Thursday, May 26, 2011

Awards and Finale!

It's time to honor our principals, teachers, schools, choristers and everyone who came here today to support the YPC Satellite Schools.  Everyone gets a standing ovation!  A million thanks!  Two students from every school are coming on stage with signs representing their schools - how cool!  And now the teachers and principals are coming up on stage to receive awards - wow, photos of every school are part of the award!

And to tie the concert up, all the choristers sing Give Us Hope, YPC's own theme song by composer Jim Papoulis!  Give us hope and we'll show you the way...

Wow!  What a show!  GREAT JOB!!!  Another great year in YPC's satellite schools program, and we're so happy that so many choristers performed today - they were truly incredible, and so wonderful to see all their hard work displayed in this beautiful Kaufmann Concert Hall.  Bravo!!!  And we can't wait until next year!

Tue, Tue!

What a great concert to wrap-up our choristers hard work this school year!

Now, Francisco Nunez (YPC's founder and artistic director) will lead all of the choristers in Tue, Tue, a song from the West African country of Ghana.

Oh, how cool--6 volunteers (one student from each school) are going to get to accompany the singing choristers with percussion instruments on stage!

Francisco is teaching us about a special musical term - ostinato - we're using the first line of Tue, Tue and singing it over and over again.  It sounds really cool with John Hadfield's percussion!

Now Francisco is having the audience of adults sing by themselves from the balcony - they sound pretty good!  And they just learned the song right now - great job!

Everyone join in!  Stand up!  Clap! TUE,TUE!

PS/IS 178Q 3rd-5th Grades & PS 75

We are now being joined by another chorus from PS/IS 178- the 3rd-5th Grade Chorus, singing Fairest Lady and Child of PeaceFairest Lady is also from the Nursery Rhyme Cantata - they sound great, and we love this piece!

What an important message PS178 is sending us through Child of Peace.  When we hear the children singing I think we can really all believe in a better, more peaceful world.  Thanks kids!

Our last individual school chorus up is PS 75 from the Upper West Side with their conductor Amy Kotsonis singing Eletelephony and Thula S' Thandwa.

Wait, did they just say the elephone tried to use the telephone?  Did his trunk really get entangled in the telefunk?  This is a crazy song!  So funny!  Great job!

PS 75 is in its 6th year with YPC - wow!  Their last piece is in Zulu and English - it's really beautiful.
Again, what a packed stage!  So many students, so much music!  What a great way to end the performance!

YPC @ Thurnauer Prelude Chorus and PS 69

Taking the stage next is the Thurnauer Prelude Chorus, with conductor Emma Brondolo, who used to be a YPC Chorister herself.  I wonder if we have any future conductors sitting in our audience today...I bet we do!

Thurnauer Prelude Chorus starts off with a sweet Japanese Lullaby, Takeda no komoriuta, accompanied by Thurnauer's pianist Jackie Choi - she's great!  Thurnauer wraps up with You'll Never Guess What I Saw.  Tell us kids, what did you see?  I can tell you, I am seeing some very talented choristers!

Now we have PS 69 from the Bronx.  They will be singing  This shall be for Music and Oye.
Wow, another packed stage with so many smiling faces and lovely voices.  The first piece is so beautiful!  They sounds great!
Oye!  Yes, we can hear you loud and clear!  Wow - John Hadfield sounds amazing on the drums!  And the entire chorus has so much energy and the choreography is fantastic!  PS 69 rocked it!

PS/IS 178Q 6th-8th Grade Chorus and PS 130

Up now we have PS/IS 178Q 6th-8th Grade Chorus and conductor Emma Brondolo.  What a cool first piece - Niska Banja by Nick Page.  Both Michael and Jon are playing on this piece - we have four hands on the piano!  I wonder what language this is in??

They sing When You Believe from the "Prince of Egypt" to wrap up their set.  John Hadfield adds some great percussion to the piece, and it sounds great!...and the crowd goes wild!

Taking the stage next is PS 130 from Chinatown, singing a Lullaby from Four Chinese Children's Songs. The song keeps switching between Chinese and English - Beautifully sung!   Now they are singing Dance, Boatman, Dance...and there's choreography!  That can't be easy!  What a fun piece, and the movement looks great - over 100 children on stage and they're all moving together!  Great energy, too!

Thurnauer Concert Chorus and PS 268

Up first is Thurnauer Concert Chorus singing two songs: Yet Gentle Will the Griffen Be and She Shall Have Music.  Sounding wonderful, kids!  What a great start to the show.  This is YPC Thurnauer's second performance at the Satellite Schools Concert - we're so excited to have them here!

Wow, what a great performance of She Shall Have Music by Nick Page - it's part of his Nursery Rhyme Cantata - the same work that Fairest Lady comes from - a satellite favorite.  Such a beautiful piece, and they do it really well!

The next chorus coming up is joining us from Crown Heights, Brooklyn: PS 268, singing Afternoon On A Hill and being lead by conductor Sophia Miller.

What?!?  PS 268 has only been rehearsing for 2 months?!?  Unbelievable!  Even more impressive! They have great stage presence, and a wonderful tone - it's such a pretty piece!  What a good job!  Bravo!

Good morning Mrs. Nunez!!!

Welcome to the YPC's 8th Annual Satellite Schools Concert!!  With over 500 choristers in the audience today, we are in for a great performance!  There are choristers here from PS 69 in Clason Point, Bronx; PS 75 on the Upper West Side, Manhattan; PS 130 in Chinatown, Manhattan; PS/IS 178Q in Jamaica Estates, Queens; PS 268 in Crown Heights, Brooklyn; and the Young People's Chorus at the Thurnauer School of Music in Tenafly, New Jersey!

Conductor Mrs. Nunez gives all the schools a big welcome and introduces the schools and instrumentalists!  We have Jon Holden and Michael DiGiacinto on piano, and John Hadfield on drums!

First Song up: "I hear America Singing" by Andre Thomas - a Tutti with all of the students.  We are totally surrounded by hundreds of beautiful voices - everyone sounds great!  I can't wait for the next song!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

YPC on Fox 5's "Positively Ernie" this Friday, May 20 at 10:30 p.m.!

This Friday, May 20, tune in to Fox 5 at 10:30 p.m. to watch YPC on the special "Positively Ernie" with Ernie Anastos!  YPC choristers share their experience of taping the special:

YPC with "Positively Ernie" host Ernie Anastos
It was a great experience for me to meet Ernie Anastos from Fox Five news and some of the characters of Sesame Street, and sing with Bob McGrath!  I am really excited to be part of this project – I can't wait until I see myself on television this Friday!

- Nydia, Intermezzo

YPC choristers with Dr. Oz
YPC Choristers with Sesame Street's Bob McGrath
I am happy to share my experience with Bob McGrath at the taping at the Fox 5 studio – it was a breathtaking experience! I was privileged to be one out of the ten choristers chosen. Mr. McGrath chose YPC out of all the choirs he could have chosen!  I met the host of the show Ernie Anastos, one of the TV reporters. I also got to meet Dr. Oz, Abby Cadabby and Telly Monster from Sesame Street!  I am proud and overjoyed to have had all of these experiences.  And as Abby Cadabby would say, "Twinkle Out! Glitter!"

- Thalia, Intermezzo

On Monday May 1st a few friends from YPC and I went over to the Fox studios – it was so much fun! It was such a new experience to be taped for a T.V. show with all the lights, cameras, and learning where to look when the camera is filming.  Everyone was so helpful in getting us settled and making us feel comfortable. We sat in the waiting room for a while, having fun, and relaxing, but when the camera started rolling it was worth the wait. Singing with Bob McGrath was a lot of fun and a huge honor. He was so nice to all of us! In all, I had a great time, and if I had the opportunity to do it again I definitely would! 

- Sarah, Intermezzo

Friday, May 13, 2011

A YPC Alumna is blown away by 10 years of Transient Glory

Dear Francisco,  

I was blown away at Transient Glory. The sound of the choir was outstanding and so beautiful. I was overwhelmed by how far the choir has come.
When John Schaefer talked about how YPC had been commissioning these pieces for the past ten years, it was such a powerful moment of reflection for me. The Transient Glory pieces played a tremendous role in my life. They were powerful and I always felt that they were so important. That our singing was changing the world and that we were conveying the tone of society.
However, when we sang Metamorphoses, Unlabelled  and Kadiq…The challenge of those pieces and the musical and literal meaning of those pieces not only defined what type of music I wanted to work with in my life, but gave a spirituality and musical connection to many of today’s most pressing problems and trends.
On Friday night, to hear Song of Ezekiel again and the David Del Tredici was like revisiting an old friend.  I was so happy to see another generation of choristers experiencing the magic of those songs. YPC sang them with such artistry. I remember struggling over Song of Ezekiel and all those “do-do-do” parts. I even remember you stating “This is so hard, how am I going to teach this to you?” And I was scared for you and the choir. What would happen if we couldn’t sing the piece?
That’s when you said the most incredible thing.  On Friday night, you told John Schaefer that “the fear was gone.” And that’s what it sounded like on stage. There was only joy.
Now that I’m thinking about it… it’s not always that the pieces themselves were so great, (though many of them were) it’s really the passion you bring to each piece. Your drive and your ability to convey the beauty of the music becomes embedded within each singer. Instead of it simply being a song that would be nice to learn.  It’s “we have to learn this song, it’s so important, no one else in the world can sing these pieces, these songs are going to change everything, I identify so much with the melody/text of this piece.”  
Every day in high school I thought about our Transient Glory songs; about the process, sacrifice and importance. I still think about it as I conduct my own choirs and express my own passion about the music. I’m not sure if Transient Glory is really the thing that will ever change the world for the better, but it certainly was the greatest gift ever given to me and I hold it very close to my heart.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Transient Glory gets a 10!

Just intonation or extended vocal technique are terms you don’t expect to hear at a typical youth chorus concert, but last Friday’s Transient Glory® X at the 92nd Street Y was not your typical youth chorus concert. Nor is the Young People’s Chorus of New York City™ your typical youth choir. This year it celebrates ten years of YPC’s Transient Glory® project begun by Founder and Artistic Director Francisco Núñez in 2001. In those ten years, the project has accumulated nearly 60 new works for children’s chorus by some of the most prominent composers around the world, including those whose music were performed last Friday: Michael Torke, Paquito D’Rivera, John Corigliano, Meredith Monk, David Del Tredici, and Michael Harrison, whose Hijaz for voice, just intonation piano, cello and percussion received its world premiere at the Y.

This is the basic premise of the Transient Glory® project: that a child’s voice is a unique instrument during that fleeting time between childhood and after-childhood (that momentous transition which many of the composers addressed in some form or another), and that this instrument can tackle the most challenging and uncompromising music written for them, if such music were available.

Transient Glory® promised to deliver, and Friday’s concert--one of ten anniversary events given throughout the year, culminating in a national symposium in New York next winter at Carnegie Hall--was the showcase of those ten years.  WNYC’s John Schaefer, YPC’s “crazy uncle” (in his words) who had hosted performances since 2001, opened the concert by remarking, “Ten years ago, when I first hosted this concert, I didn’t see this coming.” Neither, it seems, did anyone else, and there was a general atmosphere of astonishment and perhaps some well-deserved self-congratulations throughout the evening. After all, it took Francisco Núñez many hoops to jump in order to convince composers, the industry, and the public that his vision would work—let alone survive. Suffice it to say that eventually Mr. Núñez did manage to convert the skeptics, including Mr. Schaefer himself, who remembered receiving a phone call from Mr. Núñez one day ten years ago and exclaiming, “You managed to get who???” Since then, he said, he continues to express amazement that Transient Glory® has amassed “an incredible list of composers since year one.”
Friday night’s program, in a way, also celebrated the people who turned around and became the project’s champions. “I keep coming back year after year because this chorus keeps astonishing me,” said Mr. Schaefer. During a panel discussion there was a lot of nostalgic remembrance about those times, when the idea of a major composer writing a piece for children’s voices was not exactly something people jumped on. “Ten years ago we were sitting here and wondering what we had just done,” recalled Linda Golding, who was then president of Boosey & Hawkes. Boosey & Hawkes agreed to partner with YPC to publish all Transient Glory® commissions and make them available to the rest of the world. It was quite a revelation, said Ms. Golding, when they all realized that most composers had not written for children simply because they were not asked.

During the panel discussion, Mr. Schaefer questioned whether Transient Glory® contributed to the changes in performance practice over the past ten years. Mr. Núñez recalled that when the chorus first got Torke’s Song of Ezekiel (a moving piece which has the distinction of being the first Transient Glory® commission), the score was handwritten and difficult to decipher, heightening what may be called a first-timer’s jitters. That early piece, that seemed so cutting edge at the time, now feels mainstream.  “This really is the new century, and fear of new music is gone,” said Frank Oteri, founder of NewMusicBox and a composer himself, adding that today, young people can play new music, and “nothing is hard anymore.”

I’m guessing that what he meant was that today, everybody is up for the challenge. The concert’s repertoire showed to what extent these singers--members of YPC’s Concert Chorus-- could stretch the limit.  The chorus opened the concert with Song of Ezekiel and then performed Tembandumba, Paquito D’Rivera’s rollicking and physically demanding work.   Based on the poem Majestad Negra by the largely unsung genius of Boriqua poetry Luis Pales Matos, Tembandumba is a heavily percussive and tongue-twisting homage to a colossally endowed mulata whose very presence drives all she passes wild with desire.  The highly suggestive language was largely invented by Pales Matos, who was known to create portmanteaux and onomatopoeic devices in his poetry, virtually presaging hip-hop and rap (the poet lived from 1898-1959). In Friday’s performance, the otherwise provocative content of the poem was translated into innocent wonder and awe by the singers, giving the piece an entirely new and unexpected layer, and an energy that deserved the rousing applause it received.
To witness the entire evening’s performance is to marvel at the scope of the repertoire, and the seemingly endless range of these singers’ talent. John Corigliano’s One Sweet Morning, in commemoration of 9/11, is plaintive and lyrical but never sentimental. As the composer himself said, he made “no concessions to the fact that these are young musicians.” He added that the problem with writing technically challenging pieces is that performers focus more on the difficulty than the interpretation, “but Francisco and the kids went way beyond the music.” The full 30-minute work, with additional texts, will be premiered by the New York Philharmonic this September to commemorate 9/11’s tenth anniversary.

Meredith Monk’s work, "Things Heaven and Hell" from Three Heavens and Hells, demanded that the singers “extend the instrument,” using Tennessee Reed’s verses for their sonic value rather than meaning, as Mr. Schaefer explained to the audience. I heard this work premiered live on WNYC two years ago with Ms. Monk herself performing with the children, and I’ve heard it several times since, but I still marvel at the sheer vocal acrobatics this piece demands and have often wondered how such young artists could perform such a vocally complex work. David Del Tredici’s Four Heartfelt Anthems closed the first half of the program, with the chorus joined by YPC alumni, teaching staff, and soprano Courtenay Budd, whose performance of the fourth anthem, based on a poem by Robert Burns, was uplifting and ethereal. The work, filled with nostalgic remembrance, was introduced with an email sent by the composer to Mr. Núñez, in which Mr. Del Tredici called YPC “diabolically skilled, so virtuosic and so heartfelt that to hear them is to remember how thrilling music can be.”

The second half of the program, following the panel discussion, was the world premiere of Michael Harrison’s Hijaz, which Mr. Schaefer introduced as “one of those pieces that, yes, is supposed to sound that way.” The work used extended just intonation, copiously explained by the composer in the program notes. Mr. Harrison wrote the poem for the piece himself and remarked that he was inspired to write something for YPC that he hoped would inspire them in return.  For this work, the chorus was joined by two exceptional musicians, in addition to Mr. Harrison at the piano:  cellist Maya Beiser, whose fiery performance was nothing short of electric, and Payton MacDonald (who also performed in Tembandumba), a founding member of the jaw-dropping group Alarm Will Sound (and one of my favorite ensembles of all time—full disclosure).  This 20-minute work, which takes the listener on a trance-like journey through the Middle East, Africa, Moorish Spain and the Indian Subcontinent—virtually the entire trajectory of the history of Gitano music, flamenco, and other related forms—was lyrical despite its complexity. It began with theatrical flourish--soloists Lindsay Bogaty, a YPC alumna, and Nia Drummond, a current chorister, walking from the back of the hall towards the stage, singing the work’s theme like a pair of celestial heralds--and ended with a single extended note that was literally breathtaking.  It was no surprise that the work was met with shouts of “Beautiful! Beautiful!” from the audience, as well as a 15-minute standing ovation.

Transient Glory® can be said to be the pinnacle of YPC’s programming, both artistic and educational. This is the litmus test of all those years of training. The works sung here are unflinchingly complex and challenging, not just for young singers but for any musical artist.  The singers do justice and honor to the astonishing talent of these composers—by being themselves astonishing. If anybody asks what makes YPC different from other choruses in the city or the world, one might well point to Transient Glory® and those ten years when it sought out the best composers and challenged them to write music for this group of singers—to dare these young singers, in effect, to break musical barriers and at the same time discover the power of their own voices.

I feel pretty certain that this self-discovery will be what these singers will look back on most fondly in their adult years. During the panel discussion, Mr. Núñez said that “something happens from year to year,” alluding not just to the evolution of the young singers in this group (whose line-up perpetually changes as the children grow older and leave) but also (and I am guessing here) the sea-change that happens to the conductor and listeners as well. “The children leave something behind,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but children are able to communicate in a way we have forgotten to do.” – Eric G.: 5/9/11

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke!

This is my first time traveling with YPC and I am really excited because it has given me a chance to meet new people and just get closer as a member of the group. I feel that there are so many exciting things we have done this trip, but my favorite part was going to the Coca-Cola factory and just seeing everything they do in the factory. I was able to travel as a group inside the factory and get a whole bunch of souvenirs. I just think it’s cool how everyday kids have opportunities to go all over the world and see new things. This is my first trip and I’m excited to go on many more. Going to Atlanta was an amazing experience for me. The kids who live here are amazing and work very hard on their performances. I was truly amazed by what we accomplished at the Coca-Cola concert. I hope one day we will be able to come to Atlanta again and perform with all of these kids.

- John, Young Men

The first day we had practice I met two people and they were really nice! On one of our songs they would make these really funny faces at us while they were singing.  Everyone was laughing, but how could you not?  I was having fun and I was kind of sad when it was over because I had one whole week before I could see everyone again and hopefully make new friends! The second week was fun even though there was more dancing than I could handle. I made another friend, Alvin, and we would do silly stuff during the free parts of the dances.  My friend Taylor and I kept making jokes and I kept sneezing extremely loud and I sounded like a mouse! And I made a friend named Brian and we are fist pump buddies! And then I made a friend named Emma on Monday; she is really nice and we have a lot in common.  I am upset it is almost over, but I made facebook contact with new friends, so even when we don’t have the time to see each other anymore we can still talk and be friends! J

- Jada, Atlanta chorister

This has been one of YPC’s most fun trips because of its relaxed nature, and all the fun we got to have. We met so many new kids, and really got to bond with fellow choristers. I’m so glad we got to experience such a special event!

- Ariana, Concert Chorus