Hope College Veritas Forum.


The Welcome Wagon is a married couple, the Reverend Thomas Vito Aiuto and his wife Monique, who execute a genre of gospel music that is refreshingly plain. Their hymns are modest and melodic takes on a vast history of sacred song traditions, delivered with the simple desire to know their Maker—and to know each other—more intimately.

Vito was born in Tecumseh, Michigan, and attended Western Michigan University where he developed a love for writing poetry.  His first book of poems, Self-Portrait as Jerry Quarry, was published by New Issues Press in 2002.  A self-described agnostic, Vito experienced a spiritual conversion at the age of 20 and soon after enrolled at Princeton Theological Seminary to study theology and prepare for ordained ministry. Currently he is the senior pastor of Resurrection Presbyterian Church, a church he planted in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY, in 2005.

Raised on a farm, by a gentleman farmer father and choir teacher mother, in the same small town as Vito, Monique moved to New York City after high school to study art, first at the Cooper Union (BFA), then Columbia University (MFA).  Since then she has worked as a pre-school teacher, craftmaker for Martha Stewart, and as a mother.  She also serves as the Welcome Wagon's resident visual artist.

The Welcome Wagon began as husband and wife singing in the privacy of their home.  Having little to no previous musical experience or training, Vito purchased a guitar with the desire to sing hymns with his family.  With Monique accompanying on toy glockenspiel or harmonica, the two would amble through old hymnals, psalters and prayerbooks. Their inability to read music was no big issue; Vito simply made up new tunes to old words.

While their most familiar venue was (and is) their living room, the Welcome Wagon have been periodically coaxed to small stages at bars, parties, and seminaries throughout the New York City area, often joined by friends on upright bass, drums, piano, and banjo.  These intimate arrangements preserve the delicate nature of the Welcome Wagon's identity.

But there is another Welcome Wagon, the one that can be heard on their debut album, Welcome to the Welcome Wagon.  This version of the band retains the heart and soul of pastor and his wife singing together, but dresses them up in the transcendent musical vestments of Sufjan Stevens, who produced and helped arrange the record.

The collaboration between Stevens and The Welcome Wagon began in 2001 with their appearance on the Asthmatic Kitty compilation To Spirit Back the Mews (2001), debuting the first song they ever wrote and recorded, "There is a Fountain Filled with Blood." Since that time they have been patiently recording an album of hymns, pop covers, and folksy originals with their friend and Brooklyn neighbor.  But it was the nativity of that first song which established their pattern of work together: husband and wife write and arrange songs with the architecture of a country chapel, while Stevens (as latter-day Christopher Wren) designs and attaches flying buttresses, soaring spires and reliquaries, gargoyles, gryphons and cherubs dotting the façade. Somehow this unlikely partnership has produced a sublime addition to that genre called "church music".

Admittedly, for a gospel duo, there's far less soul than sweet sincerity in the casual songs of the Welcome Wagon. Vito and his wife are unabashedly Midwestern, ordinary and uncool.  But this is precisely what sets them apart from the standard fare of contemporary liturgical music. It doesn't feign emotion; it doesn't pander to stylistic pretensions; it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is: the result of countless, informal social exchanges between friends. A home-cooked meal followed by a few microphones taped to folding chairs. A family gathering, a summary of happy noises, and a room crowded with familiar faces. Sure, there are showy guitar riffs and piano codas and harmonica solos, a rowdy chorus, an imposing flourish of brass instruments like wartime canons. But at the heart of it—if you really listen carefully—there's just a pastor and his wife tentatively singing in the quiet privacy of their own home.

1 comment:

dan said...

Nice to hear about you both, Vito and Monique! Keep up the good work and God bless!

Dan Hacker; Tecumseh, MI