Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ latest project, Silent Voices, harnesses the power of young people to be instruments of change, giving voice to those who have been silenced or marginalized by social, cultural or religious circumstances. The Chorus has commissioned a diverse group of innovative artists to interpret rich historical narratives and personal stories and create music that explores race and identity, inequity and social disparity—music that matters. Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ Founding Artistic Director, Dianne Berkun Menaker, conceived of the project and is co-curating it with director Kristin Marting.
This PROTOTYPE/FIAF concert will focus on the voices of African-American and immigrant men and women in America today, with commissioned music by Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Toshi Reagon and DJ Spooky and texts by Hilton Als, Michelle Alexander, Samad Behrangi, and Pauli Murray. Helga Davis hosts.
A year-long series of performances, Silent Voices culminates in a world premiere in May 2017, the centerpiece of Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ 25th anniversary season. Other commissioned composers include Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Kamala Sankaram and Ellis Ludwig-Leone, Ellen Reid, Alicia Hall Moran, and Rhiannon Giddens.
Brooklyn Youth Chorus presents Silent Voices in conjunction with its year-long artist residency with WQXR/WNYC.
Produced and Performed by: Brooklyn Youth Chorus Conceived by: Dianne Berkun Menaker Curated by: Dianne Berkun Menaker and Kristin Marting Music Director and Conductor: Dianne Berkun Menaker Director: Kristin Marting Featured Composers: Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Toshi Reagon, and DJ Spooky Writer: Hilton Als Additional Writers: Michelle Alexander, Samad Behrangi, Pauli Murray Scenic and Video Designer: Peter Nigrini Lighting Designer: Jeanette Yew Costume Designer: Kate Fry Host: Helga Davis Executive Producer: Elise Bernhardt Producer: Nunally Kersh Production Manager: Robert Henderson
At Florence Gould Hall, FIAF
Silent Voices is a co-commission of Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and WQXR.
Silent Voices is generously supported by Aaron Copland Fund for Music; Amphion Foundation; Charles J. and Irene F. Hamm; Howard Gilman Foundation; the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund; National Endowment for the Arts; New Music USA; NYC Department of Cultural Affairs; The BMI Foundation; and The MAP Fund. Special thanks to Marcus Wainwright and rag & bone for supporting the project by dressing the Chorus. The visual identity for Silent Voices was generously donated by Carbone Smolan Agency.
Co-presented with French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)
Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Brooklyn Youth Chorus is a collective of young singers and vocal ensembles re-envisioning choral music performance through their distinctive, remarkable sound, artistic innovation, and collaboration with classical and contemporary artists. With an incredibly versatile range and unique repertoire, Brooklyn Youth Chorus combines intensive vocal training and music study with exceptional performances. The chorus has been touted by The New York Times as a “consistently bold organization” that regularly commissions and presents new music in genre-defying forms. The chorus’ after-school program encompasses multi-level training divisions and advanced performing ensembles as well as a full complement of enrichment classes and individual lessons. The 650 diverse students of its core after-school and public school outreach programs represents nearly 200 schools citywide. Classes take place at their Cobble Hill headquarters and neighborhood locations in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Dianne Berkun Menaker (Choral Director) is the founder and artistic director of Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Under her visionary leadership, the Chorus has become one of the most highly regarded ensembles in the country and has stretched the artistic boundaries for the youth chorus. Hailed by The New York Times as “a remarkable choral conductor,” Berkun Menaker has prepared choruses for performances with acclaimed conductors, including Alan Gilbert, Marin Alsop, James Levine, Charles Dutoit, and Robert Spano. Most notably, she prepared the Chorus for its 2002 debut with the New York Philharmonic in John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls, the recording for which the Chorus won a Grammy Award in 2005. Berkun Menaker is the creator of the Chorus’s Cross-Choral Training® program, a proven holistic and experiential approach to developing singers in a group setting encompassing both voice and musicianship pedagogy.
Kristin Marting (Director) is a director of hybrid work based in NYC. Over the last 25 years, she has constructed 27 stage works, including 12 original hybrid works, 8 reimaginings of novels and 7 classic plays. She works in a collaborative, process-driven way to fuse different disciplines into a cohesive whole. Kristin has directed 17 works at HERE and also premiered works at 3LD, Ohio Theatre, and Soho Rep. Her work has toured to 7 Stages, Berkshire Festival, Brown, MCA, New World, Painted Bride, Perishable, UMass, Moscow Art Theatre and Oslo. She has directed workshops for Clubbed Thumb, New Georges, Playwrights Horizons, Public Theatre, Target Margin, and others. Select residencies include Bard, Cal Arts, LMCC, Mabou Mines, MASS MOCA, NACL, Orchard Project, Playwrights Center, and Williams. Kristin was named a nytheatre.com Person of the Decade, a Woman to Watch by ArtTable and received a BAX10 Award. Selected grants: 2 MAP Fund, NEA, NYSCA, Greenwall, Harkness, Jerome and Santvoord Foundations. Kristin is co-founder and Artistic Director of HERE, where she directs projects, cultivates artists and programs (including 17 OBIE-award winners) two performance spaces for an annual audience of 30,000.
Sahba Aminikia (Composer). Born in 1981 in Tehran, Iran, Aminikia studied music composition in Russia at the St. Petersburg State Conser- vatory under Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko, a post-graduate student of Dimitri Shostakovich. In his homeland, Aminikia studied under renowned Iranian pianists Nikan Milani, Safa Shahidi and Gagik Babayan. He received his B.M. and M.M. with honors from San Francisco Conservatory of Music under Dan Becker, David Garner and David Conte. He is the recipient of many various commissions from theatre troops to contemporary classical ensembles, film scores, Persian traditional music groups to jazz bands including Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Symphony Parnassus, San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, Mobius Trio, Delphi Trio and Living Earth Show. His third string quartet,” A Threnody for Those Who Remain”, commissioned by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Kronos Performing Arts Association was described by Financial Times as “An experience not to be easily forgotten”. One of his most recent projects was a piece for Brooklyn Youth Chorus and Kronos Quartet involving pre-recorded media called “Sound, Only Sound Remains” which is a piece focused on Iranian female singer whose voice have never been heard before. Aminikia was recently appointed as the 2014 Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival’s Fellow Artist Composer through which his most recent piece, “Shabo Meh” (Night and Fog) was commissioned and was world-premiered by the SF-based piano trio, Delphi Trio. His music has been widely performed in United States, Canada, Iran, United Arab Emirates, Brazil, Ecuador, France, Italy, Poland, China, Greece, Turkey and Israel and at venues such Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Le Poisson Rouge, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, SF Exploratorium, SFJazz and Saint Anne’s Warehouse.
Jeff Beal (Composer) is an American composer of music for film, media, and the concert hall. With musical beginnings as a jazz trumpeter and recording artist, his works are infused with an understanding of rhythm and spontaneity. Steven Schneider for The New York Times wrote of “the richness of Beal’s musical thinking…his compositions often capture the liveliness and unpredictability of the best improvisation.” Beal’s seven solo CDs, including Three Graces, Contemplations (Triloka) Red Shift (Koch Jazz), and Liberation (Island Records) established him as a respected recording artist and composer. His score and theme for Netflix drama, House of Cards, has received three primetime Emmy Award nominations. He has received fifteen primetime Emmy nominations for his music, and has won four statues. Other scores of note include his dramatic music for HBO’s acclaimed series Carnivale and Rome, as well as his comedic score and theme for the detective series, Monk. Beal’s commissioned works have been performed by many leading orchestras and conductors, including the St. Louis, Rochester, Pacific, Frankfurt, Munich, and Detroit symphony orchestras. His music for director Philip Haas’ art installation Butchers, Dragons, Gods & Skeletons, was showcased at the Kimball Art Museum and the 2011 Venice Biennale. Other commissions include the Metropole Orchestra (Netherlands), The Ying Quartet, The Debussy Trio, The Henry Mancini Institute, The Commission Project and The Prism Brass Quintet. His first choral commission, entitled The Salvage Men, is written for the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Beal graduated from the Eastman School of Music, where he was commencement speaker and honored alumnus in 2011. He now mentors and encourages young composers as a participant in the Sundance Film Composer seminars and as a guest lecturer at conservatories and universities.
Mary Kouyoumdjian (Composer) is a composer with projects ranging from concert works to multimedia collaborations and film scores. As a first generation Armenian-American and having come from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, she uses a sonic pallet that draws on her heritage, interest in music as documentary, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new. Kouyoumdjian has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, the American Composers Forum/JFund, REDSHIFT, Experiments in Opera, the Nouveau Classical Project, Fric- tion Quartet, Ensemble Oktoplus, and the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble. She has had artist residencies with Roulette/The Jerome Foundation, Montalvo Arts Center, and Exploring the Metropolis. In her work as a composer, orchestrator, and music editor for film, she has collaborated on a diverse array of motion pictures including orchestrating on the soundtracks to The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features) and Demonic (Dimension Films). Kouyoumdjian received degrees from New York University and the University of California, San Diego and is currently pursuing a D.M.A. at Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn.
Shara Nova (Composer). Born in “The Diamond state” of Arkansas to a family of musical traveling evangelists, Shara Nova (formerly Worden) moved across America throughout her youth, then went on to study classical voice at The University of North Texas. After moving to New York City she assembled her chamber pop band, My Brightest Diamond in 2001, subsequently releasing four albums on Asthmatic Kitty Records. Nova has composed works for yMusic, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, Brooklyn Rider, Nadia Sirota and Roomful of Teeth among others. Her baroque chamber p’opera “You Us We All” premiered in the US in October 2015 at BAM Next Wave Festival. Many composers, songwriters and filmmakers have sought out Nova’s voice, including David Lang, David Byrne, The Decemberists, Bryce Dessner, Steve Mackey, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Sufjan Stevens and Matthew Barney. Nova is a Kresge Fellow, Knights Grant recipient and a United States Artist fellow.
DJ Spooky aka Paul D. Miller (Composer) is the executive editor of Origin Magazine and is a composer, multimedia artist, editor and author. His DJ Mixer iPad app has seen more than 12 million downloads in the last year. In 2012-2013 he was the first artist-in-residence at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He’s produced and composed work for Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore, and scores of artists and award-winning films. Miller’s work as a media artist has appeared in the Whitney Biennial; The Venice Biennial for Architecture, the Ludwig Museum in Cologne, Germany; Kunsthalle, Vienna; The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and many other museums and galleries. His book Sound Unbound, an anthology of writings on electronic music and digital media is a best-selling title for MIT Press. DJ Spooky’s Rebirth of a Nation was commissioned in 2004 by the Lincoln Center Festival; Spoleto Festival USA; Weiner Festwochen; and the Festival d’Automne a Paris. It was the artist’s first large-scale multimedia performance piece and has been performed in venues around the world, from the Sydney Festival to the Herod Atticus Amphitheater, more than fifty times. DJ Spooky’s multimedia performance piece Terra Nova: Sinfonia Antarctica was commissioned by BAM for the 2009 Next Wave Festival; The Hopkins Center/Dartmouth College; UCSB Arts & Lectures; Melbourne International Arts Festival; and the Festival dei 2 Mondi in Spoleto, Italy. Miller is currently a contributing editor to C-Theory and the Executive Editor of Origin Magazine, which focuses on the intersection of art, yoga and new ideas. He continues his globe-trotting series of live events; playing at festivals from France to Japan to Mexico City; performing solo, with chamber groups, and with orchestras; and giving talks at prominent universities and conferences. He has most recently featured at The Economist “Year in 2012” conference, and for Syfy’s “Let’s Imagine Greater” Igniter web series.
Toshi Reagon (Composer) is a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music. Since first taking to the stage at age 17, this versatile singer-songwriter-guitarist has moved audiences of all kinds with her big-hearted, hold-nothing-back approach to rock, blues, R&B, country, folk, spirituals and funk. The New York Times described her blend as “…a love of mixing things up…[her] vocal style ranges from a dirty blues moan to a gospel shout to an ethereal croon.” Toshi Reagon composed and served as musical director for Bones and Ash: A Gilda Story (1995), a production by the acclaimed Urban Bush Women dance troupe. She has also scored dance works by LAVA (most recently, we become in 2008) and by the Jane Comfort Dance Company (Asphalt and Underground River). Her musical work has been featured in film (The Secret Life of Bees) and television (PBS/WGBH’s Africans in America, The L Word, Crossing Jordan, House and HBO’s award-winning Beah: A Black Woman Speaks, produced by Jonathan Demme and LisaGay Hamilton). She collaborated, as conductor, musician and instrumental composer/ arranger, with director Robert Wilson and with Bernice Johnson Reagon on a Gustave Flaubert-inspired opera, The Temptation of St. Anthony (2003), which toured throughout Europe. Toshi Reagon’s honors include a 2009 Out Music Award, the 2007 Black Lily Award for Outstanding Performance, and a 2004 New York Foundation for the Arts award for music composition. She was one of several women honored by the National Women’s History Project for “amazing intelligence, talent, courage and tenacity [that testify] to the myriad ways that generations of women have moved history forward.”
Hilton Als(Show Writer) became a staff writer at The New Yorker in October, 1994, and a theatre critic in 2002. He began contributing to the magazine in 1989, writing pieces for The Talk of the Town. Before coming to The New Yorker, Als was a staff writer for the Village Voice and an editor-at-large at Vibe. He has also written articles for The Nation and collaborated on film scripts for “Swoon” and “Looking for Langston.” Als edited the catalogue for the Whitney Museum of American Art exhibition entitled “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” which ran from November, 1994 to March, 1995. His first book, “The Women,” a meditation on gender, race, and personal identity, was published in 1996. In 1997, the New York Association of Black Journalists awarded Als first prize in both Magazine Critique/Review and Magazine Arts and Entertainment. He was awarded a Guggenheim for Creative Writing in 2000 and the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism for 2002-03. In 2009, Als worked with the performer Justin Bond on “Cold Water,” an exhibition of paintings, drawings, and videos by performers, at La MaMa Gallery. In 2010, he co-curated “Self-Consciousness,” at the Veneklasen Werner Gallery in Berlin, and pub- lished “Justin Bond/Jackie Curtis,” his second book.
Helga Davis (Host) is a New York based artist whose interdisciplinary work includes collaborations with composers and choreographers alike. In 2001, Wire Magazine’s David Keenan described Helga as “a powerful vocalist with an almost operatic range and all the bruised sensuality of Jeanne Lee.” She has recently starred in The Blue Planet, written by Peter Greenaway and directed by Saskia Boddeke and in The Temptation of St. Anthony, directed by Robert Wilson, among many more. In March 2007 Davis began hosting Overnight Music on WNYC and was awarded the ASCAP Deems Taylor Multimedia Award for hosting 24:33: twenty-four hours and thirty-three minutes of the playful and playable John Cage. Famed director Robert Wilson says of Hel- ga, “Helga Davis is a beautiful, natural performer with an inner power and strength that is truly unique. She combines voice and movement in a united whole that is spellbinding. Her genius in her stillness and quietness evoke a very deep emotion. She is radiant in every way.”
“The sheer beauty of their singing was captivating…” — The New York Times
“Ms. Berkun Menaker is a remarkable choral director.” — The New York Times