Pictured: A map of the Burned-over District. Counties in red are part of the district.

It should surprise no Chautauquan that Western New York has a long, rich history of cultural activity and intellectual, interfaith dialogue. Chautauqua Institution embodies these values, which appeared to emerge with the arrival of various religious sects to the area. Western New York earned the name “the Burned-Over District” for the way it was spiritually transformed — set ablaze, one might say — by the religious movements that swept across it from the 1790s through the following century.

Religion remains one of Chautauqua Institution’s Four Pillars (the other three being Arts, Education, and Recreation), and today, Chautauqua Institution has 19 different faith-based organizations and 11 Denominational Houses. These include the African American Denominational House, Baha’i Faith, Catholic, Orthodox Jewish and Reform Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

Chautauqua Institution’s own Motet Choir, made up of fifty-five voices, is featured in The Christians. Two different groups of 22 singers alternate performances. The group performs daily worship services on the Institution’s grounds, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, the Organist and Coordinator of Worship and Sacred Music. This summer is Jacobsen’s sixtieth at Chautauqua Institution.