'Flash Choir' Debuts Philip Glass Piece in Times Square

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At first, the tourists passing through Times Square were captivated by the giant video screens hanging overhead and the usual chaos of midtown. But soon they moved their attention, and cell phone cameras, to the “flash choir” that had formed in the pedestrian island at Father Duffy Square as part of Make Music Day on June 21.

Between hugs and introductory handshakes, famed choral conductor Kent Tritle handed out signs atop sticks that said “Bass” and “Sopranos.” Prompted by a call to action from NPR, the singers organized into their vocal groups and quickly scanned the score for “The New Rule,” a new choral piece by Philip Glass commissioned by NPR. Without any auditions, these amateur and professional singers, perhaps even a few pedestrians swept up in the moment, would all be part of its world premiere.

From a bird’s-eye-view, the scene looked a little like a doughnut, with the chorus making one half of the circle, interested passers-by making the other half, and Tritle waving his baton in the middle.

NPR and WQXR video recorded the piece as part of NPR’s Field Recordings series. Watch it here: