Brooklyn Youth Chorus Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Multimedia Project SILENT VOICES

Brooklyn Youth Chorus Celebrates 25th Anniversary With Multimedia Project SILENT VOICES

2016-17 Programming Expands the Chorus' Pioneering Role as a Powerful Lead Performer, a Bold Commissioner of New Music and a Producer of Innovative Stage Works

Season Highlights Include:

  • Silent Voices, a Multimedia, Multi-Composer Series Conceived by Brooklyn Youth Chorus Artistic Director Dianne Berkun Menaker; Commissioned by the Chorus, BAM and WQXR, New York City's Classical Radio Station; Produced and Performed by the Chorus; Featuring Music by Jeff Beal ("House of Cards"), Rhiannon Giddens (Carolina Chocolate Drops), Alicia Hall Moran, Ellis Ludwig-Leone (San Fermin), Nico Muhly, Toshi Reagon, Caroline Shaw and Others; Writing by Hilton Als (The New Yorker) and Claudia Rankine (Citizen); Directed by Kristin Marting; Premiering at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House in May 2017
  • WQXR 2016-17 Season Artists-in-Residency, Which Includes Three Live Events at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR and Live Webcasts of Silent Voices on WQXR's New-Music Channel, Q2 Music
  • Release of Brooklyn Youth Chorus' First Album, Black Mountain Songs, Featuring Commissioned Music by Bryce Dessner (The National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Caroline Shaw, Alexandra Vrebalov, Nico Muhly, Tim Hecker, John King and Jherek Bischoff, March 31, 2017, by New Amsterdam Records; and Album Release Event March 31, 2017, at The Greene Space at WQXR
  • Off-Broadway Run of Paola Prestini's Aging Magician, from Beth Morrison Projects, VisionIntoArt and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Performed by the Chorus, March 3-12, 2017, at the New Victory Theater

The GRAMMY Award®-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus is pleased to announce that Silent Voices, a multimedia, multi-composer stage work conceived, co-commissioned, produced and performed by the Chorus, will be the centerpiece of the Chorus' 25th anniversary season. A year-long series of performances commissioned by the Chorus, BAM and New York City's classical music station WQXR, featuring an extraordinary range of artistic collaborators, Silent Voices culminates in a world premiere at BAM's Howard Gilman Opera House in May 2017. The project 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 season also features several firsts for the Chorus, including the release of its first album, a WQXR Artist Residency and an Off-Broadway debut; and epitomizes the Chorus' role as a powerful lead performer, a seminal force in new music, and as a producer stretching the artistic boundaries of the youth chorus.

Brooklyn Youth Chorus' Founding Artistic Director, Dianne Berkun Menaker, conceived Silent Voices to engage the young singers artistically with the subjects and issues about which they are most passionate. The Chorus has commissioned a diverse group of innovative artists, curated by Berkun Menaker and director Kristin Marting, 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.

Commissioned composers, whose contributions span multiple genres of music, 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 rigorously-trained 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, a highly acclaimed professional-level performing ensemble, is central to the project, which also features the dynamic Men's Ensemble. The singers' varied experiences and challenges 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.

Brooklyn Youth Chorus will partner with WQXR's Q2 Music, which will live-stream the Silent Voices concerts. In addition, Q2 Music will produce audio and video editorial features highlighting the creative process of the commissioned composers and the stories of the choristers themselves. All live coverage will be recorded for on-demand streaming at q2music.orgthroughout the season.

Silent Voices performances include:

  • National Sawdust, November 20, 2016, 3pm: Silent Voices First Look Concert #1, exploring gender, sexuality and age, with commissioned music by Ellen Reid, Caroline Shaw, Nico Muhly, Kamala Sankaram, Ellis Ludwig-Leone and Jeff Beal. The ensemble WildUp will perform with the Chorus.
  • French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF), Florence Gould Hall, as part of PROTOTYPE: Opera/Theatre/Now 2017, January 14 & 15, 2017, 5pm: Silent Voices First Look Concert #2, focusing on the voices of African-American and immigrant men and women in America today, with commissioned music by Sahba Aminikia, Jeff Beal, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Toshi Reagon and DJ Spooky. ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) will perform with the Chorus.
  • BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, May 12 & 13, 2017, [insert time]: BAM presents the world premiere of Silent Voices, performed by the Chorus and ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble).

Silent Voices is the most ambitious project in Brooklyn Youth Chorus' 25-year history, in which they have made a name for themselves not only as the go-to chorus for leading orchestras and popular recording artists, but as a vital commissioner of new music and a producer of unique large-scale concert works.

Black Mountain Songs Album

Silent Voices builds upon Brooklyn Youth Chorus' experience producing and performing Black Mountain Songs, a multi-media choral work featuring commissioned music by Bryce Dessner (The National), Richard Reed Parry (Arcade Fire), Pultizer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, Alexandra Vrebalov, Nico Muhly, Tim Hecker, John King and Jherek Bischoff, with staging and video projections, which premiered at the 2014 BAM Next Wave Festival, winning the Festival's coveted Richard B. Fisher Prize. Reviewing the work at BAM, Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times called Black Mountain Songs "exhilarating" and said "thechoral songs at the heart of this work are performed with confidence, energy and tenderness," adding, "the sheer beauty of their singing was captivating." New Amsterdam Records will release Black Mountain Songs as an album-the Chorus' first commercially available recording-on March 31, 2017.

WQXR Residency

Classical 105.9 FM WQXR, New York City's only all-classical radio station, has selected Brooklyn Youth Chorus to be the station's 2016-17 artists-in-residence, following in the footsteps of New York Philharmonic principal clarinetist Anthony McGill, The Knights and acclaimed soprano Deborah Voigt. The residency includes commissioning funds for Silent Voicesand three concerts that will take place at The Greene Space at WQXR. Each concert will be offered as a live video webcast at and and will be available for on-demand viewing afterwards at

  • Friday, October 21, 2016, 7:30pm: the kickoff of Brooklyn Youth Chorus' WQXR artist residency, celebrating the Chorus at 25 years. The evening will feature the work of composers whose music has shaped the Chorus' artistic development and helped expand the boundaries of choral performance: Bryce Dessner, Caroline Shaw, Richard Reed Parry, Kirk Nurock and Ellis Ludwig-Leone. The Chorus will also perform preview excerpts from Silent Voice.
  • Thursday, December 8, 2016, 7:30pm: Brooklyn Youth Chorus - WQXR Holiday Concert. Brooklyn Youth Chorus shares the joy of the holiday season, performing Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols and works by Daniel Brewbaker and Joel Martin, as well as arrangements of popular carols.
  • Friday, March 31, 2017, 7:30pm: Black Mountain Songs album release celebration. Q2 Music's Helga Davis hosts.

"WQXR is excited to name the Brooklyn Youth Chorus as our next artists-in-residence for the 2016-17 season," said Mikel Ellcessor, Interim General Manager, WQXR. "The residency was created to highlight and amplify musicians' profound commitment to the art and their community, and we believe the Brooklyn Youth Chorus are a true example of this. As an ensemble, they have extended the boundaries and relevance of both choral and contemporary classical music, and as group of individuals, they have fearlessly engaged with today's most pressing conversations. They are a testament to bravery and commitment in music-making, and they share our mission to inspire audiences."

Aging Magician Off-Broadway

This season, Brooklyn Youth Chorus makes its Off-Broadway debut in Aging Magician,an epic new opera-theater work composed by Paola Prestini and produced by Beth Morrison Projects, VisionIntoArt and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, March 3-12, 2017, at the New Victory Theater. Created specifically for the Chorus and Rinde Eckert, Aging Magician tells the story of Harold, an aging clockmaker near the end of his unusual life. Creators Julian Crouch, Rinde Eckert, Paola Prestini and Mark Stewart bring together the worlds of music, theater, puppetry, instrument making and scenic design to paint a poignant allegory on time, youth and the peculiar magic of ordinary life-or, perhaps, the ordinary magic of a peculiar life.

The upcoming engagement at the New Vic follows the world premiere of the work at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in March 2016 (world premiere); and a performance at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, Illinois, in April 2016.

Aging Magician composer Paola Prestini has said, "I have had the joy of working with Brooklyn Youth Chorus for many years, from their role in my first work, the opera Oceanic Verses, to Aging Magician, which I wrote specifically for them. The collaboration has transformed my writing. They are my muse, and their dedication, skill and energy is infectious. I deeply admire Dianne Berkun Menaker's passion and commitment to music, her incredible work ethic, and the tremendous vision she has for what a youth chorus can do, including commissioning new American repertoire. It is an honor to be part of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus family."

Funding Credits

Silent Voices is generously supported by The Aaron Copland Fund for Music; the Amphion Foundation; Charles J. and Irene F. Hamm; Howard Gilman Foundation; the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund; New Music USA; and The MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Special thanks to Marcus Wainwright and rag & bone for supporting the project by dressing the Chorus.

Brooklyn Youth Chorus also gratefully acknowledges support from the funders and individuals that support the exceptional training that made Silent Voices possible: Altman Foundation; American Express Foundation; Consolidated Edison Company of NY; Fannie and Morris Sklaw Foundation; Forest City Ratner Companies; Garnerin Group; Herman Goldman Foundation; Investors Foundation; Michael Tuch Foundation; New Music USA; New York City Councilmember Brad Lander; New York City Councilmember Stephen Levin; New York City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca; New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito; NYS Office of Children & Family Services; NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation; Rose M. Badgeley Residuary Charitable Trust; Sills Family Foundation; The Agnes Gund Foundation; The Barker Welfare Foundation; The Charina Endowment Fund, Inc; The Hearst Foundations; The Hyde and Watson Foundation; The Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund; The New York Community Trust; The Scherman Foundation; TD Bank and TD Bank Charitable Foundation; Tiger Baron Foundation; Wells Fargo Foundation in cooperation with Wells Fargo Advisors; William H. Hazen Foundation; and many generous individual donors. Our educational and artistic programs are supported, in part, by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council; by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts; and by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

About Brooklyn Youth Chorus

Now entering its 25th anniversary season, the GRAMMY Award®-winning Brooklyn Youth Chorus, under the direction of Dianne Berkun Menaker, is one of the country's leading youth choruses and the vocal ensemble of choice for internationally renowned orchestras and artists. The New York Times has said that "the sheer beauty of their singing [is] captivating." The Chorus studies and performs a vast repertoire of music-classical and contemporary-and has an active commissioning program, New Voices, to develop works for young voices across a variety of genres. Composers commissioned to date include Nico Muhly, David Lang, Bryce Dessner, Missy Mazzoli, Paul Moravec, Julia Wolfe, Aleksandra Vrebalov, Shara Worden, John King, Colin Stetson, and others.

The Chorus has appeared with a wide array of celebrated orchestras and conductors, including Valery Gergiev, the late Lorin Maazel, Marin Alsop, James Levine, Robert Spano, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Reinbert de Leeuw as well as recording artists such as Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Lou Reed, Grizzly Bear, and John Legend. Brooklyn Youth Chorus won a Grammy® Award for the world premiere live recording of John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls with the New York Philharmonic in 2005. Known for its polished performances, the Chorus frequently appears at such important music festivals as BAM'sNext Wave and Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festivals, the Ecstatic Music Festival, and Park Avenue Armory's Tune-In Festival, and the MusicNOW festival.

It has also garnered a strong reputation as an arts producer with such major collaborative projects as Brooklyn Village(2012), an evening-length collaboration with the Brooklyn Philharmonic featuring music by David T. Little and Sarah Kirkland Snider; and Tell the Way (2011), co-produced with St. Ann's Warehouse and featuring compositions by Nico Muhly, Sam Amidon, Bryce Dessner and Bishi; in addition to Silent Voices (2016-17) and Black Mountain Songs (2014).

The Chorus serves more than 550 singers annually in ten ensembles at its headquarters in Cobble Hill and locations in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Red Hook and Sunset Park. Choristers, who range in age from 7 to 19, hail from 71 different zip codes, reflecting the broad diversity of the Metropolitan area.

Berkun has developed a groundbreaking, comprehensive method for teaching vocal technique and musicianship to the Chorus' young singers, Cross-Choral Training®, which she has been invited to teach to chorus directors and music educators across the country.

Dianne Berkun Menaker (Founder & Artistic Director, Brooklyn Youth Chorus)

Dianne Berkun Menaker is the Founder & Artistic Director of Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Under her visionary leadership, the Chorus has become one of the most highly respected and sought after ensembles in the country, and has stretched the artistic boundaries of choral performance. Hailed by The New York Times as a "remarkable choral conductor," Berkun Menaker has prepared choruses for performances with acclaimed conductors including Alan Gilbert, Marin Alsop, Valery Gergiev, Charles Dutoit and Robert Spano. This season she will make her Off-Broadway debut conducting the Chorus and cast in The Aging Magician at The New Victory Theater.

Berkun Menaker prepared Brooklyn Youth Chorus for its 2002 debut with the New York Philharmonic, in John Adams' On the Transmigration of Souls, the recording for which the Chorus won a GRAMMY Award® in 2005. She has also prepared the Chorus for appearances and recordings with artists such as Barbra Streisand, Sir Elton John, Lou Reed, Glen Hansard, Philip Glass, Grizzly Bear and Alicia Keys. Berkun Menaker has developed an active commissioning program, born out of a desire to showcase Brooklyn Youth Chorus' versatility and uniquely beautiful sound, and has collaborated with some of the most important composers of our time.

Berkun Menaker is a regular choral clinician and teaching artist for such organizations as the New York Philharmonic and the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, and has also presented workshops and masterclasses for New York University, American Choral Directors Association, New York State School Music Association, and the New York City Department of Education. She is the creator of the Chorus's Cross-Choral Training® method, a unique pedagogical approach to voice and musicianship training that has been proven successful in published research by noted voice scientists.

Learn more at

About WQXR and Q2 Music

WQXR 105.9 FM, which streams live at, is New York City's only all-classical music station, immersing listeners in the city's rich musical life. WQXR presents new and landmark classical recordings as well as live concerts from Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the New York Philharmonic, among other venues. WQXR also broadcasts essential destination programs including New York Philharmonic This Weekand The McGraw-Hill Financial Young Artists Showcase. For listeners in search of the new, WQXR operates Q2 Music, an online music stream dedicated to contemporary classical composers, cross-genre adventures, and performances from New York City's edgier venues. Operavore is WQXR's opera site featuring news, interviews, and commentaries from the world of opera, as well as a 24/7 all-opera stream. provides essential playlist information and online listening, as well as original content, host blogs, NYC cultural news, and videos. The station's free mobile app allows listeners to take WQXR with them wherever they go.

Q2 Music is WQXR's online music channel dedicated to contemporary classical composers, innovative ensembles and musical discovery. Its programming includes immersive festivals, insightful commentary from hosts such as composer Phil Kline and vocalist Helga Davis, full-length album streams, live webcasts and exclusive concert audio from local and national venues, and special events in front of live audiences at The Greene Space at WQXR. Q2 Music produces Meet the Composer with host Nadia Sirota, the Peabody Award-winning podcast which mines the brains of today's leading composers, as well as LPR Live, a podcast which shares dynamic new-music performances from Greenwich Village's Le Poisson Rouge. Q2 Music is streamed live 24/7 at and is also available via the free WQXR app.