“Brooklyn Village,” a Collaborative Musical History of the Joining of the Boroughs

March 21, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Featuring World Premieres and Work by Aaron Copland, Sufjan Stevens

Two venerable Brooklyn musical institutions have joined forces to present a multimedia performance. The Brooklyn Philharmonic, in its debut season under Alan Pierson, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus (BYC), celebrating its 20th anniversary, will combine their powers and skills for “Brooklyn Village,” described as an “homage to the creative spirit of Downtown Brooklyn as it has evolved over the last 200 years.”  

The performance space is Roulette, the experimental music venue that moved from Manhattan last year into a renovated 1920s art deco theater on Atlantic Avenue last year.  

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“Brooklyn Village” is a departure from a traditional concert. It is intended to create an immersive experience for the audience, using video, sound, narration, staging, locally written music and audience interaction, to “connect Brooklyn’s generations of inhabitants from the past, to the present and the future. Links between the 19th century and our own time trace the development of Brooklyn from a small village to a global super city.”

The production’s setting is described as follows:

“We begin in 1869, a time when New York City lived out its wildest fantasies, when the famous and the faceless made history together. A proud community of workers, poets and artists gathers along the edge of the East River in Brooklyn Village, obscured under the shadow of Manhattan, awaiting their inevitable destiny. It was a time bursting with creativity, passion and rebellion; when an engineer’s obsession would consume a centuries-old village and unite the greatest city in America.”

The show will take the audience to the imaginary final day of St. Ann’s Church, in Brooklyn, as it is about to be razed to make way for the foot of the new massive Brooklyn Bridge.

“Brooklyn Village” opens with the scherzo movement from Beethoven’s “Eroica Symphony,” a reimagining of the debut Brooklyn Philharmonic performance in 1857, when this work was performed. In each of its major concerts this season, the Brooklyn Phil will perform a movement of Beethoven’s Eroica as a salute to its roots.

The evening will showcase three world premieres by prominent young composers. David T. Little’s “Am I Born” was co-commissioned by the Brooklyn Phil and the BYC. The new work takes inspiration from two 19th-century sources: the American tradition of shape note hymn singing, and Francis Guy’s 1820 painting “Winter Scene in Brooklyn,” which hangs in the Brooklyn Museum. In the piece, the painting is embodied in song by Mellissa Hughes, a “versatile and compelling” soprano “who excels in both standard classical repertory and modern works” (The New York Times). Little’s work has led critic Alex Ross of The New Yorker to declare: “every bad-ass new music ensemble in the city will want to play him.”

The second world premiere is “Here,” an a cappella work for solo children’s chorus, written by the acclaimed composer Sarah Kirkland Snider, and commissioned by BYC. Hailed by The New York Times as “rapturous” and “gifted,” Snider is known for a diverse, cross-genre approach to her writing.

The third world premiere is “Canvas,” by Matthew Mehlan, the Brooklyn-based leader of the experimental band Skeletons. Music by Brooklyn’s own Aaron Copland (born and raised in Prospect Heights) and indie-rock sensation Sufjan Stevens (a Ditmas Park resident) round out the program.

The team of artists who will bring the production to fruition are of equal talent:  Tony Award-winning stage director Ted Sperling, librettist Royce Vavrek, sound designer Woramon Jamjod, visual designer Laurie Olinder, and producer Beth Morrison.

Tickets are available at  www.roulette.org.

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