Events & Tickets

Silent Voices World Premiere at BAM

Friday, May 12, 2017 - Saturday, May 13, 2017

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Brooklyn Youth Chorus is pleased to present Silent Voices, a multimedia, multi-composer stage work conceived, produced and performed by the Chorus. Unfolding over the course of the Chorus’ 25th anniversary season, and culminating in a world premiere at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House in May 2017, Silent Voices harnesses the power of young people to be instruments of change, giving voice to those 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 in creating music that explores race and identity, gender and sexuality, inequity and social disparity—music that matters.

A year-long series produced in connection with Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ 2016-17 WQXR artist residency, Silent Voices was conceived by Dianne Berkun Menaker to engage the young singers artistically with the subjects and issues about which they are most passionate. She and stage director Kristin Marting have co-curated the project, bringing together an unusually wide range of artistic collaborators spanning musical genres and art forms. Commissioned composers include Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal (“House of Cards”), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Alicia Hall Moran, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Ellis Ludwig-Leone (San Fermin), Nico Muhly, Toshi Reagon, Ellen Reid, Kamala Sankaram, Caroline Shaw and Paul Miller/DJ Spooky. Claudia Rankine (Citizen), Hilton Als (The New Yorker), and Max Posner are providing original writing for the work, which also includes interviews, existing works by contemporary authors (Michelle Alexander) and historical texts. Video projections by Peter Nigrini and photo portraiture by Jay Maisel will be integrated throughout. rag & bone is providing costumes. Helga Davis hosts.

Each Silent Voices choral composition will take on a specific issue: the distribution of power and privilege, gender roles and stereotyping, systemic racism, economic abandonment and sustained inequity. What unifies this musically and topically broad work is the distinctively beautiful sound of the singers, a GRAMMY Award-winning chorus of culturally and socioeconomically diverse New York City young people aged 12-18. Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ predominantly female Concert Ensemble is central to the project, which also features the Men’s Ensemble and includes the Chorus’ 550-member student body. Their varied experiences will find expression as they develop their individual voices as the foundation of their identity, while also giving voice to that of other individuals and groups. Silent Voices will showcase the Chorus as both a powerful lead performer and as a bold commissioner and producer stretching the artistic boundaries of the youth chorus.

Produced and Performed by: The 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
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

Silent Voices is a co-commission of Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Brooklyn Academy of Music, and WQXR, New York. 

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.

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 (Conceiver & Conductor) is the Founder & 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 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.


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.”