The Cecilia Chorus of New York Appears in Concert May 3 at Carnegie Hall

By: Apr. 03, 2019
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The Cecilia Chorus of New York Appears in Concert May 3 at Carnegie Hall

The Cecilia Chorus of New York, Mark Shapiro, Music Director will present Brahms, Elgar and The Brothers Balliett, on May 3 at 8:00 PM at Carnegie Hall's Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage, 57th St. and 7th Ave. in Manhattan.

The mezzo-soprano solo voice will be featured in a triptych of choral-orchestral works. The world premiere of Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses which the chorus commissioned from The Brothers Balliett, setting text from the bestseller My Stroke of Insight by neuroscientist and TED speaker Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, will be framed by the Alto Rhapsody by Johannes Brahms and The Music Makers by Edward Elgar.

Mark Shapiro said: "In Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses, the mezzo makes an ideal proxy for the luminescent spirit of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. The baleful landscape in which the mezzo does valiant battle - and finds transcendence - is the neuroscientist's own stroke-injured brain [as described in her book]."

Shapiro continued: "In the works by Brahms and Elgar, there is poetry latent in each composer's choice of a lone mezzo to counterbalance the chorus. She embodies nobility, wisdom, tenderness - and a poignant solitariness. The mezzo here is a Romantic figure, a heroic seer, situated in, but separate from, a vast and intimidating space. For both Brahms and Elgar, the voice type seems to resonate within their psyches: the isolated artist laboring amid a teeming humanity to fulfill a grand but strenuous destiny, striving to be heard above the din, and to matter."

Soloists will be mezzo-sopranos Renée Tatum, Naomi Louisa O'Connell and Amanda Lynn Bottoms. Ms. Tatum, who is appearing with The Cecilia Chorus of New York courtesy of the Metropolitan Opera, appeared with the chorus in Bach's Christmas Oratorio (December 2017) and Ms. Bottoms sang Beethoven's Missa Solemnis with the chorus in May 2016 (her Carnegie Hall debut).

Brad Balliett and Doug Balliett - identical twin composers and performers from Massachusetts - have been performing together and collaborating for nearly thirty years. After separately deciding to put their orchestra careers on hold to pursue alternative music projects, the two moved to New York and currently live a few blocks apart in Washington Heights, spending their days composing, playing chamber music, and hosting the WQXR Q2 radio show The Brothers Balliett. In 2017, they wrote a version of Seneca's Oedipus the King for The Cecilia Chorus of New York, featuring two-time Tony Award-winning actor Stephen Spinella, the Deviant Septet, and Every Voice Children's Chorus.

For Fifty Trillion Molecular Geniuses, the brothers drew on Dr. Taylor's words, which had inspired them years before. Brad Balliett: "I was smitten with the expanding horizons of the story and the way it made me reconsider everything about my brain." Doug Balliett: "The drama, spirituality, humanity in her story makes it perfect for a choral piece. We were just waiting for the opportunity to use it."

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor - a Harvard-trained neuro-anatomist, was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2008. Twelve years earlier, at 37, she had suffered a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. Within a span of four hours, she lost her ability to walk, talk, read, write or recall any of her life. Using her deep understanding of the brain, she was able to harness the capabilities of her right hemisphere in order to seek help and ultimately to fully recover eight years later. In her 2008 TED talk - the first ever to go viral - and her book My Stroke of Insight, published the same year, she relates the story of what happened to her while educating readers about the brain, how it works, what is needed for it to heal after injury and how we can use it to achieve well-being.

The concert will be presented with orchestral accompaniment. Brad and Doug Balliett will join the orchestra, playing bassoon and contrabassoon (Brad) and bass and bass guitar (Doug). Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor will attend and celebrate her 60th birthday with performers and the audience.

Tickets for the May 3 concert are $25 to $85, and can be purchased online at

For more information about this concert, visit or call 646-638-2535. For MTA transportation information, visit

The Cecilia Chorus of New York, winner of the ASCAP/Chorus America Alice Parker Award, recently received a generous grant supporting consecutive seasons from New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs. Founded in 1906, the chorus has evolved into one of the finest avocational performing arts organizations in New York City, described as "reliably venturesome" (The New Yorker, 2017) and "admirable," (New York Times, 2017). Recent highlights have included commissions from The Brothers Balliett, Jonathan Breit, Tom Cipullo, and Raphael Fusco; collaborations with two-time Tony Award-winning actor Stephen Spinella and opera singers Julia Bullock and Ryan Speedo Green; the New York premieres in Carnegie Hall of the Mass in N*E*R*D and The Prison by Dame Ethel Smyth; and the US premiere of Messe Romane by Thierry Escaich. Much more at

Mark Shapiro was appointed the seventh Music Director of The Cecilia Chorus of New York in 2011. Music Director of The Prince Edward Island Symphony and Artistic Director of Cantori New York, he is one of a handful of artistic leaders in North America to have won a prestigious ASCAP Programming Award six times, achieving the unique distinction of winning such an award with three different ensembles. The New York Times has characterized his conducting as "insightful" and acknowledged its "virtuosity and assurance," and "uncommon polish." The Star-Ledger calls his artistic leadership "erudite and far-reaching." Bio at


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