Preaching to the Choir

Many people are surprised to learn that Black Rock City is home to not just two full orchestras, but also a Playa Choir complete with a secular Sunday sermon. Since 2012 [sic – she’s been doin’ it Dusty since 2003], Madi has been organizing and arranging the harmonies and happenings, each year with more and more help. 

In this installment of Burning Man Live (12/22/2023), kbot and Stuart talk with Madi (Choir Director), Tori (Director of Dusty Productions), and Leut (Preacher Man). They have stories and more stories of inspiration and elevation. We get to hear many voices resonate with music, recorded live at Burning Man 2023 in the Black Rock Desert. Hallelujah!


The Playa Choir began many years ago as a small offshoot of members from the Jazz Cafe. Kathleen Hollingsworth, aka Madi, creates and directs each year from scratch.

Growing each year, we now attract 70-80 regular Burners from around the world, to join, rehearse, and create vocal music together – culminating in powerful performances on Sunday. We believe the Playa Choir provides that connection to the “Something Other” that is often overlooked at Burning Man.

The Playa Choir has famously and movingly performed a wide variety of sacred and secular choral arrangements with featured soloists – accompanied by a talented band – and attracts crowds of 200 to 300 people for the now legendary Sunrise performance at the Temple, and again later that Sunday morning for their extended service with full Band and Sound System in their hard-to-miss Dome.

The Playa Choir is notable for a wide range of colorful characters in equally colorful garb. But don’t let appearances deceive you – many are experienced and talented musicians in their own right, who rehearse hard and bond together in an incredibly short period of time. Over the years, we’ve received feedback from hundreds of Burners that hearing and seeing the Choir perform at the end of an already amazing week, is the highlight of their overall experience!

We are open to all Burners, regardless of experience, and are completely non-denominational and non-religious, but entirely spiritual, rewarding and fulfilling. Our performances are the not-to-be-missed events of the entire Burn!

A Short Choir Timeline

2003 to 2013 – Madi creates and leads her beloved Choir on a 10-year Nomadic journey. Each year the Choir keeps growing, but is dependent on other camps for performance space. A 57-year old hippie virgin named Miss Ayme joined in 2013, and began to dream.

2014 – Placed as an official Theme Camp for the first time with help from “Tofu” Pete from Playatel, but still under his umbrella. The Great Storage Container Fiasco ensues; Sunday performance held at the Black Rock Cantina instead.

2015 – Playa Choir goes independent, and is placed to anchor the 6:00 Public Plaza; bought the 44’ Dome from Black Rock Cantina and built it ourselves; we finally have our own permanent home!

2016 – Formed S.A.T.B. Village with Acapplaya. Again anchored 6:00 Public Plaza; Massive Communal Shade Structure upgrades, and a lot of growing pains – we had to make two trips to get all our stuff to the Playa. Never again!

2017 – We solved our storage/transportation needs by buying The Cool Bus. Bought a new Sound System, and we get placed in a new location on Rod’s Road; Everything clicks like clockwork; BMIR Radio broadcasts Sunday Service; a perfect Burn.

2018 – Placed again at RRR and D Street; Huge Galley complex; Videography Team; New Dome Lights (epic fail!); Amazing collaborative performance with The Sanctuary Art Car for our Sunrise Temple Service; We are again a well-oiled machine that purred perfectly.

2019 – Resided this year at 6:15 and G. We started serving coffee in the morning at the Temple of Harmonics and hosted guest speakers, instructors, receptions and live performances in the Dome.

2020 – In March of 2020, in response to the Global lockdown, we began meeting on Sundays for “Renegade Gospel”. This was the start of a practice that would deepen the relationships of our members who usually only see one another for an intense week on Playa every year. For many of us, it was how we survived the pandemic. When Burning Man was cancelled, the choir conducted a Virtual Service Via Zoom on what would have been Burn Sunday with our greatest wish being a reunion in 2021. A Solstice service was also presented in December.

2021 – With the cancellation of Burning Man for a second year, a small but dedicated core met on Playa for their “Renegade Gospel”. After the burn, we met up with more Choir Members and Acapplaya to conduct our second Virtual Service.

2022 – The Playa Choir returned to the Playa! We’re back baby and again placed in our favorite location on Rod’s Road! We built the Playa Choir Dome again by hand (cranes are for pussies!), and rocked Sunday morning in our usual Playa Choir style.

2023 – Man what a difference a year makes. It rained. It rained a lot! Those lucky enough to escape with their lives and dignity intact before Gate closed, well you chickened-out! You have no idea what you missed, other than what was said on what passes for Media these days. About how we were all starving and resorting to cannibalism. About how we were up to our necks in our own filth and waste. (That part may be true for some unprepared campers, but generally some portos did overflow and got cleaned-up, no worries). Cholera! Seriously? All overblown fear-mongering and a lot of stupid reporting, and who really gives a shit about Chris Rock and Diplo hitch-hiking out of the city early? Losers, both of them.

Welcome Home!