Alex Canovas / Artistic Director

YNYC Blog

2020 Season

Dear Friends,

Beloved amongst most young New Yorkers, the rooftop is a place where we often come together during the warmer months of the year. Sunsets, sunrises, parties, dates, concerts, moments of solitude – all on the roof. From my perch on my own roof I’m pretty blessed to be able to see so much of the city, and as I usually do when I have a ‘New York moment’, I sent a few pictures of the view to my dad. He was a cab driver for the better part of 20 years during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. He lived in four out of the five boroughs (including Staten Island but never Queens!). He knows New York better than anyone I know, and his deep connection to the city was a big factor in my decision to move here 7 years ago.

After sending him a few pictures, I started to think about all of the things I couldn’t see, from the hills of Riverdale in The Bronx, to the Russian bazaars in Brighton Beach, to the massive stretch of Northern Boulevard that runs all the way through Queens to Long Island. Though we often flock to Manhattan (or maybe Williamsburg/Bushwick) to see concerts and other musical acts, there are such varied musical cultures in both the prominent and not-so-prominent parts of the city.

As is often the case, my thoughts then turned to YNYC. I had been considering programming a New York City-themed season for a number of months, but I was now finally able to articulate why. The best programming, I feel, always seeks to answer a question, and now that question was clear: how can we, as members of an incredible musical community, better connect with the entirety of the city we call home?

Our city goes by many names – The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps, Gotham. The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus knows it by another name – home. Join us as YNYC explores every corner of the great city of New York through song. We’ll be singing works composed in each of the five boroughs, in each of the five boroughs, while also celebrating the dynamic musical communities that have been built here throughout the years.

I look forward to seeing you at our concerts this year and invite you to come with us as we joyfully and humbly explore what it truly means to be a New Yorker.

With Gratitude,
Alex

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YNYC Young Composers Competition Finalist – Sawyer Denton

On Saturday, June 1, 2019, YNYC’s Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘A Bell Awakened’ – An exploration of what the power of women can make possible, with repertoire that’s co-curated with the Women’s Ensemble.  This concert features world premiere works from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our third finalist for YNYC’s 2019 Competition for Young Composers, Sawyer Denton!

 

Sawyer Denton is a composer, conductor, and arranger from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. Growing up as a singer, he was always drawn to soaring melodies and driving rhythms that lingered in the ears of listeners. Today, his writing is characterized by similar intricate rhythmic patterns and floating, lyrical themes. Many of his concert works show a special interest in the natural world as a source of musical inspiration, including Dreams of the Canyon (2015), The Seismic Sea (2016) and Gaia: Spirit of Earth (2017). Sawyer works across genres, and 2019 will see the premiere of his score to the film “Michigan Man: The Red Berenson Story,” as well as his songs and score to the upcoming staging of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” at the Power Center for the Performing Arts.

Sawyer studied music composition under celebrated composers Evan Chambers, Michael Daugherty, Kristin Kuster, and Bright Sheng at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. There, he also studied choral and orchestral conducting with Eugene Rogers and Oriol Sans. His choral music is published by Hal Leonard

 

What makes you come alive?

The idea of pushing musicians to the edge of their ability and then watching them succeed galvanizes something within me to try to do my best work time and again, and brings the composing process to life.

What drew you to the text you set for your piece?

Emily Bronte lived a difficult life and died at the age of thirty of tuberculosis, but somewhere in her suffering, she crafted herself a spine of steel, which comes across powerfully in her words, as witnessed by her full fledged, foot-stomping assertion “No Coward Soul Is Mine”.

What was one significant thing you learned in writing for a women’s ensemble?

The limitations in range when working with a womens’ ensemble impact the sheer size of the full ensemble sound, but also allows for moments of much more intimate, chamber-styled singing. I learned to try to balance those moments to the best of my ability.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Ludwig van Beethoven, Gustav Mahler, Dmitri Shostakovich, Eric Copeland, Igor Stravinsky, Leonard Bernstein, John Corigliano, John Adams, John Williams, Ennio Morricone, The Beatles, various Motown artists, Simon and Garunkel, and Jim Croce

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YNYC Young Composers Competition Finalist-Lauren Bydalek

On Saturday, June 1, 2019, YNYC’s Women’s Ensemble will perform ‘A Bell Awakened’ – An exploration of what the power of women can make possible, with repertoire that’s co-curated with the Women’s Ensemble.  This concert features world premiere works from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our second finalist for YNYC’s 2019 Competition for Young Composers, Lauren Bydalek!

Lauren Bydalek (b. 1995) is a composer, arranger, songwriter, and performer based out of Nebraska. She graduated with honors and high distinction from University of Nebraska – Lincoln, earning her bachelor’s degree in May 2018. During her time there, she studied under Kurt Knecht and Greg Simon, as well as performing in vocal ensembles under the direction of Matthew Oltman, David Von Kampen, and Pete Ecklund.

With experience in classical piano, vocal jazz, church music, a capella, show choir, songwriting, and orchestra, Lauren is a well-rounded musician. This background has resulted in a diverse array of projects and compositions, ranging from choral, solo, and chamber pieces, to a singer-songwriter EP, Life Through Color, as well as an Honors thesis for chamber orchestra, Postcards from the Land of the Rising Sun.

What makes you come alive?

I come alive when I’m being challenged, traveling, or trying something new.

What drew you to the text you set for your piece?

 For this piece, I actually wrote most of the text myself. I specifically wanted to write a piece which touched on the subject of shattering the glass ceiling.

What was one significant thing you learned in writing for a women’s ensemble?

I’ve learned that women’s ensembles tend to be highly receptive to more abstract ideas in their pieces.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Lauridsen, Debussy, Copland, Ed Sheehan, Sara Bareilles, Jacob Collier

A Bell Awakened is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by LMCC.

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YNYC Young Composers Competition Finalist – Scott Senko

On Saturday, June 1, 2019, YNYC’s Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘A Bell Awakened’ – An exploration of what the power of women can make possible, with repertoire that’s co-curated with the Women’s Ensemble.  This concert features world premiere works from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our first finalist for YNYC’s 2019 Competition for Young Composers, Scott Senko!

 

Scott Senko (b. 1992) is a composer and vocalist in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He completed undergraduate studies at Luther College in 2015 where he studied composition with Brooke Joyce and Steve Smith, and voice with Andrew Whitfield. He served as Composer in Residence with Magnum Chorum during their 2016-2017 season and as a Guest Composer for the inaugural consortium of the Libera Composers Association in 2017.

What makes you come alive?

Surprising harmonic shifts. New episodes of “The Good Place” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” Clicking with people. Bon Appétit Magazine.

What drew you to the text you set for your piece?

I was drawn to the command and self-assuredness in Johnson’s poem, ‘When I Rise Above the Earth’. The text seems to me to be a simultaneous statement of the personal and the political. I saw opportunities within the text to explore shifts in mood and perspective.

What was one significant thing you learned in writing for a women’s ensemble?

Writing a piece for a treble choir is not merely writing a piece for a mixed choir in a higher key.

Who are your biggest musical influences?

Edie Hill, Gabriel Kahane, Joby Talbot, Merrill Garbus

 

A Bell Awakened is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature and administered by LMCC.

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From our new Artistic Director Alex Canovas

Dear Friends,

Hi there! I’m Alex, and I’m one of the newer members of the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus. I’ve lived in New York State for my entire life, and have been in NYC for 6 years. I enjoy discovering new coffee shops, stand-up comedy, checking out art galleries and, most of all, choral music. It’s with great excitement that I welcome you to YNYC’s 18th season, my first as Artistic Director.

There are many things that make YNYC unique amongst avocational choirs. We have both a stellar Mixed Ensemble of 80-90 voices, as well as a trailblazing Women’s Ensemble of 50-60 voices. Our Competition for Young Composers, now in its 15th year, has resulted in over 40 world premieres of new works. There’s something superlatively unique, though, about the sense of community that’s been carefully cultivated over the past 18 years. Ours is not just a group of young New Yorkers gathering to sing each week. We are a family of tremendous musicians, coming together to tell stories through music that can’t be communicated in any other way, unbound by genre, style, or approach, in the greatest city in the world.

I’d love to share a bit about what we’ll be working on this season, titled On Time.

This past winter, I found myself in one of those existentially reflective moods that can only come before the great explosion of life that is Spring. A friend of mine offered some cliche but relevant advice – ‘Try to be present in the moment’. That state of being is not a present we frequently receive, but as I started to pick those words apart, it became clear that there was a fair deal of exploration to be done into past, present, and future.

And so, the vision for On Time was born.

Singing is the ultimate form of living in the present, but can also help us reflect on the past, as well as create hope for a better future. Choral singing, in particular, requires us to physically come together as a community to share in the organic creation of art that transcends time. In this season, The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus will tell stories of the past, present, and future so that we may better understand the role of time in our lives.

I’m deeply grateful for the warm, loving welcome I’ve received from all members of the YNYC family, and look forward to having you join us on this journey together.

Until that time,

Alex

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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.

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The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus Appoints Alex Canovas as its Next Artistic Director

The Young New Yorkers’ Chorus (YNYC), a nonprofit organization that fosters the art of choral singing and brings new music to life by creating opportunities for young composers, is pleased to announce the appointment of Alex Canovas as its next Artistic Director, effective for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. Canovas, an experienced vocal artist and conductor, was selected following a nearly year-long search process. His appointment was enthusiastically approved by YNYC’s Board of Directors this month.

“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we are pleased to welcome Alex Canovas to the YNYC family as our next Artistic Director and the conductor of both our mixed and women’s ensembles,” said Maeve Montalvo, Secretary of the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus. “Alex shares YNYC’s core values through his commitment to collaborative leadership, high-quality vocal technique and socially-conscious programming. This has been a season of change for us and he has already proven his dedication to our musical family. We feel sure that Alex possesses the right skill set, leadership and vision to lead our organization forward.”

“I am honored, humbled, and incredibly excited to join YNYC as its next Artistic Director,” said Alex Canovas. “This wonderful family of excellent musicians has made a great impact through its pursuit of passion through the arts, the community it has created for young New Yorkers, and its dedication to premiering new music and supporting young composers. I am thrilled to become a part of it.”

Canovas is currently the Associate Conductor of the critically-acclaimed vocal ensemble, Choral Chameleon. His recent projects include performances at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. As an ardent supporter of new music, this summer he will enter his fifth year as Singer-Faculty at Choral Chameleon’s annual Summer Institute. Canovas will also be working as an Associate Conductor on the Mostly Mozart Festival’s mass choral production of John Luther Adams’ ‘In the Name of the Earth’, held in Central Park this August. In addition, Canovas serves as the Director of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, and as the Operations Manager for the Empire City Men’s Chorus.

As an upstate New York native, Canovas graduated from the Ithaca College School of Music with a B.M. in Vocal Performance. Following graduation, he moved to New York City and served on staff at OPERA America’s National Opera Center. After leaving to pursue performance exclusively, Canovas served as the Assistant Conductor of the Ridgewood, NJ-based ensemble Ars Musica.

Canovas will succeed Michael Kerschner, who has led YNYC since 2006. Under Kerschner’s leadership, YNYC performed at the 2011 American Choral Directors’ National Convention in Chicago, created its women’s ensemble in 2012, and collaborated with visual artists Eyebodega and Marco Brambilla and composers including Caroline Shaw, Mohammed Fairouz, and Shara Worden. Kerschner also oversaw YNYC’s annual Competition for Young Composers, through which YNYC has commissioned and performed over two dozen works by emerging artists. The board and leadership express their unending gratitude for his 12 years of inspired leadership and vision.

Kerschner’s final performance with YNYC will be this coming Saturday, June 2 at 8:00 p.m. ET at the Gelsey Kirkland Academy in New York.

About the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus

YNYC, founded in 2001, was built to provide a fellowship for talented singers in their 20s and 30s who could nurture and develop a close-knit community in New York City. YNYC performs a vast variety of music, from works by classical greats to those of prominent living composers and upholds its mission to bring new music to life through its annual Competition for Young Composers, as well as frequent commissions and collaborations with living artists. YNYC enjoys a grassroots organizational structure that utilizes the skills of its members and volunteers to manage its growth and visibility in the New York City choral scene. Learn more at www.ynyc.org.

For media inquiries, please contact Kierstin Coatney at Kierstin@ynyc.org.

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Meet the Composers: Lydia Jane Pugh

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, YNYC’s Mixed and Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘Only All of Us’ featuring world premiere works for double chorus from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our third finalist for YNYC’s 2018 Competition for Young Composers, Lydia Jane Pugh!

Lydia Jane Pugh

Composition for YNYC: Adiraϊ (‘Misplaced’)

 

Lydia (b.1986) studied for a BA in music at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, going on to complete an MA in composition at Leeds College of Music in 2010. Lydia’s first commission was for the the Guernsey Glee singers, which resulted in a performance of ‘The Land Where I was Born’ at the Praga Cantat in Prague 2007. In 2009 her choral work “The Year Suite” was premiered by the Liberation Singers, and she was commissioned by the Guernsey Choral Society for Christmas 2010, a performance which was recorded for broadcast on BBC Guernsey. Lydia has also been a finalist for several competitions, including the ‘National Centre for Early Music’s Young Composer Award’, ‘Australian Boys Choir Choral Composing Competition’. Lydia’s music has also taken her abroad, as she has taken part in the Composers Workshop for the Charlotte New Music Festival, the Lehigh Choral Composers Forum, and most recently the Choral Chameleon Institute in New York, USA. At such events her work has been performed and recored by professional ensembles, including The Princeton Singers, The Great Noise Ensemble and The Choral Chameleon Singers. Lydia also works as a vocal coach, and was recently award both the John Owen-Jones Award and the P.J. Proby Award from The Voice College, along with her Advanced Professional Diploma in Teaching Contemporary Singing.

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Meet the Composers – Casey Rule

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, YNYC’s Mixed and Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘Only All of Us’ featuring world premiere works for double chorus from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our next of three finalists for YNYC’s 2018 Competition for Young Composers, Casey Rule! 

Casey Rule

Composition for YNYC: The Rocky Road to Dublin

Casey Rule is a “programmer by day and musician by night”, working as a Wall Street software engineer, leading the technology team for a growing ed-tech start up, serving as the business and technical director of NoteNova Publishing, singing and conducting with the Choral Composer-Conductor Collective, and writing music when he’s not writing code.  Among his awards for composition are the 2012 Singing City Prize for Young Composers, the Musical Chairs Chamber Ensemble’s 2014 Composer Search, the 2014 ACDA-PA Choral Composition Competition, the Ithaca College Thirty-Sixth Annual Choral Composition Contest, and The Esoterics 2016 POLYPHONOS Choral Composition Competition.  Rule graduated from Lehigh University where he studied computer science, music composition, and conducting, earning an Integrated Degree in Engineering, Arts and Sciences. 

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Meet the Composers: Ed Frazier Davis

On Saturday, March 24, 2018, YNYC’s Mixed and Women’s Ensembles will perform ‘Only All of Us’ featuring world premiere works for double chorus from our Competition for Young Composers.

We are pleased to introduce our first of three finalists for YNYC’s 2018 Competition for Young Composers, Ed Frazier Davis!  

Ed Frazier Davis

Composition for YNYC: Keep Going

Ed Frazier Davis (b. 1989) is an English-American composer living and working in Kansas City, where he is a doctoral student at UMKC and Composer-in-Residence for the William Baker Choral Foundation. Lauded for its “compelling, […] colourful orchestration” (Musical Toronto), Ed’s music is polystylistic and draws from many eclectic influences, from Medieval song to postminimalism and practically everything in between. His music has been commissioned and performed throughout the world by many renowned performers and organizations, including Access Contemporary Music, the Aspen Music Festival, Bella Voce, The Crossing, soprano Erin Wall, the Lincoln Trio, PLEXUS, and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Ultimately, he seeks to write music that breaks established artistic binaries—e.g. traditional vs. modern, accessible vs. unfamiliar—to create art that is fulfilling to as wide an audience as possible. Also an experienced professional singer, he currently serves as bass section leader at St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kansas City, and in the fall of 2018 will join the Grammy-winning Kansas City Chorale for his first season. He has studied composition with Bruce Polay, Marta Ptaszyńska, Kyong Mee Choi, Stacy Garrop, Gabriel Jackson, Chen Yi, James Mobberley, and Zhou Long. continue reading »

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