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Melodia Women's Choir of NYC is closing out its 10th anniversary season this spring with an intriguing celebration, titled "A Breath of Spring." The choir will mark this fourth month of the year with a world premiere commission, From the Four Winds by Nina Siniakova, which also features an ensemble of four French horns, courtesy of the formidable Genghis Barbie.
"We're very excited to work on this challenging piece," says Cynthia Powell, Melodia's founding conductor and Artistic Director. "The tone clusters and choral effects use extended vocal techniques, with the sound of wind, whispers and utterances coming from different sections of the choir, like the four corners of the Earth. I believe the effect will be quite hair-raising!"
New York City-based composer Siniakova is a winner of Melodia's 10th-anniversary season composer competition, which has emerged as a welcome platform in New York City for new and exciting choral work. "[Melodia singers] are highly interested in expressing themselves and are not afraid of doing this in unusual ways," says Siniakova. "I always see deep involvement in the process of rehearsing and performing, a desire to learn and experiment. Their concerts are always full of bright spirit and fresh surprises."
One of those surprises is the inclusion of Genghis Barbie, the self-proclaimed "leading post-post-feminist feminist all-female horn experience of its generation." The group's Rachel Drehmann has performed several times with Melodia in the past, but this is the first time she and her bandmates have had the opportunity to play the role of four archangels. In addition to being featured in the Siniakova premiere, the group will also accompany Melodia in a rarely performed Stravinsky piece, Four Russian Peasant Songs for Women's Chorus and Four French Horns. It's a favorite work of the choir's and Drehmann's, who first performed it together in 2006.
"We are excited to be a part of Melodia's 10-year anniversary and to celebrate the role of women in music," says GB's Drehmann. "As brass players, the members of Genghis Barbie are definitely a minority. However, the tide is definitely changing. Even as most of our role models growing up were men, we see more and more young women in colleges around the US studying horn and other brass instruments. Many women have led the way and I think more are to follow!"
Rounding out the spring lineup are works by Claude Debussy, Maurice Duruflé, Eleanor Daley and John Rutter. Melodia continues to pack so much musical diversity into its concerts that the services of a language coach were required. Pianist Taisiya Pushkar, a Russian speaker who has worked with Melodia since 2009, came to the group's rescue for help with Stravinsky's Four Russian Peasant Songs. "When a singer pronounces the lyrics correctly, it actually makes it much easier to sing, because the music is written with the specifics of the language in mind," explains Pushkar. "When a singer is able to feel confident, she can sing with more expression and depth."
This April, "A Breath of Spring" is also one of many cultural happenings taking place as part of a celebration of Russian-American culture. "We welcome the remarkable voices of Melodia to the celebration of the second Russian American History month in New York State," says Dr. Olga Zatsepina, Chair, Coalition in Support of Russian American History Month.
Melodia Women's Choir performs "A Breath of Spring" on Sunday, April 14, 4:00 PM at West End Collegiate Church, 245 West 77th Street at West End Avenue, and Saturday, April 20, 8:00 PM at Church of the Holy Apostles, 296 Ninth Avenue at West 28th Street, New York City. A reception follows both concerts. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $15 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.melodiawomenschoir.org.
Matthew Schlecht is a writer and editor in New York City.