Lisa in NYC

Hello SF Girls Chorus, again from NYC! Lisa Bielawa, Artistic Director Photograph by Liz Linder

It's been a busy couple of weeks of singing, composing and meetings. I had an opportunity to meet and talk to students at the Mannes School of Music and then at Bard Conservatory, where I was invited by harpist Bridget Kibbey (those of you who received these Postcards last year will remember her from this one in May) as part of her "In the Artist's Studio" series of guest lectures, all about living the life of a musician. I got some great questions from the young women and men who are in these programs! Many of them wanted to know more about how to be more entrepreneurial about making a musical life. It seems that these schools encourage creativity not just in music but also in living life!

Among my various musical excursions was a visit to a rehearsal of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, at the invitation of their Director Dianne Berkun-Menaker.

Like the SFGC, this group has hundreds of singers in multiple levels and age groups, and their premiere ensemble sings regularly with the town orchestra (in their case, the New York Philharmonic). Committed to premiering and commissioning new work, they also have a robust schedule of special projects with a broad range of composers. They often co-commission and co-produce new work. I got to hear them prepare for the big opening week of the new venue that has NYC all a-buzz, National Sawdust.

Meanwhile, I'll be singing at National Sawdust myself tonight, in a world premiere work for six a cappella women's voices by my friend and MacArthur Award-winning colleague John Zorn.

This video shows the kind of choral theater that the BYC has developed in collaboration with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) Next Wave Festival:

With a small orchestra, costumes, dancers, simple staging, sets and a general theme without a particular story line, they wove together works by a handful of different composers who were given that theme as a starting point. Is this an opera? Why or why not? Is it a choral concert? Why or why not? What kinds of techniques does composer Caroline Shaw use to give this piece its unique sound? What are they doing with their voices around 3 minutes into the video? Is this music complex? If so, in what way? What kinds of chords does she use? What kinds of rhythms?

It's a great week for innovative vocal and choral music in Brooklyn, and I'm glad I could share a little of it with you. Off to sound check!