Michael Kerschner / Artistic Director

YNYC Blog

YNYC Mixed Ensemble presents: The Triumph of the Sky

On Friday December 4, the YNYC Mixed Ensemble presented their holiday concert: The Triumph of the Sky. Here are the performance’s program notes from Michael Kerschner, Artistic Director.

“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.”
― William Wordsworth

Many thoughts loom large as we ponder the inaugural concert of YNYC’s Season of Connection. We are excited to share with you, in our 15th anniversary season, what connection looks like in our world; an artistic community that seeks to unite young people in the shared effort of seeing into the life of things through the language of song.

Our modern days are frenetically shaped by morning outrages and controversies that fade by nightfall. Empathy, free from politicization, accumulates. It remains a part of us. Beauty and truth linger in a similar way. Sure, our attentions may waver- there are just so many preposterous things to read about and comment on. The things which connect us are the things that are somehow too true to be impacted by the opines of popular culture. We are connected when empathy directs us toward all people, and when we subscribe to ideals that contribute to a world capable of continuous beautification. We are connected when we remember that everyone has a story. And, we are connected by the stories that we all know.

Portrayed in the gospels of Luke and Matthew, our image of the Nativity has been nuanced by centuries of poetry, art, literature, music, and films. Celebrating among families and neighbors, the narrative is rounded out with the inclusion of our experiences. The majority of our repertoire this Christmas season comes from medieval poetry, set to music by contemporary composers. The implications of this sweep of time is stunning; the familiar story can be told in the sonic language of today. The humanity of the Nativity remains the same as it was the first day of its telling. There will be no walls around the manger. No religious test will divide the witnesses. Complicated outcasts can join in among the angels and shepherds, the cows and the sheep. You’ll find your way by looking toward the democratizing sky. The star shows us where to find the miracle of goodwill and peace. The star, visible to all, connects us. This is the triumph of the skies.

We hope you’ll join us again as we celebrate the season with the YNYC Women’s Ensemble on Saturday, December 12 for Christmas Nocturnes. Tickets and additional information are available here: wynycchristmasnocturnes.bpt.me

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Welcome to YNYC’s 15th Season!

Introducing the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus 2015/16 Season:

CONNECTIONS

Celebrating 15 years of exceptionally sung, dramatically presented performances with the Mixed, Women’s, and Chamber Ensembles
Coupling [Saturday, October 24th 2015]
The Women’s Ensemble participates in YNYC’s third collaboration with Ensemble 212 to perform Mahler’s enchanting 3rd Symphony.
The Triumph of the Sky [Saturday, December 5th 2015]
Savor in the sounds and sights of Christmas with YNYC as the Mixed Ensemble performs audience and singer favorites from the past 15 years. Featured composers include Whitacre, Shank, Lauridsen, Hogan, Pärt, Tavener, Essenvalds, as well as carols arranged by our favorite young composers.
Christmas Nocturns [Saturday, December 12th 2015]
Connect with the Women’s Ensemble for a meditative and inviting evening of carols, sung in the warm glow of candlelight.
Orbital Family [March 2016]
YNYC’s three ensembles combine for one magical evening of choral music, including the inaugural performance on the Chamber Singers.
Chamber Singers — The Pleiades, Shara Worden
Women’s Ensemble — Vier Gesang OP. 17, Johannes Brahms
Mixed Ensemble — Leonardo Dreams of his Flying Machine, Eric Whitacre
Ties That Bind [April 2016]
Join the Women’s Ensemble in a fun, theatrical, and poignant cabaret about friendship with a variety of singing style and genres including jazz, pop, alternative, and musical theater.
Multitudes [May/June 2016]
YNYC Alumni join the ensembles for a performance of the Mozart Requiem. This concert will also feature three new works written for our Mixed Ensemble as part of the Competition for Young Composers.

We have been honored to connect you to passionately performed choral music and exciting new compositions for the last 15 years. Please help us make the next 15 possible by giving to the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus today.

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“I Am…” and “Love Is…”: YNYC Wraps Up 2014/15 Concert Season

The following are program notes from YNYC’s final concerts of the season: “I Am…” (women’s chorus, Sunday May 31) and “Love Is…” (mixed ensemble, Saturday June 6). We hope you’ll join us for this Saturday’s concert (June 6 at 7 PM, 40 E 35th St) to enjoy beautiful music and hear our finalists in the Competition for Young Composers! Tickets are available here: ynycloveis.brownpapertickets.com.

“There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth. From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one. Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine. And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out carol the lark and the nightingale. One superlative song, existence the price. But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles. For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain…” from The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough

YNYC’s final two concerts (I am, WYNYC May 29, and Love Is, YNYC June 6) illustrate our shared journey to interpret the sublime through culture. Presently impaled by the post-modern thorn tree, we are trapped in the rigidity of thumbs-up/down aesthetics. We are timid in the presence of pain because we have politicized empathy. We’ve assumed a hipster-stance, distant and detached, eyes rolling over earnestness like Tonka Toys.™

We are overdue for a pendulum swing back to Romanticism. Let’s shake it up. Let’s dance about pleasure, march about injustice, and fly about love. Let’s open our eyes to the lessons of the natural world and remember to read the poetry of forgotten people. We all stand before the sublime with awe. We revel in the aliveness we feel as we fall in love. The broken-hearted collapse, and then rebuild, and then repeat the journey again a little more wise than before. If, as Stew suggests, “there is a melody for every malady,” then there is a song for every broken heart, injustice, and inequity. The songs are expressions of emotions to which all humans can relate. It may be the calling of our time; to sing one superlative song in a great, unison chorus.

— Michael Kerschner, Artistic Director, the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus

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YNYC presents “Lightning Illuminates: Irish Poetry and Melody”

On Tuesday, March 10, the YNYC mixed ensemble will present “Lightning Illuminates: Irish Poetry and Melody,” featuring the world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’s “Second Coming.” Following are program notes from the concert. Tickets and additional information are available here: bit.ly/YNYClightning

Irish folk melody, beloved for the gentle leaps and rolls of its contours, captures the pain and pleasures of life with remarkable accuracy. The narratives are direct, prone to beautiful adjectives instead of metaphor, and the stories are wrapped in their own misty atmosphere. To borrow a line from Seamus Heaney, the notes are perfectly arranged to “catch the heart off guard and blow it open.” Born from an ancient struggle to define Irish identity, Irish poetry and music have emerged as some of the most powerfully recognizable in the world. This unified culture emerged in a land of political, social, and religious diversity and division. While The Troubles (Northern Ireland Conflict) fade from our memory, we see similar divisions emerging with frightening speed in other parts of the world.

Michael Blog march 10

Tonight we will hear Mohammed’s vision of violence though the lens of Seamus Heaney and W.B. Yeats. Discussing poetry with Mohammed is a dizzying thing; he references texts from myriad centuries, languages, ideologies and geographies. Poetry and music are not mere decoration to him. He is aware of the world, and does not resist bringing that awareness to his art. Current trends in choral composition skew toward shallow renderings of beautiful poetry. A song about water could sound like a still pond, for example, using thickly layered chords with limited harmonic motion. These tone-poems have their place, (we love performing this kind of music) and the ability to paint words with music has been the muse for choral composers throughout history. Sometimes, this style of music begins to feel like holding a mirror up to another mirror. Nothing new appears. With Mohammed, a song about water will take you on a journey from clouds, rain, rapids, quiet puddles, and raging oceans. Or it will sound like a desert, so much so that all you want is water.

Like the poetry, the music is vivid and direct. Mohammed is a bold person, and like any great artist, his knowledge and experience guide him into the eye of the storm, where the truth is often hiding. What we get is his idea. It assumes that human experience has already demonstrated the DNA of peace and war, and that there have always been artists around to document how those things have played out in the world. Mohammed’s music, like the Irish songs accompanying tonight’s world premiere, is about identity, and it finds life among brave artists and open-hearted audiences.

Hope is a function of struggle, and so we offer you a concert assembled on hope, with the conviction that music can identify the beauty under the ashes. Lightning Illuminates.

Michael Kerschner, March 9, 2015

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Guest Post: Voices of the Sacred Concert

Today’s guest post comes from Cantor Michael Weiss, organizer of the concert “Voices of the Sacred” in which the YNYC Mixed Chorus will sing this Saturday, January 31 at 8:30 PM. Tickets are available here.

I have an admission to make.

I don’t know much about Islam.

Same with Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and [plug in your favorite -ism here].

As I look at the world these days, that strikes me as a real problem. #jesuischarlie and #illridewithyou campaigns aside, even in a place like NYC, where we are surrounded by “others” every day, we know almost nothing about them. At least I don’t.

If we want to live in a peaceful world, that has to change.

Other than ignoring or “tolerating” them (not my favorite word), though, how do we learn to live in honest-to-goodness, actual harmony with people whose lives and belief systems are so different from ours that we can’t even talk to them?

Where can we find a common language?

Bono once said that “Music can change the world because it can change people.” If that’s true, maybe we don’t have to look very far. Everyone loves music, right? Okay, your music may be different than my music, but we still all love music. Even without words, music touches us in deep places.

Music is emotional.

That’s why we’re putting on a concert. Much more than just another concert, Voices of the Sacred is an opportunity for us to get to know our neighbors by experiencing the music that they use to connect to the source of meaning in their lives. It will also be fun, but it will be much more than that.

If you’ve been looking for a way to make a difference in the fight against racism, intolerance and bigotry, and have a blast doing it, then you will not want to miss this concert.

This year, we’re welcoming Sufi virtuoso Amir Vahab, Rabbi Zach Fredman’s Judeo-Arabic sensation The Epichorus, and The Young New Yorkers Chorus for an evening you will never forget. And I’m not just saying that. People are still talking about last year’s concert, and that was over a year ago!

By the time we’re done, we may not know much more about Islam, but we’ll know a lot more about the music that touches each other’s souls. And that alone is huge.

Join us on Saturday night, January 31 at 8:30pm for Voices of the Sacred, and help us spread the music.

Yes, count me in!

See you there.

Cantor Weis

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And On Earth: a holiday meditation on Peace

This Saturday December 6, the YNYC mixed chorus will present And On Earth: a holiday meditation on Peace. Below are the concert’s program notes from YNYC Artistic Director Michael Kerschner. We hope you’ll join us for this spectacular evening! Tickets are available here: ynycandonearth.brownpapertickets.com

And On Earth

“…peace, good will towards men.”

Trying to write about peace the week of the Ferguson grand jury decision has been tough. I thought leaving the word “peace” out of the concert title would strengthen the word, as if the word itself did not need to be written or spoken to be heard or understood. But when I see images of protest, broadcast from Missouri, I wonder if our title’s missing text doesn’t reflect an absence in our national dialogue. Peace, the benevolent gift of Christmas, seems hard to find.

Our artistic challenge tonight is to inspire the righteous, regardless of their title or position, to continue to keep the peacemaker in Christmas. Believing that you all qualify, this concert is for you. Let the sonic and visual beauty nourish your souls so that you are better prepared to repair the weak and weary this holiday season. Go forth in life as heroes and sheroes.

Just as the title of this concert leaves out an important word (peace), so too do our musical selections. Trusting that a picture is worth a thousand words, we want to present you some pictures through Instagram. For many of us, the music we perform is concrete; for some of us, the music can be abstract and challenging. We hope that the collective activity and meditation on a thought or image can help you feel the music more holistically. A room full of souls basking in the same beautiful sounds and seeing the same beautiful image possesses enormous power.

We are emboldened by our singing throughout the season. Our holiday wish is that we may help embolden you; that our brief encounter with beauty will add a halo to your brightness. It may not be a time of justice or balance, but it can be a time of harmony. We are grateful that you are here to harmonize with us, and we hope to see you for each of the exciting concerts of the Instachromatic season. Happy holidays, and may you find peace and harmony in the year ahead.

— Michael Kerschner, Artistic Director

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11th Annual Competition for Young Composers

After much deliberation, we are pleased to announce our three finalists for the 11th Annual Competition for Young Composers:

Erik DeLong (Van Nuys, CA)
Luke Flynn (Indianapolis, IN)
Sarah Horick (Silver Spring, MD)

These three finalists will each be commissioned to compose an original work to be premiered by the YNYC mixed ensemble at its June 2015 concert. The first place winner will receive the $1,000 Nathan Davis Prize in Composition. The other two finalists will receive $500 each.

With over 75 submissions from 23 states and 7 countries, we had an incredibly strong group of composers’ work to consider. We can’t wait to get to know our finalists and experience their art! For the winning piece from our 2014 competition (from Jake Runestad), listen here.

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RE/Sonance: a mass for the dead, a concert for the living

Following are program notes from RE/Sonance, the mixed ensemble’s final 2013-14 season concert.

Choral music directly addresses the human experience, from human mouths to ears, without need for the irony and detachment of our post-modern world. It is a living, proto-modernist art. There is no need to shake the dust off of this music for it is liberated from time and trend, and resonates with the stuff of the earth and stars. Our finalist for the 10th Annual Competition for Young Composers have selected gorgeous texts which complement both the meaning and sentiment of a 20th century masterpiece: the Duruflé Requiem. Each of them contributes to the overarching lesson of the competition: that in any thematic context, choral music is fresh, surprising, and alive.

Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was not a prolific composer. His creative output consists of only fourteen works, yet his six pieces for choir are among the most performed in the repertoire. He was a noted performer, premiering the Poulenc Organ Concerto in 1941 and touring the world. At the age of 25, he was appointed Assistant Organist at Notre Dame Cathedral, and at 28, he began a forty-year career as the organist at St. Entienne-du-Mont. The Requiem began as a series of organ pieces based on Gregorian Chants, which he then reworked. The chants remain prominent, sometimes as a cantus firmus and other times woven discretely into the vocal lines or accompaniment. The Duruflé Requiem famously has some big moments, but it is not garish like many of those written in the 19th century, nor is it bleak or political like other famous Requiems of 20th century. In this way, it remains both popular and influentially modern; text and melody, presented simple with impressionist gestures, is not dissimilar from the sacred minimalism that has come to be a dominant force in classical music in the 21st century.

— Michael Kerschner, Artistic Director

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Guest Post: Jocelyn Hagen

We’re pleased to bring you all a guest post from 2013 Composer Competition Winner Jocelyn Hagen! To submit for this year’s competition, click HERE.

Composing for The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus was a joy from start to finish. After being chosen as a finalist, I decided to go back through some of my favorite poems that I hadn’t set to music yet, and decided on “Trees Need Not Walk the Earth.” The focus for the program that YNYC had chosen was “music for, about, and by women.” Being a woman I naturally fell into this theme, but I was interested in exploring a quality that is often associated with women: beauty. I loved the opening line of this poem, and what the imagery invoked:

“Trees need not walk the earth for beauty or for bread;
Beauty will come to them where they stand.”

As a woman, feeling confident and secure in our beauty can often be a struggle, despite how others see us. I resonated with the idea that we realize our own beauty when we discover who we are and what we have to offer the world. And the power to do so lies within us ~ no one else can give it or take it away.

I’ve actually written several pieces in which trees play a character, but this was the first time I was able to add another instrument along with the traditional piano accompaniment for such a piece. I wanted to choose another instrument that had a wooden quality to it, and marimba seemed a natural choice. I had never composed for marimba and piano together before, but I fell in love with the sound at the dress rehearsal. So THANK YOU, Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, for letting me explore a new sound world with this composition.

This competition for young composers is simply one of the best of its kind in the country. I highly recommend applying for this opportunity. Michael Kerschner is a wonderful and sensitive conductor who chooses interesting, beautiful and quality literature. And the choir sings with such heart and understanding. I am very proud to say that I have worked with The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus, and they gave me a beautiful premiere of “Trees Need Not Walk the Earth.”

Listen to “Trees Need Not Walk The Earth” below!

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Michael’s Musings: March

Choral Archaeology or Why We Travel

The last time YNYC traveled together was to perform at the ACDA conference in Chicago in 2011, and it was a riotously good time. Tomorrow, YNYC will depart for its first official concert tour. I’m looking for the words to synthesize the innumerable aspects of performance touring that make it so magical. The words are not coming because like all great magic, it defies explanation. My musing of the subject does find me lingering on one word- archaeoacoustics. continue reading »

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