Social singing: Youth chorus gets real in new concert

The sound of silence: The Brooklyn Youth Chorus will perform “Silent Voices” at BAM on May 12–13, a piece that was written in part by its members.
Brooklyn Paper
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They sing a song of themselves!

Members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus will address issues close to their own lives in a new concert of original songs. The multi-media performance “Silent Voices,” at BAM on May 12–13, will feature tunes that highlight race, sexuality, and gender equality, created in a collaborative process between the teen singers and several composers and writers. The process gave the choristers a new connection and outlook on their art, said the founder of the Chorus.

“They were highly influential in what was written for them, and it makes them artists on another level — it’s different than having someone choosing the music for you,” said Dianne Berkun Menaker.

The young singers, all between the ages of 12 and 18, talked with music makers about the topics most important to them. The resulting 90-minute piece includes 13 songs by eight composers, all concerned with giving voice to those pushed aside by society, and other issues that are keenly felt by the young singers.

“The sub-themes deal largely with race, gender, sex, immigration, and these are issues that feel very relevant to our own population and part of what surrounds their own lives as urban children,” said Berkun Menaker.

The writing process began more than a year ago, and although these topics may seem like a reaction to current political topics, it just shows that certain issues remain prevalent regardless of era, said Berkun Menaker, who is also the group’s artistic director.

“It’s been many years in the conception phase, but when we launched and started engaging with artists and composers a year ago, at that point we envisioned a lot of the topics of today,” she said.

The songs not only reflect the issues faced by young people daily, but which anyone in the borough can relate to, said Berkun Menaker.

“They all live in the time and place of this environment, and for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus this is extraordinary, because it is the founding value of the Chorus to represent our borough and be inclusive of our population and the diversity of our membership,” she said. “This is a great opportunity to share a range of experiences and an ongoing range of discussion. We’re very excited to premiere this in Brooklyn — we hope it really resonates with people on multiple levels.”

“Silent Voices” at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636–4100,]. May 12–13 at 7:30 pm. $20–$35.

Updated 5:59 pm, July 9, 2018
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