Michael Kerschner / Artistic Director

A Note…

But every time it rains
You’re here in my head
Like the sun coming out
Ooh, I just know that something good is going to happen
-Cloudbusting, Kate Bush
•••
•••
For 12 years, hardly a quiet moment has passed that I don’t think of YNYC. This was true a few weeks ago. I was sitting alone in a dark room in a museum that houses an installation by James Turrell called The Pleiades. To enter, I had to feel my way up an ascending ramp and I found a chair by falling into it. I was aware that there was a railing around the chair, like you would find on a small terrace. The space beyond was impenetrably dark. Nobody told me what to expect, but I assumed it would involve seeing something.
 •••
I wondered if my eyes worked well enough to see what I was supposed to see. You should probably know: a choral conductor’s favorite way of knowing a room is to conduct a group of singers in it. But, bereft of an ensemble and equipped with my less than perfect hearing, I waited for time and my eyes to do what was needed to see the stars that Turrell wanted me to see. Without trust, everything is loss. So, after 15 minutes in The Pleiades, what did I see? An amorphous gray nebula. A vivid cloud, like a loud silence. Was it worth the wait? Process in art is an action of faith, and so the answer is, and always is, yes.
•••
There, in the stillness of The Pleiades, just a few weeks away from the end of my tenure, I was thinking about our major commission by Shara Warden, another work titled The Pleiades, which we performed in concert along with the tragic oratorio The Little Match Girl Passion. As usual, the singers rallied and pulled off a powerful performance, bringing passion to a concert about compassion.
•••
I thought about our premier performances of major works by Mohammed Fairouz, one of the most important young composers of our time, and how the technical difficulty of his works was compounded by their political and emotional intensity. Few other ensembles have been brave enough to tackle these works.
•••
I thought about the conversations we were able to engender, especially around our Christmas concerts, which have been fantastic opportunities to meditate on the difference between an idea of love, and the actions of love.
•••
I thought of our times working with great orchestras, our commanding performance at the ACDA National Conference, our tour to Washington, our exciting collaborations with visual artists, and our appearances in the Radiolab color episodes. Experiences like these have been expansive for YNYC.
•••
I thought about the Competition for Young Composers, and how eagerly the organization takes upon itself the challenge of presenting untested works, knowing that the risk is a part of the fun, and that our commitment to young composers is the most vital part of our mission. Making friends with great composers who are taking all of us further.
•••
We’ve asserted ourselves as a powerful force in new music, and we’ve become bigger and stronger for it. It can feel like we’re out of step with the times because we are in the habit of lending light when the zeitgeist is about throwing shade. Sound illuminates a dark path. Anyhow, I love the sound as metaphor trope, but the consequences of cultural tone deafness are more alarming than a wrong note. So, the metaphor fails, but that’s because what we do here is not merely metaphor. By genre, by name, by spirit, we are a chorus in a community of sanctuary; the sound of humanity in harmony.
•••
The more things change, the more they remain themselves. It’s been a great honor to stand before these ensembles, and I’ll miss following their extraordinary sound into places that I recognize as home. I took over from the outstanding founding conductor Nathan Davis, and Christopher Mueller was my invaluable friend and assistant for my first 10 seasons. With thanks to our inspired volunteer leadership, a passionate Board of Directors, and our wonderful, dedicated singers, we have grown boldly with vision and creative spirit, achieving prestige without becoming pretentious. We are kind, and grateful. I am grateful. Alex Canovas, YNYC’s new Artistic Director, is going to do marvelous work. He is a star.

Categories: Concerts, Michael's Musings

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