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August 10, 2005

Composers find glory in youthful voices

Newsday (NY):

If Francisco Nuņez gets his way, composers will no longer be inclined to allow children's choral music to languish while they focus on writing instrumental repertoire. Starting today his group, the Young People's Chorus of New York City, presents "Transient Glory," a five-day choral symposium and chamber music festival which aims to advance the art of children's choirs and encourage composers to write for them.

The symposium, at New York University's Steinhardt School, is an extension of the chorus' Transient Glory concert series, which presents works commissioned from prominent composers such as Michael Torke, Bright Sheng, Milton Babbitt and Ned Rorem. During symposium master classes, young conductors from around the country will have a rare opportunity to work directly with these composers. Nuņez will be on hand to help facilitate communication between conductor, composer and chorus, and the works will then be performed at evening concerts. Nuņez hopes the conductors will be inspired to take the works back to their own choirs, and "the boundaries will be broken down and hopefully children's choral music will start to move forward."

Nuņez, born to Dominican parents and reared in Washington Heights, describes himself as "a very poor kid." But his world began to open up when he started to meet kids from different backgrounds, and was "able to see what else is out there." He founded the Young People's Chorus in 1988 after graduating from college to create a place where a diverse group of kids, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, could excel musically. "I wanted kids from the Bronx to meet kids who have doormen," he says.

The YPC is the resident choir at WNYC/93.9 FM. It is unusual for a radio station to have a resident chorus, but producers at WNYC were impressed by their level of performance, says Elena Park, the station's executive producer for music and culture. "They were doing such interesting repertoire. Francisco somehow manages to convince major composers to write for youth chorus ... and it's a vital, breathing collaboration."

Nuņez stresses that the music is not simplified for the children, ages 11 to 18. "Children know honesty. They know if it's a piece someone wanted to make a buck out of or whether it comes from the heart. "When you write kids' literature ... only the voicing is different as they are singing treble, but spiritually and musically everything is right there."

Michael Torke, whose "Song of Ezekiel," a YPC commission, will be performed tomorrow by the group's Women's Chorus, made up of women ages 18 to 26, says that the vocal timbre of youth choirs is particularly appealing to him. "There is nothing like the sound of a group of teenage girls singing with energy and earnestness. What an outlet for the exuberance of the adolescent girl!" Nuņez says the young singers enjoy learning contemporary works. "When we do Mozart they find it beautiful, but they aren't as interested any more. They love the newness of this music ... so this is a very exciting challenge for them."

Posted by acapnews at August 10, 2005 9:34 PM