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Friday, May 5, 2017

In Context: Silent Voices

Silent Voices tackles systemic injustice in soaring soprano-alto harmony, entrusting the vital issues of our day to its most astonishing young singers. This powerful multimedia concert features music by Toshi Reagon, Nico Muhly, DJ Spooky, Caroline Shaw, and others, and texts by Hilton Als, Claudia Rankine, and Pauli Murray. Context is everything, so get closer to the production through our series of curated links, videos, and articles. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought by posting in the comments below and on social media using #BYCSilentVoices.

Program Notes

Silent Voices (PDF)


Silent Voices Ring Out (BAM blog)
Writer Robert Jackson Wood surveys the lineup, and the ethos, of Silent Voices: “Luckily...tolerance is on the side of youth.”

Silent Voices—Composers' Notes (BAM blog)
Notes by the composers, including some lyric excerpts.

Is Carolina Shaw really the future of music? (The Guardian)
The prodigious young composer has covered a lot of ground, collaborating with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Kanye West, and Richard Reed Parry. Oh, and she’s also the youngest musician ever to win a Pulitzer.

The 'Black, Queer, Feminist' Legal Trailblazer You've Never Heard Of (NPR)
Pauli Murray was arrested for refusing to move to the back of a bus 15 years before Rosa Parks, was a co-founder of the National Organization for Women, and was the first black woman to be ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church, yet she remains largely unknown today. Composer Jeff Beale uses her words in his new song series.

Claudia Rankine: why I'm spending $625,000 to study whiteness (The Guardian)
Claudia Rankine on whiteness, difference, police brutality, and the “racial imaginary” that animates much of her current work.

5 Questions to Mary Kouyoumdjian (I CARE IF YOU LISTEN)
The Armenian-American composer speaks about the centennial observance of the Armenian Genocide, working with Kronos Quartet, and the power of art to broach “difficult” topics.

Watch & Listen

Helga: Hilton Als (WQXR)
Silent Voices host Helga Davis interviews “intellectual omnivore” Hilton Als.

The Composer Files: Toshi Reagon (YouTube)
Composer Toshi Reagon in rehearsal with the phenomenal young singers of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

App Download: Shara Nova's 'Blind to the Illness' (WQXR)
BYC performing Shara Nova’s “Blind to the Illness.”

Now your turn...

How did you enjoy the show? Likes? Dislikes? Surprises? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #BYCSilentVoices.


  1. I sing in a very talented Brooklyn community chorus, but I have a secret confession to make: when I grow up (vocally) I want to be the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. These young vocalists practice everything my choir director endeavors to teach us. They memorize long pieces of very challenging music. I can understand every word they sing. They embody what they are singing. If you are not in a chorus, you may not understand what a feat this is. I am so impressed every time I hear them. Some of my favorite contemporary composers write music for this chorus — a big draw for me. This was, yet again, another fantastic performance of incredible (and important) music — both composed and sung. Kudos to all involved.

  2. Very disappointing. I found the concert lacked variatiom, intrigue, interesting visuals, and a context in which to relate to the works. I brought my husband and 2 young boys and it really didn't leave any of us with much at all in terms of being moved or aroused by the work. I was surprised that BAM didn't set higher standards.

  3. These young oeople sing beautifully and reflect the fantastic training they receive in the chorus. Their singing and performance is fantastic.
    The ideas spoken and sung in Silent Voices were moving and thoughtful and the music underlined and amplified these powerful ideas. There could be more variation in the music, and more singing in parts but I don't my issue is small compared to the remarkable concert and accomplishment.
    I was so struck by the text, I shared it with my family the next day.


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