Foundation Scholar Chris LaMountain
Background on Chris LaMountain
Growing up in central Massachusetts, Chris LaMountain was involved in choral music throughout his time attending Westborough Public Schools. Additionally, through playing in his church handbell ensemble and conducting a youth church choir, Chris became interested in the uniting power of music, especially in religious settings. During his time at Westborough High School, Chris participated in the MMEA Central District, All-State, and NAfME National Honor Choirs, as well as received the American Choral Music Award and two MICCA Small Choral Ensemble Gold Medals.
Combining his passions, Chris chose to pursue a dual degree at Northwestern University in Vocal Performance and Religious Studies. He joined and sang with various choral ensembles on campus and worked section leader jobs at churches and temples in the Chicagoland area. As the recipient of a Summer Undergraduate Research Grant, Chris also conducted independent research within the Religion, Health, and Medicine program.
Upon discovering that the only Baha’i House of Worship in all of North America was located within a ten minute walk of campus, Chris picked up an immediate fascination in the religious space and the culture within it. Attending a few services, listening to the Temple Choir, and doing more research into the religion itself, Chris learned that there are only eight such Bahai Temples in the world and each Temple has its own distinct musical tradition.
Chris is a third-year student and recently returned from his fall semester abroad in Rome, during which he was able to travel throughout Italy and to different European cities. Outside of his studies, Chris is a member of Delta Chi Fraternity, a tour guide of the Northwestern campus, and a singer in the North American Baha’i Temple choir.
Chris LaMountain's Research Topic
The Baha'i faith began in 19th Century Persia by the prophet Baha'u'llah. Generally speaking, this faith system emphasized globalism, inclusion, and progressivism, and as such, Baha'i communities recognize sacredness in all the major world religions, ie. Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Hinduism. This has made an unique opportunity for Baha'i communities to form a musical tradition, especially in the pursuit of musically expressing the globalist nature of the Baha'i faith during devotional services. With only eight Continental Houses of Worship around the world, such as the North American Continental Baha'i House of Worship in Wilmette, IL, each House of Worship has approached this "globalist Baha'i music," in a different way that is often musically appealing to the local culture. For example, the North American Baha'i Temple Choir sings Baha'i Gospel songs that are inspired by the African American Gospel tradition.
During his trip, Chris will travel to six countries over 11 weeks to study the choral music traditions of the Bahá'í faith. He plans to visit six Continental Bahá'í Houses of Worship and participate in a few Bahá'í Choral Festivals. On his journey, Chris will interact with the choral traditions and choristers unique to each destination; specifically, Chris will be looking out for the different ways that each temple choir approaches musical style, use of languages and vocal technique, as well as presentational aspects of music during Baha'i devotions in each House of Worship. Overall, Chris is hoping to use the observations from this trip to deduce a method by which any community, sacred or secular, can promote inclusion and globalism through locally-appealing music.
Itinerary of Circumnavigation
Chris will be visiting these places during his circumnavigation in the summer of 2019.