Silent Voices

Silent Voices is a multimedia, multi-composer stage work Chorus. Unfolding over the course of the Chorus’ 25th anniversary season, and culminating in a world premiere at BAM’s Howard Gilman Opera House in May 2017, Silent Voices harnesses the power of young people to be instruments of change, giving voice to those silenced or marginalized by social, cultural or religious circumstances. The Chorus has commissioned a diverse group of innovative artists to interpret rich historical narratives and personal stories in creating music that explores race and identity, gender and sexuality, inequity and social disparity—music that matters.

A year-long series produced in connection with Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ 2016-17 WQXR artist residency, Silent Voices was conceived by Dianne Berkun Menaker to engage the young singers artistically with the subjects and issues about which they are most passionate. She and stage director Kristin Marting have co-curated the project, bringing together an unusually wide range of artistic collaborators spanning musical genres and art forms. Commissioned composers include Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal (“House of Cards”), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Alicia Hall Moran, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Ellis Ludwig-Leone (San Fermin), Nico Muhly, Toshi Reagon, Ellen Reid, Kamala Sankaram, Caroline Shaw and Paul Miller/DJ Spooky. Claudia Rankine (Citizen) and Hilton Als (The New Yorker) are providing original writing for the work, which also includes interviews, existing works by contemporary authors (Michelle Alexander) and historical texts. Video projections by Peter Nigrini and photo portraiture by Jay Maisel will be integrated throughout. rag & bone is providing costumes. Helga Davis hosts.

Each Silent Voices choral composition will take on a specific issue: the distribution of power and privilege, gender roles and stereotyping, systemic racism, economic abandonment and sustained inequity. What unifies this musically and topically broad work is the distinctively beautiful sound of the singers, a GRAMMY Award-winning chorus of culturally and socioeconomically diverse New York City young people aged 12-18. Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ predominantly female Concert Ensemble is central to the project, which also features the Men’s Ensemble and includes the Chorus’ 550-member student body. Their varied experiences will find expression as they develop their individual voices as the foundation of their identity, while also giving voice to that of other individuals and groups. Silent Voices will showcase the Chorus as both a powerful lead performer and as a bold commissioner and producer stretching the artistic boundaries of the youth chorus.